In Brief

New division in U.S. Attorney’s Office will focus on civil rights cases

By: - March 29, 2022 6:43 am

The new division will double the number of prosecutors the office dedicates to civil rights enforcement. (Fran Baltzer for New Jersey Monitor)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is creating a new division dedicated to enforcing federal civil rights law in New Jersey, one that will double the number of its prosecutors handling civil rights enforcement.

The new division will have the “sole focus” of enforcing both civil and federal civil rights laws, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in a statement Monday.

“No one should ever be subject to acts of discrimination or hate because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love, or how they worship,” said Sellinger. “Hate crimes and unlawful bias incidents are antithetical to the core principles underlying our democracy, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will do all it can to combat these threats to constitutional and civil rights.”

The creation of the office comes after a number of high profile civil rights cases focused on rampant misconduct in the Newark Police Department, abuse of prisoners at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, and discrimination of voters with disabilities in Union and Ocean counties.

The office has also secured guilty pleas from Paterson cops who used excessive force and filed false police reports, settlements from multiple towns to end religious discrimination, and a $4.4 million settlement from an Elizabeth landlord who exchanged sex for housing.

The new division will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael E. Campion.

“Protecting civil rights was the reason for the Department of Justice’s founding, and it remains an urgent part of our mission today, particularly here in New Jersey where diversity is one of our greatest strengths,” Sellinger said.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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