- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

A report kept secret by the Justice Department for more than 16 months outlines suspected discrimination against minorities and women among the department’s 9,200 lawyers, saying there are “significant diversity issues” regarding hiring, promotion and assignment policies.

The 186-page report, by KPMG Consulting and Taylor Cox & Associates, said minority lawyers were “significantly underrepresented” in senior management positions and cited a similar disparity for women among the department’s senior managers.

The June 2002 report, partially released by the department last week, also said that minority lawyers were paid, on average, less than their white counterparts and that although there was a greater proportion of women and minority lawyers within the department than among most U.S. law firms, minorities were “substantially more likely to leave … than whites.”

“Among the most common concerns cited were perceptions of unfairness in case assignments and a belief that exclusive informal networks limit access to communication with managers, premium job assignments, mentoring and promotion,” the report said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, who since has resigned, announced in January 2002 that a contract had been awarded to do the diversity study, focusing on women and minority racial and ethnic groups. They said they were committed to maintaining a diverse work force to enhance the department’s integrity and performance.

When the final report was completed five months later, department officials refused to make it public — saying the results were confidential. It is unclear why the study was announced publicly by the department’s two highest-ranking officials if the agency intended to keep it secret.

The department released a redacted version of the report last week in response to Freedom of Information Act requests that did not include recommendations or conclusions. The full report was posted this week on a Web site known as “The Memory Hole,” which makes accessible materials that are otherwise generally unavailable.

Justice Department officials have declined to comment on the report, but said that the department is committed to improving its diversity and that it began a mentoring program this year involving veteran staff members in an effort to better retain new lawyers.

In the past year, four of the department’s top minority officials, including Mr. Thompson, have left.

The full report, the cost of which is unknown, said that although most of the department’s lawyers said Justice was “a good place to work,” minorities were more likely than whites to cite stereotyping, harassment and racial tension as characteristics of the work climate.

Although 15 percent of the department’s lawyer work force are minorities, compared with 12 percent in the U.S. labor pool, the report said diversity was lacking among senior managers, who held “significant authority in recruitment, hiring, promotion, performance appraisal, case assignment and career development.”

The report said the “generally low attention” paid by the managers to career development led minorities to perceive a lack of advancement opportunities.

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