The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has filed a Motion to Intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice against Victoria Wilson, a member of the Commission. Under 42 U.S.C. 1975(c) (1994) (Pub. L. No. 103-419, 108 Stat. 4338), all Commissioners serve six-year terms. Ms. Wilson has yet to finish her six-year term, which will expire January 2006.
The Commission has entered into an agreement with the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to advise and otherwise represent the Commission on this matter. The law firm is not working without charging, which would violate the Commission's statute. The Commission is obligated to pay the law firm, and the agreement is in accordance with government rules and regulations.
The Commission is an independent agency with statutorily mandated oversight responsibilities. These responsibilities include monitoring departments and agencies in the executive branch, including the Department of Justice. This watchdog function is exercised no matter who is elected President. The Department of Justice is a party to this lawsuit in opposition to the Commission's position on the length of Commissioners' terms. Additionally, the Department of Justice's views on this matter had been known well before it filed suit. Under those circumstances, the Commission concluded that it was necessary, appropriate and legal to enter into an agreement with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to ensure that the Commission's views on this matter are fully articulated and its interest adequately protected. This agreement was necessary to preserve the Commission's independence, integrity and public confidence in its ability to fulfill its legislatively mandated duties, which include acting as a watchdog over the enforcement of civil rights.