Civil Rights Division:

Selection of Cases and Reasons Matters Were Closed

GGD-00-192: Published: Sep 27, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 2000.

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Laurie E. Ekstrand
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division's (CRT) selection of cases and reasons matters were closed.

GAO noted that: (1) it reviewed case selection in CRT's Housing and Civil Enforcement, Employment Litigation, and Voting sections; (2) according to officials in these sections, CRT does not have written procedures for selecting cases to pursue; (3) officials said that the predominant criterion for selecting cases to pursue is the legal merit of the case; (4) the section chiefs said various factors were considered when selecting a case to pursue, including: (a) the priorities of the Attorney General or the Assistant Attorney General; (b) targeting enforcement to affect certain types of discrimination; or (c) targeting areas of the country with a predominance of minorities or prevalence of discrimination; (5) to determine CRT's approach for selecting cases to pursue, GAO reviewed 21 Employment Litigation Cases that were initiated during fiscal year (FY) 1998; (6) GAO's review of the Employment Litigation section case files showed that several of the discretionary cases targeted a particular type of discrimination that involved complaints based on sexual harassment; (7) to determine the reasons that matters were closed, GAO reviewed the population of 54 Housing and Civil Enforcement section closed matters and 22 Voting section closed matters initiated in FY 1998; (8) for the Employment Litigation section, GAO reviewed a statistically representative sample of 64 Employment Litigation section closed matters from the population of 149 closed employment matters in FY 1998; (9) the three sections had different reasons for closing matters because the types of matters initiated often differed; (10) in GAO's review of the Housing and Civil Enforcement and Voting sections matter files, it found that most matters were closed due to a lack of merit, the problem was resolved, or no further action was warranted; (11) voting section officials indicated that they also closed matters that were initiated to monitor private lawsuits and elections because no further action was warranted; (12) for the Employment Litigation section, most matters were initiated to review referrals from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to determine whether the section should participate in the matter or close it by notifying the charging party of their right to file a private lawsuit; and (13) further, the decision to select a matter for further investigation was based on whether it had the potential to affect a larger population, target enforcement in a particular location, target a particular type of discrimination, or result in a change of policies or practices that were discriminatory.

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