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I have selected as the topic for my lecture "Race and the Federal Criminal Justice System: A Look at the Issue of Selective Prosecution" because I want to explore with you one of the most difficult and troubling questions that an important group of pUblic servants, federal prosecutors, face today in carrying out their responsibilities. My credentials are not those of a front-line courtroom prosecutor. Indeed, those familiar with my background as a civil rights lawyer at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Carter Administration may find it difficult to view me as a prosecutor at all. But, as head of the Civil Rights Division, I authorized and supervised hundreds of prosecutions of law enforcement personnel for constitutional violations, and of private persons for violating the civil rights of others by subjecting them to conditions of peonage or involuntary servitude. With a few exceptions, the Division's prosecutorial authority comes from statutes passed just after the Civil War, with the protection of newly freed slaves in mind.
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