Civil Rights Supervisors Used Evaluations to Punish Lawyers

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Now that Bradley Schlozman is in the sights of congressional investigators for his allegedly partisan approach to hiring at the Civil Rights Division, it’s worth taking another look at how he ran the place.

As I reported last month, Schlozman made sure that attorneys underneath him knew that if they crossed him, they’d pay for it. But how? Partially by simply making life miserable for them, but also by providing negative performance evaluations for attorneys who disagreed with him. Performance evaluations are of vital important to civil service employees who may want to eventually work elsewhere in government or seek promotions.

Joe Rich, the former chief of the voting section, says that under Schlozman and Hans von Spakovsky, the two supervisors of the section, he was ordered to make changes to at least seven performance appraisals: “In several instances,” Rich told me, he was ordered to include negative remarks about the work of at least five attorneys who had apparently done nothing more than make recommendations with which Schlozman and von Spakovsky disagreed.

Rich also said that it also went the other way: “I was also ordered to remove any remarks which noted areas where there could be improvement from the performance appraisals of attorneys who were favored by and had become allies of Mr. Schlozman.”

Rich said that it was too strong of a characterization to say that he’d been ordered to “falsify” the evaluations, which would have been a crime. But he was clear that the orders, like so much of what the political appointees in the Justice Department has done, were a major departure from past practice. In his experience (he worked in the division for nearly forty years), Rich said, past political appointees had not inserted themselves into the evaluation process.