Archive for the ‘Office of the Attorney General’ Category
Today, Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the U.S. House of Representative Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and related Agencies. He discussed President Obama’s proposed 2013 fiscal year budget for the Justice Department. This $27.1 billion proposal will guarantee the department’s ability to effectively accomplish its chief priorities and continue its record of success.
Attorney General Holder said:
“The President’s budget demonstrates a strong commitment to the Justice Department’s work and ensures that we have the resources necessary to meet our essential responsibilities. Of course no responsibility is more important than our obligation to protect the American people from terrorism, violent crime, financial fraud and a range of threats that put our national security and economic stability at risk.”
The Attorney General discussed the many successes achieved by the department this past year, including:
- Protecting the American people and convicting terrorists like Waad Ramadan Alwan and Uman Farouk Adbulmattal;
- Working closely with our U.S. and international partners to thwart multiple terrorist plots;
- Holding accountable those who have violated our laws and abused the public trust by continuing aggressive financial fraud enforcement;
- Obtaining a $25 billion federal-state civil settlement, the largest in history, to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses in order to provide relief to homeowners while stopping abuses and putting new protections in place to protect consumers;
- Fighting health-care fraud and recovering nearly $4.1 billion in money stolen from federal health care programs;
- Keeping safe the most vulnerable members of society; and
- Ensuring that the rights of all Americans are protected in border areas, workplaces, housing markets and voting booths.
The Attorney General also highlighted the department’s commitment to “act as sound stewards of precious tax payer dollars,” noting:
“In response to my call to identify savings across the department, almost $700 million in savings have been developed – funds that are being reinvested in critical mission areas. I also want to note that, in the department’s FY 2013 budget of $27.1 billion, proposed spending increases have been exceeded by proposed cuts.”
The Justice Department recently published its first annual progress report on environmental justice (PDF). The report fulfills a landmark commitment made by agencies across the federal government to publish a yearly progress report on a common goal: to provide all Americans – regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income status – full protection under the nation’s environmental, civil rights, and health laws.
The Department of Justice is deeply committed to this goal. We recognize that low-income, minority, and Native American communities are often disproportionately burdened with pollution, resulting in disproportionate health problems, greater obstacles to economic growth, and a lower quality of life.
Attorney General Eric Holder said:
“As reflected in the Department of Justice’s Progress Report, we are integrating the principles of environmental justice into our work and will continue to take steps to ensure that every American has full protection under the nation’s environmental, civil rights, and health laws. In fulfilling our mission, the Department is guided by the principles of environmental justice: that all Americans deserve a safe and healthy environment in which to live their lives and a meaningful opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their wellbeing.”
We have achieved meaningful results for these communities, and are building a strong foundation to ensure that we achieve even greater results in the years to come.
To highlight just a few of the accomplishments:
- The Justice Department played a key role in developing the interagency memorandum of understanding (MOU) on environmental justice, which was signed by seventeen federal agencies, and also plays an active, ongoing role in the Interagency Workgroup on Environmental Justice.
- Representatives from the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices have met with dozens of communities across the country who have been affected by pollution, environmental justice advocates, the corporate community, and other stakeholders. The Community Relations Service facilitated meaningful participation in environmental decision-making through mediation and conciliation for community leaders and state and local officials.
- The Justice Department is working to achieve meaningful results for communities in its cases. In cities across the U.S., such as St. Louis, Mo. and Jersey City, N.J., the Department brought cases to address illegal discharges from aging municipal wastewater and stormwater systems. Settlements in these cases improve public health and the environment for the entire affected community, while also addressing the specific impacts violations have on disproportionately burdened communities. Litigation results benefiting communities across the country – in Massachusetts, Washington, Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Indiana, and many other states – are detailed in our report.
Every American deserves clean air, water, and land in the places where they live, work, play, and learn. This administration has made significant strides in achieving these goals, but work remains. We will continue to ensure that we are coordinating effectively with other federal agencies on these issues. We will continue to engage communities, business and industry, and state, local, and tribal governments in this effort. We will also continue to integrate environmental justice considerations into the work we do every day.
To learn more or send us your feedback and comments on environmental justice in your community, visit our environmental justice webpage at: http://www.justice.gov/ej/
The following post appears courtesy of Susan B. Carbon, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women.
In a victory for survivors of rape and their advocates, the Attorney General announced a newly revised definition of rape for nationwide data collection, ensuring that rape will be more accurately reported nationwide.
The change sends an important message to all victims that what happens to them matters, and to perpetrators that they will be held accountable. It was because of the voices of survivors, advocates, law enforcement personnel and many others that FBI Director Robert Mueller was able to make this important change within the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Summary Reporting System (SRS).
“Forcible rape” had been defined by the UCR SRS as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” That definition, unchanged since 1927, was outdated and narrow. It only included forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina.
The new definition is:
“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
For the first time ever, the new definition includes any gender of victim and perpetrator, not just women being raped by men. It also recognizes that rape with an object can be as traumatic as penile/vaginal rape. This definition also includes instances in which the victim is unable to give consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity.
Furthermore, because many rapes are facilitated by drugs or alcohol, the new definition recognizes that a victim can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of ingestion of drugs or alcohol. Similarly, a victim may be legally incapable of consent because of age. The ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with individual state statutes. Physical resistance is not required on the part of the victim to demonstrate lack of consent.
The UCR is the national “report card” on serious crime; what gets reported through the UCR is how we, collectively, view crime in this country. Police departments submit data on reported crimes and arrests to the UCR SRS. Even though most states have more expansive definitions of rape in their criminal codes, they had to report the smaller number of crimes falling under the more narrow UCR SRS definition. This meant that the statistics that were reported nationally were both inaccurate and undercounted.
Because the new definition is more inclusive, reported crimes of rape are likely to increase. This does not mean that rape has increased, but simply that it is more accurately reported. In addition, the UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, enabling law enforcement to track consistent trend data until the statistical differences between the old and new definitions are more fully understood.
The new UCR SRS definition of rape does not change Federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the Federal, State or local level, it simply means that rape will be more accurately reported nationwide.
The Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) worked closely with White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal and the Office of the Vice President, as well as multiple DOJ divisions, to modernize the definition. The change was supported by external partners such as the National Sheriffs Association, National Association of Police Organizations, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major City Chiefs, Major County Sheriffs, and the Police Executive Research Forum.
For more information about the Office on Violence Against Women, visit ovw.usdoj.gov. We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
On this World AIDS Day, the Department of Justice reconfirms its leadership role in combating discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS. We remain committed to realizing our mission under President Obama’s landmark National HIV/AIDS Strategy, to address the stigma and discrimination still experienced by those living with HIV/AIDS.
People with HIV and AIDS are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which gives federal civil rights protections to persons with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, and state and local government services. Earlier this year, the Justice Department issued letters to the attorneys general of all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories to request their assistance in addressing the illegal exclusion of individuals with HIV/AIDS from occupational training and state licensing.
Under the ADA, the Justice Department entered into a settlement agreement with Modern Hairstyling Institute Inc., a private cosmetology school in Puerto Rico, for delaying the admission of an HIV-positive individual. That settlement agreement requires the school to remove questions about applicants’ HIV/AIDS status and to promptly enroll the aggrieved individual in its cosmetology program.
Last year, the Justice Department reached a consent decree with Wales West LLC, owner and operator of Wales West RV Resort and Train and Garden Lovers Family Park in Silverhill, Alabama. It was alleged that Wales West LLC violated Title III of the ADA when it unlawfully denied full and equal access to an RV park to a child and his family because the child has HIV. Specifically, the complaint alleged that Wales West LLC, upon learning that a guest family’s two-year-old child has HIV, banned the family from using the common areas of the RV resort, such as the swimming pool and showers. Under the terms of the consent decree, Wales West LLC will establish policies, procedures and training practices to ensure that patrons and their families are not discriminated against on the basis of disability.
In commemorating World AIDS Day, Attorney General Holder stated:
“The Department of Justice, through its Civil Rights Division, will continue to vigorously enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act, which protect people with the virus from discrimination in virtually every aspect of their daily lives. We will continue our outreach and education efforts directed both at informing those with the virus of their rights to non-discrimination under federal law and at dispelling the myths, fears and stereotypes about the virus that help to perpetuate unlawful discrimination. We will continue to work with our federal partners under the Strategy toward the common purpose of ensuring that no American feels it necessary to hide his or her status out of fear that disclosure will lead to unlawful discrimination.”
World AIDS Day 2011 is a powerful reminder of this call to action, and the Justice Department will continue to lead the way in combating stigma and discrimination, improving education and outreach, and doing our part to realize President Obama’s vision under the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. To learn more about our enforcement efforts, please visit www.ada.gov/aids/ada_aids_press.htm.
The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.
I am happy to tell you about an important upcoming event in the fight to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to violence in the United States. Last month we established the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, composed of leading experts from diverse fields and perspectives. The Task Force will spend the next year examining the extent and nature of the problem of childhood exposure to violence in the U.S. and identifying policies and promising practices to address it.
Now we are pleased to announce that the first hearing of the Defending Childhood Task Force will take place in Baltimore on November 29 – 30, at the University of Maryland law school. Other hearings will be held over the next several months in Albuquerque, Miami and Detroit. Look on the Defending Childhood Task Force website for details about the hearings and information about community listening sessions and other opportunities to give your input.
We expect these hearings to inform and guide the Defending Childhood Initiative’s work to ensure the safety and health of all our children. In the past few years the Justice Department has been working with leading researchers to take an in-depth look at the problem of children exposed to violence, and what we learned has been a wake-up call, and warning bell, for all of us. We learned that the majority of our kids – more than 60 percent – have been exposed to crime, abuse, and violence — many in their own homes. Ten percent of children in the United States have suffered some form of abuse or neglect; one in sixteen has been victimized sexually. And both direct and indirect exposure to violence is having a profound negative impact on the mental and emotional development of young people across the country.
For me, this issue has been both a personal and professional concern for decades. As a judge, as a U.S. Attorney, and as the Deputy Attorney General, protecting children at risk and in need was at the forefront of my work. Today, as our nation’s Attorney General and as a parent, it remains a top priority.
For more information about the Defending Childhood Initiative, visit justice.gov/defendingchildhood.