Heading the Justice Departments’ civil rights division has become a challenging assignment. Under such circumstances, President Obama’s selection of a unifying personality for the division’s head is being considered as a pioneering step. Despite the persistence of deadlock among parties in Washington, such an idea is fetching appeal from all corners as there seems to be hope for ending mass imprisonment in the United States.
The appointment of Vanita Gupta, 39, as head of the civil rights division of Justice Department came on Wednesday. She is also the deputy legal director of ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and it has been reported that, by the end of the year, she will be nominated for the post of civil rights division head. Such an assignment poses a serious challenge for her as she will have to deal with the hot issues, like carrying out a civil rights probe into the police conduct in Ferguson, Missouri. As the next month midterm elections are approaching, the entire country is faced with the conflict over voting rights. It will also be her responsibility to tackle such problems.
She has already proved her great genius while playing a major role in the civil rights law for over a decade. Gupta has won honor and trust of conservatives—her political rivals—without compromising for her revolutionary ethics as a lawyer. Even the persons, like Grover Norquist, gave very positive remarks after going through the news of her appointment in the Washington Post. He is the president of Americans for Tax Reforms. Meanwhile, the former head of the National Rifle Association, David Keene, said that Gupta has potential to work with everyone.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that, while introducing Gupta to her new justice department staff, Eric Holder, the attorney general, said that she is not only renowned as a pioneering civil rights lawyer but is also considered a symbol of unity and harmony.
Anthony Romero, the executive director of American Civil Liberties Union, has been reported by the Guardian as saying that a generation sees only a single leader of the caliber of Gupta. It is the result of her sincere efforts in criminal justice reform that the progressives and conservatives have been brought on a single platform.
The previous nominee for the post, Debo Adegbile, had to face critical circumstances in the US Senate. But, she can prevent such an unpleasant situation by winning the support of both the parties at that platform. After serving an appeal in favor of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted for the murder of a police officer in 1982, Debo became a controversial figure. His nomination as a head of civil rights division came last year. It was on these grounds that influential police unions raised objections on his nomination for the post and he ultimately met with rejection by the Senate in March.
The criminal justice reformers are usually accused of showing inadequate sympathy towards the victims of crime. Being herself considered a victim, she does not face such charges. At home in Sahibabad, India, Gupta’s paternal grandmother was killed in 1992 but the murderers could not be brought to justice. She expressed the undying anguish of her family over that unsolved killing in the New York Times.
Even after having faced such a tragedy at the age of 17, she always voiced against the mass imprisonment, especially of African Americans, in the country and struggled for the discouragement of such a trend. While vigorously campaigning for such a cause, she took interest in other issues and contributed her efforts for bringing reforms in severe drug regulatory rules. Eventually, she came to vote for the decriminalization of cannabis.
It was in 2001 when at the legal defense fund of NAACP, Gupta initiated her struggle for the civil rights. When she came out of New York University’s school as a novice lawyer, she brought to light the wrong convictions of 38 black men of Tulia, Texas, and was able to earn great support of public. It set a glorious precedence for the civil rights justice.
One of the toughest challenges for Gupta as the head of Justice Department’s civil rights division is that of the controversial voter-ID laws. So, it will be difficult for her to get the participation of democrats who have shown opposition to such laws in several states of the US. Another serious issue for her is to carry out probe into the conduct of police in Ferguson where the murder of Michael Brown, a black teenager, invoked large scale public protests.
Anthony Romero has been reported as saying that after the stepping down of Eric Holder, the attorney general, the position of Gupta will get even more significance. He added that Eric Holder has left behind him a great heritage of criminal justice and, during these final two years of Obama’s administration, Eric wants his legacy to be carried further through Gupta.