A "true member of the team": Coates defends Schlozman's hiring moves

Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Christopher Coates testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that he believed he was the individual Bradley Schlozman identified as a "true member of the team" during the highly politicized Bush Justice Department.

In January, The American Prospect's Adam Serwer reported:

At first glance, Coates' extensive experience with voting rights -- he first worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and later the Justice Department -- made him look like just another career attorney. But Coates' current and former colleagues at the Justice Department say Coates underwent an ideological conversion shortly after a black lawyer in the Voting Rights Section, Gilda Daniels, was promoted to deputy section chief over him in July of 2000. Outraged, Coates filed a complaint alleging he was passed up for the job because he is white. The matter was settled internally.

"He thought he should have been hired instead of her," said one former official in the Voting Section. "That had an impact on his views ... he became more conservative over time."

Coates' star rose during the Bush administration, during which he was promoted to principal deputy section chief. While not mentioned by name, Coates has been identified by several current and former Justice Department officials as the anonymous Voting Section lawyer, referred to in the joint Inspector General/Office of Professional Responsibility report, that Schlozman recommended for an immigration judge position. Immigration judges have jurisdiction over whether or not foreign nationals are deported. In his letter to Monica Goodling, a former senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who was implicated in the scandal involving politicized hiring, Schlozman wrote of Coates:

Don't be dissuaded by his ACLU work on voting matters from years ago. This is a very different man, and particularly on immigration issues, he is a true member of the team. [The American Prospect, 1/8/10]

The Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General's office concluded in a 2008 report that Schlozman violated federal law and DOJ policy by using political ideology to guide personnel decisions, pointing out that he discussed removing "disloyal" "liberals" while hiring conservative "real Americans."

Today, Coates defended those hiring practices, saying:

Mr. Schlozman found a Civil Rights Division that was almost totally left-liberal in the basis of the ideology of the people who were working in it, and that he made some concerted effort to diversify the division so that conservatives as well as liberals could find work there.

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