Justice Dept. Used Pregnancy As Excuse To Appoint Griffin, Possibly Violating Discrimination Act

In June 2006, the Justice Department fired Bud Cummins as U.S. attorney in Arkansas and replaced him with Karl Rove-protege Tim Griffin.

Traditionally, the Justice Department works with the state’s senators to come up with a replacement U.S. attorney. But in a Feb. 6, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) confirmed that the Bush administration ignored his objections to Griffin.

In a Dec. 26, 2006 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse explained that they “temporarily” appointed Griffin, rather than Bud Cummins’ deputy Jane Duke, because Duke was pregnant:

He noted that often, the first assistant U.S. attorney in the affected district will serve as the acting U.S. attorney until the formal nomination process begins for a replacement. But in this case, “the first assistant is on maternity leave,” he said, referring to Jane Duke, who gave birth to twins earlier than expected the same week of the announcement.

On Jan. 11, Pryor wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and took issue with the Justice Department’s excuse:

I am astonished that the reason given by your office for the interim appointment is that the First Assistant U.S. Attorney is on maternity leave and therefore would not be able to perform the responsibilities of the appointment. … This concerns me on several levels, but most importantly it uses pregnancy and motherhood as conditions that deny an appointment. While this may not be actionable in a public employment setting, it clearly would be in a private employment setting. The U.S. Department of Justice would never discriminate against women in this manner.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act states that employers, including the federal government, cannot discriminate on the “basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

Therefore, based on Roehrkasse’s explanation, the Justice Department is either 1) guilty of sexual discrimination or 2) guilty of using sexual discrimination as an excuse for appointing a “loyal Bushie” as a federal prosecutor.

UPDATE: Check out more on this letter at Rolling Stone’s National Affairs Daily.
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