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Government Shutdown Impairs Civil Rights Cases

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In the wake of the federal government shutdown, the Department of Justice has asked a court to press pause on all proceedings in United States, et al. v. Texas, et al., a challenge under the Voting Rights Act to Texas's discriminatory photo ID law, until the Department's funding is restored. LDF has joined the case on behalf of college students in Texas who lack the necessary limited forms of ID required by the photo ID law.

Explaining that appropriated funding to the DOJ has "lapsed," and that it is not clear when they will be revived, the DOJ stated to the Court that, under these conditions, its "attorneys and employees are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis," and are therefore prevented from moving the case forward until the shutdown ends.

From Colorlines:

"Yesterday, while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was announcing a lawsuit against North Carolina for its voter ID bill, his Justice Department staff was preparing to shut down. When Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution or a spending bill last night, Cabinet agencies across the federal map began implementing plans for working at partial capacity — many of those plans drafted in 2011 when a government shutdown was threatened then.

For the Justice Department, many of its staff will be exempt from shutdown-imposed furloughs, due to the nature of its national security work, but some of its divisions will have to send home huge swaths of their staff. Among those is the Civil Rights Division, which is furloughing 71 percent of its employees, according to a copy of the Justice Department’s shutdown contingency plan.  Of the division’s 634 employees, 182 will stay on board, including 134 attorneys.

Also hit: the general Civil Division with 71 percent of its 1,310 employees on furlough and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which would lose 70 percent of its 1,339 employees."