- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

Senior leadership at the Justice Department, criticized in a report for “significant diversity issues” in hiring, promotion and assignment policies, has made “a real commitment” to diversity among its 9,200-member lawyer work force, department spokesman Mark Corallo said yesterday.

“Although the Justice Department’s attorney work force is more diverse than the attorney work force nationwide … in February, the attorney general and deputy attorney general announced a series of new Justice Department initiatives aimed at strengthening the attorney work force,” Mr. Corallo said in a statement.

“The attorney general and deputy attorney general wanted to do even better by intensifying outreach and creating incentives to serve in government — and came up with real initiatives that would have a positive impact on the department,” he said.

Mr. Corallo’s comments came in response to a report, kept secret by the department for more than 16 months, that outlined suspected discrimination against minorities and women among the department’s lawyers. The 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.

The June 2002 report also said 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.”

A contract for the report was awarded in January 2002 and the document was completed five months later, although the department refused to make it public — saying the results were confidential. It is not clear why the study was announced publicly by Attorney General John Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson — the department’s two highest-ranking officials — if the agency intended to keep it secret.

The cost of the report is not known.

Mr. Corallo said the department has “institutionalized” many of the initiatives outlined in the report, including new mentoring and career development programs, diversity training for management, exit interviews and “monitoring the department’s human resource management and progress in achieving the goal of a more diverse attorney work force.”

He said the department redacted much of the report when it was completed based on the recommendation of a senior career officer in order to protect “pre-decisional deliberative information — the type of information the Justice Department uses to determine how to best proceed and develop policy.”

The 186-page report 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.

It also said diversity was lacking among senior managers, who held “significant authority in recruitment, hiring, promotion, performance appraisal, case assignment and career development,” and the “generally low attention” paid by the managers to career development led minorities to perceive a lack of advancement opportunities.

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