What is his legacy?
A New York Times editorial lists several issues:
- Same-sex marriage: he refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, part of which the Supreme Court has now struck down.
- Voting rights: he successfully fought voter-identification laws and other changes in voting procedure.
- Criminal justice: he supported a law eliminating differences in sentences for crack v. powder cocaine, and has called for an end to mandatory minimums.
What controversies surrounded his tenure?
Matt Apuzzo reports at The New York Times:
Mr. Holder approved of the National Security Agency’s authority to sweep up millions of phone records of Americans accused of no crime. He subpoenaed journalists and led a crackdown on their sources. He defended the F.B.I.’s right to track people’s cars without warrants and the president’s right to kill an American who had joined Al Qaeda.Clarance Page notes:
“This is an attorney general who displayed an odd approach, an odd schism between civil rights and civil liberties,” said Elizabeth Goitein, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice, a group that frequently supported Mr. Holder’s civil rights policies.
His refusal to turn over some internal documents related to a botched gunrunning probe known as Fast and Furious, for example, resulted in a House vote in 2012 largely along party lines to hold him in contempt of Congress.What has the AG's impact been on California?
Bob Egelko writes at The San Francisco Chronicle:
[Law professor Rory] Little said California has also been affected by Holder’s position on immigration, in which he supported legislation to allow undocumented minors to gain legal residency if they attended college or served in the armed forces. Although Congress rejected the measure, Obama enacted a version of it by executive order, and Holder’s support gave Gov. Jerry Brown “a lot of leverage to pass a California version,” which lowered tuition and extended financial aid, Little said.
Even on medical marijuana, Little said, Holder’s policies have been “the most liberal and the most forgiving of any attorney general since marijuana was illegalized in the 1920s.”
That’s not a universal view. After Justice Department officials issued much-publicized memos declaring that prosecution of state-approved medical marijuana operations would be their lowest priority — in line with Obama’s pledge as a presidential candidate — California’s four U.S. attorneys announced a crackdown on pot suppliers in October 2011. They have since filed civil suits that have led to evictions and closures of hundreds of dispensaries.
That campaign has slowed, but the Justice Department is still seeking to shut down Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the nation’s largest licensed medical marijuana provider.