U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger recently announced the creation of a Civil Rights Division within the U.S. Attorney’s Office under the District of New Jersey.
The new division will focus on civil rights laws exclusively, with both civil and criminal cases falling under their purview. It will be the first and largest division in the district’s history to focus entirely on enforcing and protecting civil rights.
Additionally, the efforts will not just be legal, as the division will engage with local community members, advocacy groups, and other federal and state agencies to protect civil rights.
Combining Existing Offices
“No one should ever be subject to acts of discrimination or hate because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love, or how they worship,” said U.S. Attorney Sellinger. “Hate crimes and unlawful bias incidents are antithetical to the core principles underlying our democracy, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will do all it can to combat these threats to constitutional and civil rights.”
The new division will combine the Office’s longstanding Civil Rights Unit with federal prosecutors from the Criminal Division.
By increasing the attorneys on staff dedicated to civil rights and enforcement, and by combining the civil- and criminal-focused offices into one unit, it would allow federal lawyers to prioritize and coordinate protecting and advancing civil rights for all New Jerseyans.
“I have nearly doubled the number of civil and criminal attorneys who will carry out this important mission—all of whom will work together in this newly created division,” said Sellinger.
The newly-created division will be headed up by Division Chief Michael E. Campion.
Continuing Past Efforts
In announcing the new division, Sellinger was quick to retrace prior efforts to protect civil rights in New Jersey.
The Biden appointee highlighted offices civil legal efforts involving discrimination, fair housing, fair lending, the rights of institutionalized persons, police misconduct, voting rights, and the rights of veterans and servicemembers.
“The Department of Justice was founded to protect the civil rights guaranteed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Building on this legacy, I am creating a Civil Rights Division within the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which will focus all its efforts on protecting and upholding the civil rights of those in our community,” he said.