The Justice Department has found a new way to pursue civil rights lawsuits, using the powers of the Civil Rights Division not just to win compensation for victims of alleged discrimination but also to direct large sums of money to activist groups that are not discrimination victims and not connected to a particular suit.
In the past, when the Civil Rights Division filed suit against, say, a bank or a landlord, alleging discrimination in lending or rentals, the cases were often settled by the defendant paying a fine to the U.S. Treasury and agreeing to put aside a sum of money to compensate the alleged discrimination victims. There was then a search for those victims — people who were actually denied a loan or an apartment — who stood to be compensated. After everyone who could be found was paid, there was often money left over. That money was returned to the defendant.
Now, Attorney General Eric Holder and Civil Rights Division chief Thomas Perez have a new plan.