"Notable Increase" in Justice Department Hiring from Religious Schools:

The New York Times has an interesting piece on the changing priorities of the Civil Rights Division Justice Department under the Bush Administration. The article, however, contains this curious line: "Figures provided by the department show that from 2003 through 2006, there was a notable increase of hirings from religious-affiliated institutions like Regent University and Ave Maria University. The department hired eight from those two schools in that period, compared to 50 from Harvard and 13 from Yale." The author seems unaware that Ave Maria wasn't accredited until 2002, so it's hardly shocking that hiring from there rose from 0 to an average of less than one per year. Regent was accredited in 1996, and again it's not exactly surprising that as the school becomes more established, an average of slightly more than one of their graduates per year could get jobs at the Justice Department. The statistics quoted look even more like data-dredging when you realize that hiring from BYU went down from 2 per year in 01 and 02 to 1 per year from 03 to 06, and, even more impressive, hiring from Notre Dame went down from 6 in 02 to one in 06, and from Catholic from 4 in 02 to 2 in 06. Put another way, during the Clinton Admnistration, in 1999 the Justice Department hired 9 graduates of religious law schools, and in 2000 hired 7 such graduates. In 2006, with one more law school to draw data from (Ave Maria) and with a much more established Regent, the Bush Justice Department hired 6 graduates of religious law schools (in 2005, the total was nine). If anything, then, the Department is hiring fewer graduates of religious schools from a significantly bigger pool. And the scandal is what? [I should note that there are other religiously affiliated law schools in the U.S., but my data comes from a table accompanying the New York Times article.]

byomtov (mail):
Not all religious law schools are the same.

From Notre Dame:

The Notre Dame Law School aims to educate men and women to become lawyers of extraordinary professional competence who possess a partisanship for justice, an ability to respond to human need, and compassion for their clients and colleagues.

From Regent:

Regent University School of Law's mission is distinctive among accredited law schools and provides an attractive option for students pursuing the study of law from a Christian perspective. The mission of Regent Law School is to bring to bear the will of our Creator, Almighty God, upon legal education and the legal profession. In particular, this mission includes:

The education and training of students to become excellent lawyers within the standards of the legal profession. 

The grounding of students in biblical foundations of law, legal institutions, and processes of conflict resolution; recognition of questions of righteousness in the operation of law; and pursuit of true justice through professional legal service. 

The nurturing and encouragement of students to become mature Christians who exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit and display the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their personal and professional lives. 

The nurture and encouragement of other law students, practicing lawyers, judges, legislators, government officials, educators and others to recognize and seek the biblical foundations of law, to recognize questions of righteousness in the operation of law; and to pursue true justice.

Somehow, they don't seem like substitutes.
6.14.2007 6:22pm
Anon123Q (mail):
Place the word "not well respected" in front of "religious-affiliated institutions." The math works.
6.14.2007 6:28pm
Proud to be a liberal :
The more salient question is how many graduates were hired from tier 4 law schools in the different administrations. Notre Dame is in the top 30, BYU in the top 50, and Catholic is in the second tier. Do law graduates of other 4th tier law schools (including other new schools) have a chance of being hired for DOJ?
6.14.2007 6:31pm
Proud to be a liberal :
The more salient question is how many graduates were hired from tier 4 law schools in the different administrations. Notre Dame is in the top 30, BYU in the top 50, and Catholic is in the second tier. Do law graduates of other 4th tier law schools (including other new schools) have a chance of being hired for DOJ?
6.14.2007 6:32pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Anon, I don't think Ave Maria's average LSAT is much different from Catholic's. And because both AM and Regent have very specific religious missions that will attract some students who would ordinarily go elsewhere, their top students are likely very good. The whole thing does, however, smack of graduates of presitigious schools complaining to the Times reporter about having to work with graduates of Regent and Ave Maria, however few. Yet another example of how snobby the legal profession is.
6.14.2007 6:34pm
theobromophile (www):

And because both AM and Regent have very specific religious missions that will attract some students who would ordinarily go elsewhere

Like Monica Goodling, who started off at American? (American is, of course, certainly on par with Catholic and BYU.
6.14.2007 6:36pm
Notre Dame is a religious school, obviously, but does its law school actually have a religious mission?

Both Regent and Ave Maria have mission statements that quite clearly incorporate religious teaching and scholarship into the study of law. I'm not making a value judgment; after all, I'm Jewish, so the idea that law and religious study go hand in hand seems quite natural to me. But these schools are quite clearly in a different category from schools which may have a religious affiliation, but teach law straight-up in the same manner you'd find it at any non-religious school.
6.14.2007 6:41pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Catholic's median LSAT in 05 was 158, Ave Maria's 155, but more pertinently, at the 75th percentile both were 160. Regent's 75th percentile was 156. Again, at the very top of the class, I'd expect Regent and Ave Maria to both have some "outliers" who attended for religious reasons.

Beyond that, if the reporter wants to make the case that the hiring from Regent and AM specifically was dictated by politics/religion, the reporter should have made that case, not relied on a bogus "fact" about hiring form religious schools.
6.14.2007 6:41pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Again, the Times, not me, chose to equate Notre Dame, BYU, Catholic, Regent, and AM. The problem is, it's pretty hard to make the case for some sort of huge preference for these schools based on statistics when Justice was hiring an average of one from each. Does anyone really want to argue that neither school was likely to have ANY graduates good enough to work at Justice?
6.14.2007 6:43pm
Bernstein, I don't know anything about law schools, but Monahan is a frickin' kook. =;-)
6.14.2007 6:51pm
Isn't it disconcerting that so many come from a single law school (Harvard). And you can't argue the education is markedly more suited for DOJ work, other than the connections that result.
6.14.2007 6:55pm
if Regent gets real good, perhaps its graduates can join the honor roll started by prestigious grads from more elite schools, like Sandy Berger, William Jefferson and Scooter Libby, to name a few.
6.14.2007 6:57pm
Prof. Bernstein, the article's argument is that there was a marked increase in hiring from religious schools beginning in 2003. One data point to support this is the fact that while only 7 Notre Dame graduates were hired during the entire period from 1996 through 2002, 6 were hired in 2003, 4 were hired in 2004, and 3 were hired in 2005.

Your post contains an error in that you say 6 Notre Dame graduates were hired in 2002, rather than 2003. I assume this was just a mistake, but it's a significant error in that 2002 is the year BEFORE the hypothesis starts, and thus provides the benchmark to measure future years against. If we keep our ducks in a row, there's a decent amount of evidence that there was a blip starting in 2003, although the 2006 numbers may, as you state, represent a return to the status quo.
6.14.2007 7:02pm
Why is it that I think the NYT comes up with the meme, if not the headline of the story, before a single source is quoted, or study studied?
6.14.2007 7:07pm
cirby (mail):
Of course, there's always the question of how many people applied for jobs with the government from each school.

Then there's the "we're getting the bottom two percent from Harvard, and the top two percent from a religious institution that's good enough" issue.
6.14.2007 7:15pm
ThomasL (mail):
I think it's amusing that the Times believes that the statistics "show a pattern of hiring on an ideological basis." That's demonstrated, apparently, by looking at the law schools producing the new hires. But when those law schools aren't represented among new hires? No ideological pattern is apparent. Right.

From the published stats, the average number of hires from Harvard went up, from 9.6 at the end of the Clinton administration to 11.2 in the Bush years. So much for that bit of the story.
6.14.2007 7:56pm
David Matthews (mail):
First, when we're talking single digits, it's hard to draw any statistically meaningful conclusions. You'd think that almost any accredited law school would be likely to have one or two outstanding graduates in a given year.

So second, the thought that, for one of these outstanding graduates, if they happened to have a religious bent, they might be more attracted to take a job in the Bush Justice Department than the Clinton Justice Department says what, exactly, bad about the Bush Justice Department?

This strange argument is based on one of the (I believe erroneous) assumptions: A) that whoever Justice wants, Justice gets, regardless of any other offers she or he may have, so that we can always assume that any hire is from the top of the class, which is, I admit, possible, but I'm skeptical, or B) that the graduates hired are always from the same stratum of the different institutions, if somewhere other than the top, which would be ludicrous, or C) since a school may not be "top tier" ON THE AVERAGE, then any individual from that shcool, no matter how individually talented, must be inferior to any individual from the other school, no matter how individually challenged, which is, at the least, highly unlikely.

So we're down to the first possibility, and the only pertinent question: Is it true that the top graduates of every law school will always choose DOJ over any other possible career? If not, then this whole exercise is meaningless, if clearly not pointless.

In fact, the whole issue could be seen another way: is it the case that previous Justice Departments were taking mediocre graduates from top tier schools, over top graduates from mediocre schools? And if so, is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

Without an analysis of the individual hires themselves, a simple resort to innuendo based on alma mater is meaningless, since we're dealing with numbers so small as to be by their nature merely anecdotally, rather than statistically, significant.
6.14.2007 7:59pm
IS DB seriously saying that Regent and Ave Maria are not really different from Notre Dame?

I guess if you feel the need to defend the Bush admin, you have to resort to soft-headed thinking like that.
6.14.2007 8:06pm
DB is correct (mail):
"Catholic's median LSAT in 05 was 158, Ave Maria's 155, but more pertinently, at the 75th percentile both were 160. Regent's 75th percentile was 156. Again, at the very top of the class, I'd expect Regent and Ave Maria to both have some "outliers" who attended for religious reasons."

They do. And they also have outliers who attended for religious reasons and because they received full-tuition scholarships. Regent, Ave Maria, and (most recently) Liberty compete fiercely in their niche market, and they are investing large sums of money to recruit top students.

Those schools are also much more public-policy oriented than the typical law school -- yet another reason to expect a relatively higher representation in government employment.
6.14.2007 9:01pm
Proud to be a liberal :
There are lots of 3d and 4th tier law schools that offer full scholarships to attract students with high SATS/grades. There are also lots of conservative law students. My question is, if you exclude Ava Maria, Regent &Liberty, were other 3d and 4th tier law schools successful in having graduates placed at DOJ? Was DOJ broadening its recruiting efforts generally or only focusing on schools connected to evangelical Christians?
6.14.2007 10:35pm
Cornellian (mail):
The appropriate number of grads to hire from Ave Maria and Regent to the DOJ is exactly zero. That's the number I would expect to be hired at the DOJ from other law schools mired in the lower reaches of Tier 4, even though most of those schools have been around longer and presumably have at least something resembling an alumni network. Any resume from those schools to the DOJ should be going immediately into the shredder, as it would if sent to any other federal government department or major law firm.
6.14.2007 10:47pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Harvard and Yale are both religious schools temporarily under the control of Satan. I'm sure that Christ will reestablish dominion over them one day.
6.15.2007 12:14am
Professor Bernstein,

The Times did not equate Notre Dame and Regent. The quote was "religiously affiliated institutions like Regent and Ave Maria."

If there had been a comma after institutions, then I might have agreed with you. But the Times is specifically referring to a particular subset of religious schools.
6.15.2007 2:16am
I'm not sure what to draw from your point about LSAT scores-- that they continue to draw lawyers of moderate intelligence, but, increasingly, from schools that offer lower-quality educations? I'd rather pick up an issue of the Notre Dame law review than the, uh, Regent Law Review (which, looking at their site now, seems not to have published for all of 2006... proud moment for them, I'm sure). Say what you will about the relative justice of disadvantaging a new school, but Notre Dame is certainly doing a better job of equipping its students than Ave Maria.

Although maybe the change is because the smart students stay as far away as they can from the Bush administration, because people who realize what they're doing are more likely to have problems sleeping at night.
6.15.2007 3:30am
Bretzky (mail):

I believe you are misinterpreting the information contained on Regent Law Review's website. The "None" displayed after the Issue Number column is under a column titled "Special Topic", which I take to mean that they published an issue but it did not have a specific topical focus.


I think you are making three key mistakes here. First, you are assuming that the best students from the "top tier" schools actually want to work for the Justice Department. Second, you are assuming that the average student at a "top tier" law school is necessarily more capable than the best students at "bottom tier" law schools. And third, you are assuming that, because they are "ranked" below the "top tier" law schools, that the "bottom tier" law schools are incapable of educating able and effective lawyers.

The rankings of US law schools is not a measure of absolute effective legal education. I would contend that measure resides in a school's ability to get ABA accreditation, which is itself not a perfect gauge.

The bottom line is that the Justice Department should be hiring the best lawyers it can get its hands on. One cannot tell if this is the case by simply looking at where a person attended law school. That being said, I would have a big problem with the Bush Justice Department if it were hiring lawyers with an eye toward their religious views, even if that was merely the deciding factor between two equally qualified applicants. An increase in the number of lawyers educated at "religious" law schools hired by Justice is not necessarily an indicator that this happening. I would still want to see what the overall percentages are though.
6.15.2007 9:05am
The scandal is that ANY were hired. Diversity demands that only liberals be allowed government jobs.
6.15.2007 9:46am
First, I generally agree with the sentiment that the top few students at a lower-ranked school may be a better bet for employers than average students at higher-ranked schools. So, I think there is nothing wrong with the DOJ hiring from a broader range of schools than some other elite legal employers (like top law firms).

Second, I think it is a valid assumption that at least some of the top students at almost every law school would have the DOJ at the top of their employment preferences. Basically, for a number of reasons the DOJ is a very attractive employer, particularly in the public interest/government world (in part because for that world, the pay is quite good, and the opportunities down the road are excellent). I also think this is particular true for top students at lower-ranked schools, for the reasons I have just noted: because the DOJ tends to hire more broadly than the top firms, starting your career with the DOJ can be an alternative path to the top firms for those attend law schools where the top firms tend not to hire new associates.

So, I agree the issue is not how many Regent people versus Harvard people the DOJ hires. The real issue is how many Regent people versus people from similarly-ranked law schools the DOJ hires. And again, I do think it is valid to assume that many of the top students at the other similarly-ranked law schools would love to work for the DOJ, if they could get the job.
6.15.2007 9:49am
As an addendum, I also do not think it would be surprising if slightly more Republican law students favored DOJ employement during Republican administrations, and vice-versa with Democratics administrations. But I don't think that would be a strong effect, at least not until recently, because the conventional wisdom has always been that if you make a career at the DOJ, you will likely serve under a lot of different Administrations, and that accordingly the career ranks are populated with people who don't mind that fact. And again, there are all sorts of reasons for a lawyer to want to work for the DOJ that do not depend on an ideology match with the current Administration.

And even to the extent this self-selection effect exists, it may not create a lot of changes in law school patterns between different Administrations because Republican law students are in fact distributed all over the law school universe (even including Harvard and--gasp!--Yale). So, the pertinent question is whether the Administration is trying to use the law school attended as signal of the student's likely political affiliations (which would be a violation of the civil service laws), and I do think evidence that a school like Regent was dramatically outperforming similarly-ranked law schools in DOJ placement would be evidence of such an effort. Again, that is because I think it is a valid assumption there would be no shortage of top students at other schools who would like to work at the DOJ no matter what the Administration.
6.15.2007 10:00am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Bravo, if the set is as you say, the only schools in that set are AM and Regent. I could just as easily say that Justice has hired fewer grads recently from religiously affiliated schools like BYU, or like Notre Dame.
6.15.2007 11:27am
Proud to be a liberal :
Is DOJ focusing on "religiously-affiliated" schools in general, which would include Notre Dame, BYU, Yeshiva, etc., or it is focusing solely on schools affiliated with the most conservative religious affiliation Ave Maria (Catholic) and Regent (evangelical Protestant)?

It is worth noting that students who could go to 4th tier law schools for free often choose to spend more than $100000 on law school tuition so that they can have the status of going to a top tier law school. If employers looked carefully at the very top of 4th tier law schools, then more top students would take advantage of free tuition.

So the elitist focus on the "name" and "rank" of the school is self-perpetuating.

What I find interesting is that in the 1980s, the Reagan DOJ focused on people like John Roberts, who had stellar credentials (as far as elitism goes) &was devoted to the conservative movement. But the Bush DOJ appeared to value Monica Goodling more than anyone like Roberts. Why?
6.15.2007 11:55am
DavidBernstein (mail):
One student a year from each is hardly "focusing." If Justice hired students from those schools who were NOT at the top of their class, then we can talk.
6.15.2007 12:00pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Anybody that hasn't noticed that the Bush administration, in a wide variety of contexts, values ideological loyalty --often including adherents of a particuarly politicized right-wing form of Christianity -- over competence really hasn't been paying attention.
6.15.2007 12:24pm
Scratch a liberal and you will find a snob. Cornellian strikes me a prime New York Times readership material.

Individual merits? Bah - we have pedigree information for that sort of thing.
6.15.2007 1:26pm
Professor Bernstein,

That strikes me as a very unscientific approach. I believe there are almost 200 ABA-accredited law schools. We'd have to get data on total entry-level DOJ hiring, but I suspect it is well less than 200/year. So, even assuming a perfectly even distribution, 1/year for a school is already a little high.

And, of course, it isn't a perfectly even distribution. Once you started subtracting out the numbers for the top law schools, I suspect you would end up with 1/year actually being way higher than the average for the remaining schools. Now, maybe it shouldn't be that way, but in light of this distribution I would again suggest that the relevant comparison is not between Regent and Harvard, but rather between Regent and other schools like Regent. And I strongly suspect that other schools like Regent are not managing an average of 1/year.
6.15.2007 2:22pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
ATR, I have no idea, and you may be right, but even that statistic wouldn't tell you much unless you knew how many people from each school applied and what their credentials were. I'm not saying that something untoward hasn't been going on at Justice, just that the data given to us by the reporter isn't very good evidence.
6.15.2007 3:33pm
Professor Bernstein,

I happily agree the NYT article is a mess.

But I will also say that Regent and Ave Maria each getting a consistent hire each year strikes me as quite odd. I am pretty confident we could find many similar schools which have no such record of success, and again it is extremely implausible to me that is for lack of desire on the part of their top students.

As a final note, I'd be a little cautious about looking at who applied, because that can be a function not just of desire, but of one's sense of likely success. In other words, top students at similar schools may be less inclined to try for a DOJ job if they believe there is very little chance of success, and people at Regent and Ave Maria might have good reason to believe otherwise.
6.15.2007 6:06pm
Publius_quaestio veritas (mail):
As a law student and current intern in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, I have an interesting perspective on these issues.

I attend a tier 2 religious-affiliated law school. I am in the top of my class, a law review editor, with significant legal work experience, and yes, a member of the Federalist Society.

I don't think the fact a lawyer attended a religiously affiliated law school automatically means that they are less qualified than other applicants for a DOJ job. Perhaps they could have attended a top law school, but instead chose the lower-tiered law school because of its religious affiliation. It shouldn't be assumed that all religious law-school grads are less qualified for DOJ jobs merely because of their school.

Individuals cited in the NYT article complain that the DOJ is spending less of its resources on preventing race discrimination, while it is increasing the resources spent to protect religious liberty.

Although our nation still experiences race-based discrimination, why can't these individuals recognize that we have come quite a long way since the Civil Rights movement of the sixties? Racial discrimination is no longer as prolific as in the past, and the simple fact is that there are less cases out there for the Department to take on. I see this as a sign of progress.

While racial discrimination is no longer as common or overt as in the past, religious discrimination is an increasing problem. For example, since 9/11, Muslims have faced increasing hostility and distrust in this nation. This is discrimination on the basis of religion, and not race.

As a side-note, I have been working on numerous cases (at least fifteen) and only three centered on religious freedom. Of those three, two were on behalf of muslim mosques, and one was on behalf of a Christian congregation.
6.16.2007 10:16pm

I agree that there are many reasons to attend a lower-ranked school even if one could get into a higher-ranked school. One might be religious affiliation, and another extremely common one would be financial (you might get the best deal from a lower-ranked school, particularly a public one where you are a resident).

Again, though, to me the issue is whether the students at all lower-ranked schools are being treated the same. For example, if the DOJ was crediting the argument that someone would attend a lower-ranked school for religious reasons but not the argument that someone would attend a lower-ranked school for financial reasons, I believe that would be illegal.
6.17.2007 6:17pm