As in his speech when he took office six years ago, Holder laid claim to helping restore the Justice Department's reputation, a tacit shot at the Bush administration and the political scandal that hung over former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales after the firings of U.S. attorneys.
Holder said he was proud of the department's work, which he said was done "free of politicization." He told the Justice staffers they were responsible for a new "golden age" at the Justice Department.
He cited the department's role in the Obama administration's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which has quickened the acceptance of same-sex marriage. He called same-sex marriage the "civil rights issue of our time." He also lauded the department's active role in civil rights enforcement, which has become a major focus in light of a national spate of police shootings and excessive use-of-force incidents.
While Holder listed his accomplishments, much of the ceremony also served as a reminder of the rocky relationship he has had with Republicans, who made him the first sitting cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress and who regularly used him as the stand-in to take shots at President Obama in political fights.
In other news, gay marriage is before the High Court and Justices Scalia and Kennedy are gonna be fighting on this one. From the Washington Post:
Kennedy is often the deciding vote when the ideologically divided court splits 5 to 4, but in two-thirds of those cases he sides with the conservatives.
But if they often arrive at the same conclusion — one obstacle for same-sex marriage proponents in the current case is Kennedy’s allegiance to states’ rights — Kennedy and Scalia could not be more different in how they view a judge’s role.
Their different approach to gay rights reflects their more fundamental disagreement about how to think about the liberties protected by the Constitution,” said Paul M. Smith, a Washington lawyer who was on the winning side in the Lawrence case.
Scalia believes the only freedoms that should be viewed as protected by the Constitution “are those that have been protected under American law throughout our history, defined at the most specific level,” Smith said. Otherwise, the people decide.
Kennedy, Smith said, “believes that each generation has the right to conceive of newer and broader forms of liberty that merit constitutional protection. He sees history as a guide but not a straitjacket.”
Their battle is compelling, said Allison Orr Larsen, a William and Mary law professor, because it “brings to the forefront the theoretical question in constitutional law: How should courts respond to change when interpreting the Constitution?”
Michael Dorf, a professor at Cornell Law School and a former Kennedy clerk, said his former boss’s decisions on gay rights were not constructed to lead ultimately to a decision on same-sex marriage. But they provided a foundation for how to view new constitutional rights “if that’s where the country moves.”
Scalia, on the other hand, champions the cause of originalism, and Edward Whelan, a former Scalia clerk and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said his former boss learned quickly that “Kennedy’s judicial approach was not anything close to what Scalia’s is.”
“A basic tenet of originalism is that it’s not the role of judges to impose their own moral philosophies,” Whelan said. “Scalia understands the Constitution to leave the vast bulk of policy issues to the democratic processes and rejects the notion that it’s his role to read his own views into the Constitution.”
And here's your Monday moment of zen: