Posted by: bridget | 10 February 2007

Federalist Society, Legacy of the Meese Justice Dep’t, Part II

Part II in this series (if it ever gets finished!) focuses on the panel which featured, inter alia, Honourable Lois Haight and the Honourable William Bradford Reynolds.  Judge Haight was an Assistant Attorney General  in the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programmes between 1983 and 1986; Mr Reynolds was an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights division of the DOJ from 1981-1989.

During the 1980s, the conservative movement focused on fighting crime; part of that was to improve victim’s rights and ensure that crime victims would not be persecuted by the justice system.  In 1982, the Hon. Haight wrote the final report for the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime.  As a result of her work (and the work of the DOJ), sixty-eight recommendations were made for changes in the criminal justice system, including restitution for victims, prosecution of domestic violence, and allowing the victim to speak at sentencing and bail hearings.  She also designed the 1984 Victims of Crime Act.  The work of the Reagan DOJ changed both state and federal law.

What was most striking about Judge Haight’s discussion was that the 1980s conservative movement brought tremendous progress towards what are commonly thought of as modern feminist goals – prosecution of rape, DV, and ensuring that victims of violence get a voice in the justice system to protect their interests.  Feminism (as it is so often) is in conflict with the modern liberal agenda.

The HonourableWilliam Reynolds sopke about quotas and affirmative action during his panel.  (Yes, there were two other panelists, but blogging is often about what catches one’s interests.)  During the 80s, quotas were instituted as a means of ensuring racial diversity and as a remedy for past under-inclusion.  After quotas fell out of fashion, affirmative action (or quotas in other clothing) became popular.  The Meese Justice Department disapproved of both of these, finding them only appropriate as a last resort in the face of actual discrimination against readily identifiable victims.  Meese and Reynolds fought, unsuccessfully, for the repeal of Executive Order 11246, which established preferences for the assignment of K-12 schooling, employment, and government contract awards, believing that diversity does not promote race, gender, and class above all else.

This blog, although originally intended as a forum for discussion about affirmative action, has not mentioned the issue yet.  (Mea culpa!)  Ultimately, there are Constitutional, philosophical, and social problems with affirmative action and quotas.  The Meese Justice Department worked towards non-discrimination, which should be the holy grail of those seeking equality.   Years later, then Judge Sam Alito received criticism for his support of the Hon. Meese.


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