Opinion

Eric Dreiband Should Lead The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division

Eric S. Dreiband, whom President Trump has nominated to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, has been called “unfit” and “woefully unqualified” by political opponents.  But for nearly twenty years, I am proud to have called him by a more accurate description — a thoughtful and good friend.

Eric and I first met when we worked together as prosecutors and have remained friends ever since. He is reflective when others are reactive and he reasons when others prejudge.  He is compassionate, fair-minded and an excellent advocate.

Eric is also a bit of a Renaissance man.  He is a self-made man who earned a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and made an NFL roster as a second string preseason player before deciding on a career in the law.

One of the primary criticisms of Eric is that in private practice he’s been the “go to lawyer” for “big corporations.”  As General Counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Bush administration, Eric actually litigated against companies accused of discrimination.  By the way, he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for that position.

Prior to that, Eric served as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. In that capacity, he directed the federal government’s enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Migrant Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and other federal labor laws. For his contribution to the department’s efforts to update the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime exemption regulations, he received the Secretary of Labor’s Exceptional Achievement Award. Eric also received the Secretary of Labor’s Compliance Assistance Award for leading the Labor Department’s efforts to increase compliance with the federal child labor laws.

Eric is a skilled and able attorney who represents his client’s interests zealously, whether his client is a corporation or the American people.  He respects the law as written, and if confirmed as head of the Civil Rights Division, will seek to enforce federal civil rights laws to their full extent without following an activist or partisan agenda, just as he did at EEOC and the Department of Labor.

During my service as Counsel to the Speaker of the House, I was the lead policy advisor on the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. As part of my law practice, I serve as the General Counsel to the Jack Kemp Foundation, an organization that, like its namesake, is dedicated to the idea that the American Dream should be available to everyone.

I currently serve as President of the Republican National Lawyers Association, an organization devoted to advancing election integrity. I also was recently appointed by Speaker Paul Ryan to the Board of Advisors of the Election Assistance Commission, an independent body created to facilitate compliance with the Help America Vote Act.

My point here is not to engage in professional puffery, but to demonstrate my track record on taking civil rights issues seriously.  If I did not think Eric was qualified for this job, I’d tell him that myself.

But as I’ve told the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is my personal and professional opinion that Eric will be an effective advocate for the protection of civil rights and for the prosecution of civil rights abuses.  My hope is that he receives a fair hearing and swift Senate consideration, and that all sides realize what a talented lawyer they will have to advance the cause of justice.

Elliot Berke is president of the Republican National Lawyers Association.