With a congressional hearing on the horizon, more than 70 civil rights organizations sent a letter to lawmakers Thursday urging them to oppose President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Trump nominated Jones Day partner Eric Dreiband as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division in June, and a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is set for Sept. 6. Leading the effort behind the letter is the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, whose president, Vanita Gupta, served as head of the division under President Barack Obama. She left the department in January.
In the letter, groups including the National Bar Association, Lambda Legal and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wrote Dreiband’s record shows he’s “ill-equipped” to serve in the position. At Jones Day, Dreiband represented companies in discrimination, whistleblower, and wage-and-hour litigation.
“While a lawyer is not responsible for the conduct of his or her clients, Mr. Dreiband has been devoted to limiting the rights and remedies of discrimination victims not only in the courtroom, but also in the congressional hearing room and through his personal writings,” the letter said.
A Jones Day spokeswoman said Dreiband was unavailable to comment. Don Livingston, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who served as general counsel of the EEOC under George H.W. Bush, said the criticism from those who don’t know Dreiband is unfounded.
“Most likely, people who are opposing his nomination don’t know him,” Livingston said. “When you look at the people who do know him, you get a different picture.”
Livingston, who worked with Dreiband when he was at Akin Gump, said Dreiband is “a person with great integrity, honesty, patience and openness.”
The letter mentioned Dreiband’s 2010 testimony before Congress opposing legislation to make it easier for older workers to prove bias under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and a 2013 article he co-authored in Forbes criticizing the EEOC’s guidance on background checks that aimed to prevent discrimination against people with criminal histories. The article said the guidance unfairly punished companies.
“[Dreiband] has testified in his personal capacity–not on behalf of clients–against important legislation to safeguard our civil rights, and he has opposed important civil rights priorities,” the letter said. “We are particularly troubled by his personal opposition to bipartisan efforts to combat employment discrimination against women, older workers, and individuals with arrest or conviction histories.”
The letter also criticized Dreiband’s work for various clients, such as for the University of North Carolina in a legal battle with the Obama Justice Department over HB2, the state’s so-called bathroom bill. It also mentions his representation of clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch in a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case over the company’s refusal to hire a woman because she wore a hijab. The court ruled against the store 8-1.
Dreiband joined Jones Day in 2008, after three years at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He served as general counsel of the EEOC from 2003 to 2005, and prior to that as deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. He also worked in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, and is a graduate of Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.