Observing Transgender Day of Remembrance

from U.S. Dept. of Justice Blog

Courtesy of Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division


Today, on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Department of Justice honors the courage and the memory of victims of anti-transgender discrimination and violence.  As Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch observed earlier this week, “During this Transgender Awareness Week… which sadly commemorates lives that have been lost to anti-transgender violence – we recommit ourselves to the principles” that all transgender individuals are deserving of basic respect, equal treatment and the right to “live their lives safely and with support.”

Transgender individuals – people whose gender identity or internal sense of being male or female is different from the gender marker assigned to them at birth – face enormous obstacles.  According to a 2011 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, discrimination against transgender individuals is pervasive.  According to that survey, 63 percent of respondents said they had experienced a serious act of discrimination that had a major impact on their quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally.  The survey further found that transgender individuals are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty than the general population, and 41 percent reported attempting suicide.  They are also too often the target of violent crime, including murder.  Importantly, the survey also found that transgender individuals of color fared worse than their white counterparts across the board.

In recent years, the department has worked aggressively to use all the tools at our disposal to address violence and discrimination against transgender individuals.  For example, in the Civil Rights Division, under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, we can investigate and prosecute gender-identity motivated violence.  We continue to engage in proactive outreach to the transgender community to encourage individuals to seek help from law enforcement when they believe a hate crime has taken place, and have helped train thousands of law enforcement officers on the new law and on the importance of responding to victims of anti-transgender violence.  In situations where violence has occurred, the Community Relations Service has worked with the communities affected by that violence to build bridges – by facilitating communication and building trust – with the goal of preventing future violence.

Further, all across the department we have been working, often in close partnership with other federal agencies, to end all forms of discrimination, including harassment, based on gender identity, transgender status and nonconformity with gender stereotypes.  While the Shepard-Byrd Act may be the only federal statute that explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity, the department has taken the position that federal prohibitions against sex discrimination in employment and education encompass discrimination against transgender individuals.  This year alone the Civil Rights Division has filed a number of briefs on behalf of transgender students and individuals who have been subjected to harassment and denied equal treatment and employment opportunity.

Despite the considerable work that has been done, we fully recognize that there is still much more that is still needed to break the cycle of discrimination and violence that affects far too many transgender individuals.  That is why in the upcoming weeks I, along with my colleagues from across the department, will be meeting with a number of transgender advocates and civil rights groups to learn more about the challenges faced by this community and to hear suggestions about additional steps the department can take to more effectively address anti-transgender discrimination and violence.  I look forward to this and many other conversations about this important issue, and to working towards a country where no one i

Latest Hate Crime Statistics Now Available

During the year 2014, law enforcement agencies reported 5,479 hate crime incidents involving 6,418 offenses to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.  The good news is that the number of hate crime incidents went down  (5,928 criminal incidents involving 6,933 offenses were reported in 2013).

A hate crime is defined as “a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”

hatecrimesSome of the highlights from this latest report:

  • Of the 5,462 single-bias incidents reported in 2014, 47 percent were racially motivated. Other motivators included sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, disability, and gender.
  • Of the 6,418 reported hate crime offenses, 63.1 percent were crimes against persons and 36.1 percent were crimes against property. The remaining offenses were crimes against society, like illegal drug activity or prostitution.
  • The majority of the 4,048 reported crimes against persons involved intimidation (43.1 percent) and simple assault (37.4 percent).
  • Most of the 2,317 hate crimes against property were acts of destruction, damage, and vandalism (73.1 percent).
  • Individuals were overwhelmingly the most common victim of a single-bias hate crime, accounting for 82.4 percent of the reported 6,418 offenses. The remaining victim types were businesses, financial institutions, religious organizations, government, and society or the public.
  • Also during 2014, law enforcement agencies reported 5,192 known offenders in 5,479 bias-motivated incidents. (In the UCR Program, “known offender” does not imply that the suspect’s identity is known, only that some aspect of the suspect was identified by a victim or witness—such as race, ethnicity, or age.)

Beginning in January 2015, law enforcement agencies started collecting more detailed information.  The religion category has expanded bias type and the added bias type of anti-Arab will be reported in the race/ethnicity/ancestry category.  Future reports will contain this added data.



Criminal Justice Act Hearings to Be Aired Online

scales-of-justice-glass-effectOne of the most significant pieces of legislation concerning the federal criminal justice system, the Criminal Justice Act (“CJA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3006A, secures the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel for federal criminal defendants.  Enacted in 1964, the CJA provides funding for the representation of individuals with limited financial resources in federal criminal proceedings. In each federal district, a plan exists for providing representation through private panel attorneys and, where established, federal public or community defender offices.

The Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Criminal Justice Act is charged with conducting a comprehensive and impartial review of the CJA program.  The Committee will take a hard look at the strengths and weaknesses of the program, and invites participation from all stakeholders to accomplish this important task. The Committee is composed of federal judges, defense attorneys, a federal court employee, a former federal prosecutor, and a law professor. It is chaired by Judge Kathleen Cardone, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

The first of a series of public hearings, conducted as part of a comprehensive and impartial review of the Criminal Justice Act, will take place November 16-17, 2015, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and can be seen live via online video.

The hearings will be held in the State Capitol Building, from 1:15-5:30 p.m. on November 16 and 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on November 17. Live video, and further information about the review process, is available at https://cjastudy.fd.org  

Over the next several months, additional hearings will be held in Miami; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Birmingham, Ala.; Philadelphia; and Minneapolis.

The Committee also welcomes written comments by email, at CJAstudy@ao.uscourts.gov . Comments also can be mailed to:

CJA Study Committee
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, Suite 4-210
One Columbus Circle N.E.
Washington, DC 20544.

Comments may be submitted anonymously, by requesting that identifying information be concealed.

For more information about this study check out the FAQ section of the Committee’s webpage.

Higher Education Act Turns 50


During his 1964 presidential campaign, Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty” and challenged Americans to build a “Great Society” that eliminated the troubles of the poor.  Part of his new programs included passing Public Law 89-329, The Higher Education Act of 1965, which he signed into law on November 8, 1965 at his alma mater, Texas State University.

The purpose of this legislation was “to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education” as well as increase accessibility of higher education to all.  The law increased federal money given to universities, created scholarships, gave low-interest loans for students, and established a National Teachers Corps.  It promised to remove financial barriers to college for any student academically qualified.

The HEA of 1965 opened the doors of higher education to millions of academically qualified students. Like most bills that pass Congress, the HEA had resulted from numerous compromises. Congress has had several opportunities to review and modify the legislation over the years, but a solid foundation had been laid in 1965 in San Marcos, Texas, establishing a federal role in providing need-based grants, work-study opportunities, and loans to students willing to invest in themselves. Outreach programs were also created to help the most economically disadvantaged students.

GPO to Digitize Two Million Pages of the Federal Register

The Federal Register (the daily newspaper of the Federal government) is a legal newspaper published every business day by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). It contains proposed and final administrative regulations of federal agencies.

frGPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) provides free online access to the Federal Register, but like many online databases, coverage begins in the early 90’s.  So if you needed to do historical research in the Federal Register and you wanted to do it electronically, you would have to use a fee-based database.

Now, however, this will be changing. GPO and NARA plan to make every issue of the Federal Register digitally available to the public. Approximately 14,587 individual issues, which go back to 1936, will be digitized. The digital collection will be released in stages as each decade is digitized.

The completed digitization of the Federal Register is expected to be completed in 2016.


October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Protect Yourself Online with This Cyber Tip

from the FBI:


In many cases, an online password is all that separates the average person from financial or reputational harm—passwords are the way that people log into their online lives: e-mail, banking, social media accounts, cloud storage, and so much more. And often times, in an effort to better remember passwords, users often minimize their size and complexity, use the same passwords for different online accounts, and don’t change them very frequently, if at all.

Unfortunately, cyber criminals—sometimes using the least sophisticated means necessary (i.e., password guessing, defeating security questions, social engineering, and technical devices such as keyloggers)—obtain passwords more often than you think. Which is why it’s important to add another level of protection between the cyber criminal and you.

Two-factor authentication, or TFA, adds that second level of protection. TFA is a technology that increases security by incorporating requirements beyond something you know (your password). Along with something you know, TFA can also include something you have (a dynamic token or PIN), something you are (a particular biometric), or somewhere you are (your location at the time of authentication).

And the best thing is, TFA is usually offered as a free service for most home Internet users by many e-mail service providers, social media platforms, cloud based storage solutions, and even banking and finance sites (although sometimes you might have to search a little for it or contact the company to ask if it provides two-factor authentication). Most sites that employ TFA require a strong password and supply a PIN that changes at a set interval—users can receive those PINs very easily through text messages or mobile applications.

However, using TFA does not mean you don’t have to take extra care with your password: make it unique to your life but something not easily guessed, use a different one for each online account, write it down and store in a safe place away from your computer, and change it several times a year.


We Only Get One Planet

On August 3, 2015, President Obama and EPA announced the Clean Power Plan – a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change.

Shaped by years of unprecedented outreach and public engagement, the final Clean Power Plan is fair, flexible and designed to strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy. With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix. It also shows the world that the United States is committed to leading global efforts to address climate change.

“We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it,” (President Obama)

If 1560 pages of regulations prove too much for you to peruse, check out the 9 page Factsheet for more detailed information about the climate change plan and check out the video below.


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