Department of Justice

Callie Hernandez for KUT

The City of Austin and the U.S. Justice Department have agreed to a settlement in a complaint over hiring practices at the Austin Fire Department (AFD).

The settlement follows an investigation finding that the AFD selection process had the effect of unfairly discriminating against African-American and Hispanic applicants.

Under the agreement, which still needs approval by a federal court, the Austin Fire Department would change its hiring process to bring it in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII forbids the use of employment practices such as written tests resulting in disparate impact against any group, based on factors like race or national origin. 

In what would be the largest such settlement in U.S. history, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has reportedly reached a tentative deal with the Justice Department that would see the bank pay $13 billion to settle civil charges related to wrongdoing by some of its units just before and during the housing crisis.

The deal, sources tell news outlets including NPR, would not absolve JPMorgan from possible criminal liability.

Word of the tentative agreement emerged around 3 p.m. ET. Saturday. We posted when the news broke and followed with background and more details.

The Justice Department won’t be taking another look at Austin Police policies.

City Manager Marc Ott asked the department to review Austin Police procedures following the shooting death of Larry Jackson Jr. by Austin Police Detective Charles Kleinert. Jackson, an African-American, was unarmed.

In the war over the right to vote in the U.S., the Justice Department's choice of Texas as the battleground for its first legal action following the Supreme Court's weakening of the Voting Rights Act has a feeling of inevitability.

Texas Dept. of Public Safety

Update: (6:43 p.m.) U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech Thursday mark the beginning of a new fight over the Voting Rights Act.

“It’s clear that Texas is the big test case for what may be a potentially broader effort to use the bail in mechanism to patch some of the damage caused by Supreme Court in Shelby v Holder into our voting rights regime," UT Law Professor Joseph Fishkin says.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. It’s the formula that determines which states need federal approval to change their voting laws or practices. Without the formula, there are no guidelines to determine which jurisdictions need their voting laws and practices pre-approved. Now the federal government is arguing Texas requires pre approval under another provision—section three. 

Joy Diaz, KUT News

Last month, there were two officer-involved shootings in the Austin area. But the community reacted differently than it had in a not-so-distant past. After the shootings, there were no marches, no press conferences from civil rights organizations, and no riots. 

It’s almost like one can mark the history of the Austin Police Department in the community as “Before Art Acevedo” and “After Art Acevedo.”

Before Art Acevedo became APD chief, there was Stan Knee. His tenure was very different.

Flickr/C. Young Photography

The Austin Fire Department’s hiring practices are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. In a letter to the city, the DOJ says the fire department may be discriminating against Hispanics and African Americans. The letter does not say what prompted the investigation.

A statement from Assistant City Manager Mike McDonald says the fire department is committed to equal opportunity and diversity.

Austin-based software company Bazaarvoice Inc. says it is confident it will win a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday.

The Justice Department sued the company over its acquisition of San Francisco-based PowerReviews Inc. last year. The DOJ claims Bazaarvoice “eliminated its most significant rival and effectively insulated itself from meaningful competition.”

In a statement, Bazaarvoice responded that there is “still robust competition for ratings and reviews all over the social commerce landscape.”

KUT News, U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke today to members of the NAACP at a conference in Houston.

He talked about his appreciation of the organization and his concerns about the opportunities for young people in some urban areas.

Holder also talked about the Texas Voter ID bill and why he believes it would be harmful to minority voters.

Acting along partisan lines, with a vote of 23 to 17, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted this afternoon to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Republicans, who control the committee, say Holder's Justice Department has not turned over all the documents that the committee needs to see as it probes the so-called Fast and Furious gun-trafficking operation.

And they want to know more about why the Justice Department initially told a senator that it had not pursued such an operation.

Photo courtesy

Texas’ Voter ID Law in Legal Limbo

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that if Texas does not hand over requested documentation by Wednesday, the trial on Texas’ Voter ID Law will most likely be delayed. A delay in the trial means that Texas will not see the law implemented in time for the November election, according to the Texas Tribune.

The trial was scheduled to start July 9, until yesterday’s decision. The DOJ is specifically requesting information on voters and state databases; the state has until Wednesday to comply, says the Tribune.

KUT News previously reported that the DOJ had previously used demographic and census data to argue the  law would have a disproportionate impact on minority citizens.

Holder photo courtesy Justice Department; Abbott photo courtesy Texas Attorney General

The U.S. Department of Justice says a Texas law requiring most people to show ID before they can vote will discriminate against minorities.

In court documents filed today, the department says there is substantial evidence that minorities will be affected the most:

Among other evidence, records produced by the State of Texas indicate that S.B. 14 will disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters who currently lack necessary photo identification and that minority registered voters will be disproportionately affected by the law, based on both a greater likelihood of lacking a required form of photo identification and a lesser ability to obtain a necessary identification.

Photo courtesy

Earlier today, KUT News reported the Department of Justice has refused to preclear Texas' voter ID law, arguing it would disproportionately impact Latino and Hispanic voters. Here's a roundup of lawmakers' reaction to the decision. 

Gov. Rick Perry

 "Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters. The DOJ has no valid reason for rejecting this important law, which requires nothing more extensive than the type of photo identification necessary to receive a library card or board an airplane. Their denial is yet another example of the Obama Administration's continuing and pervasive federal overreach."

Photo courtesy

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has refused to clear Texas’ voter ID requirements, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011.

The state and the DOJ have been at odds over the issue for months, with the feds requesting additional information to ascertain whether the law would have a disproportionate impact on minority citizens.

Texas is one of the Southern states covered under the Voting Rights Act; Section 5 of the act requires the DOJ to “pre-clear” any electoral changes states make that might impact minority voters.

Photo courtesy Images of Money,

Everything’s bigger in Texas – even the indictments.

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted a Texas doctor and his associates on $365 million in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid billings – the largest single medical fraud case ever alleged by the government.

Photo by KUT News

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Justice, seeking to enforce a controversial voter ID requirement passed by the Texas Legislature.

Passed in 2011, the law requires most voters to show a photo ID verifying their identity before they can cast a ballot. Proponents of the measure claim it’s required to clamp down on voter fraud. But critics counter instances of voter fraud are relatively rare, and moreover, the parties most likely affected – minorities, the young, and poorer citizens – often support Democratic candidates over Republican ones.