To Be First Immigrant U.S. Ass’t
Senate Confirms Wan Kim
To Head Civil Rights Division
by Steven John Fellman
NATO Washington Counsel
The U.S. Senate unanimously
confirmed on Nov. 4 the nomination of Wan Kim to head
the Civil Rights Division of the Department
The Civil Rights Division
is responsible for Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
enforcement, including the
motion picture theatre stadium-style wheelchair seating
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate
of Johns Hopkins University, Kim attended law school
at the University of Chicago.
|It is anticipated that the Department
of Justice will issue new standards for ADA enforcement
in 2006. Kim will be a key player in this effort.
After law school, he
spent 10 years as an assistant U.S. attorney working
on high profile cases such as the Timothy
McVeigh and Terry Nichols prosecutions in the Oklahoma
City bombing case.
He then spent a year
on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee where
he worked for Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah),
former chairman of that committee.
He left the Senate Judiciary
Committee to accept an appointment as deputy assistant
attorney general for civil rights under
assistant attorney general Alex Acosta. When Acosta resigned
to become U.S. attorney in Miami, President Bush nominated
Kim to replace him.
Kim brings a unique background
to the Civil Rights Division. He is a 37-year-old native
of Seoul, Korea. His father,
who immigrated to the United States in 1971, washed dishes
in a restaurant to earn enough money to bring his wife
over from Korea. Mrs. Kim arrived in New York and obtained
a job in a garment factory. She and her husband worked
hard until they had saved enough to bring over their two
children. Wan Kim arrived in the United States at age 5.
He became a naturalized citizen in 1978 and was educated
in Jersey City, N.J., where his parents had purchased a
luncheonette. He is the first immigrant ever to become
an assistant attorney general.
Kim takes over a Civil
Rights Division reportedly fraught with unrest. Although
Alberto Gonzales named civil rights
enforcement as one of his main priorities when accepting
his appointment as attorney general, prosecution of racial
and gender discrimination cases handled by the Civil Rights
Division have declined 40 precent over the past five years.
Attorneys in the Civil Rights Division have complained
that they have been assigned to appeals of deportation
orders and various other types of immigration matters rather
than new civil rights cases. During the past year, the
Department of Justice had an early retirement “buyout” program.
Partially as a result of this program and partially as
a result of dissatisfaction with the policies of the Bush
administration, nearly 20 percent of the Civil Rights Division
lawyers left in fiscal 2005. It will be Kim’s job
to reestablish the morale of his attorneys.
It is anticipated that
the Department of Justice will issue new standards for
ADA enforcement in 2006. Kim will be
a key player in this effort. It will be interesting to
see how his leadership will affect the position of the
Civil Rights Division on ADA enforcement activities in
the motion picture theatre industry.