U.S. Attorney Reaches out to LGBT Community
Today, March 12, 2014, I was honored and privileged to attend an initial “get acquainted” meeting at the United States Attorney’s Office in Newark, New Jersey, with U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman, a few of his staff people and about 15 LGBT attorneys and activists. As the FBI has done recently, this office is reaching out to its constituent community groups. The meeting lasted about 1½ hours.
Mr. Fishman talked about his and the U.S. Justice Department’s involvement in LGBT matters, in terms of both criminal and civil law enforcement. Needless to say, we were impressed and thankful that this federal government office has reached out to tell us what they’re doing and seeking input from us in the LGBT community about what is important to us and our clients.
Several of us asked questions or made comments in areas ranging from immigration, hate crimes, training, potential improper targeting of LGBT persons for certain crimes, and how the U.S. Attorney’s office decides which crimes to prosecute or not. An immigration attorney raised questions about inconsistent treatment for LGBT couples at different regional ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) offices. As a result of today’s meeting, they are going to work together to see what the problem is with the goal of making policies more uniform.
There were some questions and comments about the connection between in-school bullying and criminal gang membership. The feds often prosecute the latter.
I asked whether this office has investigated or prosecuted any hate crimes matters pertaining to LGBT victims, and learned that their office had not. I also know that the feds only can prosecute hate crimes cases in a very limited set of circumstances, and I learned today that Mr. Fishman’s office frequently communicates with New Jersey state prosecutors about which venue is the best to prosecute certain crimes. I believe this is why the Essex County (state) prosecutor (and not the feds) prosecuted a murder case against the perpetrators of a murder of a trans woman in Maplewood in 2012.
I also asked about federal officials perceived targeting of gay men for lewdness crimes in Sandy Hook’s (clothing optional) Gunnison Beach. We may be able to arrange a meeting with park rangers there about that.
There also was some discussion about the possibility of providing some Trans 101 education and training to personnel in the U.S. Attorney’s office.
All in all, as a result of this meeting, there seem to be prospects for future communication and cooperation between this local branch of the United States Justice Department and the LGBT Community. Who could have imagined this 10 years ago?