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John "Bert" Russ IV

As our research has shown, civil service positions within the Department of Justice’s Voting Section are often comprised of highly partisan activist attorneys affiliated with the Democrat Party or left-wing ideology, and attorney John “Bert” Russ IV is no exception


As our research has shown, civil service positions within the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Voting Section are often comprised of highly partisan activist attorneys affiliated with the Democrat Party or left-wing ideology, and attorney John “Bert” Russ IV is no exception.


The Voting Section, which is charged with enforcing laws such as the Voting Rights Act, is supposed to be a politically neutral office in the DOJ.


Instead, recent Democratic Administrations have been engaging in “burrowing in” – which involves embedding those who should serve in political appointment type positions – into civil service positions, at the expense of undermining the public’s trust, and which has the effect of perpetuating the political agenda of the last administration long after it is gone.


Russ, who graduated from Stanford University, has a background of liberal activism in addition to his affiliation as a Democrat, and represents one of the longer-serving employees in the DOJ as part of the Voting Section. Russ was reportedly working in the Civil Rights Division in 2004 when the marriage of his husband was announced in the New York Times.


Political Affiliation and Contribution History


Russ, who is a resident of Washington, DC is shown in DC Board of Elections voting records as being a registered Democrat.


However, his Party affiliation isn’t the only connection between Russ and his support for Democrat candidates. FEC records show that Russ has contributed to Democratic and liberal candidates and committees, making 11 contributions totaling $960 over the years. 









Activism Through DOJ Legal Action

In 2015, it was reported by Spectrum News that the DOJ joined with the League of Women Voters and other groups to challenge the legality of a North Carolina law prohibiting same-day voter registration/voting. Spectrum reported that Russ was one of the attorneys involved in the case, and that Russ was pushing for an injunction to stop the changes:


WINSTON-SALEM -- Closing arguments concluded Friday in the federal trial over North Carolina's 2013 voting changes.


By the lunchtime break, three hours into closings, only two of the four presenting for the plaintiffs had completed their arguments.


Daniel Donovan for the NAACP underscored the case's importance, saying no other state "ripped away" provisions that have successfully helped minority voting in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that nullified Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, that put some states under preclearance for voting changes.


Donavan said African-Americans disproportionately use same day registration, early voting and out of precinct voting and that cumulative impact on access should be considered.


"There's no more basic right than voting, and the changes suppress that right,'' said Donovan.


Bert Russ, an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department, said the changes violated the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and "denied and abridged the right to vote."


He said that the changes were adopted with discriminatory intent, saying partisan politics was a factor.

He thinks the legislature was aware of the fact that 95 percent of blacks vote Democratic.


Russ wants an injunction stopping the changes, and if Judge Thomas Schroeder finds discriminatory intent, he wants the state put under federal monitoring and preclearance for changes...

Another example of Russ’s work at the DOJ includes a 2021 complaint against Georgia’s election integrity initiatives, with Russ being listed as one of the Voting Section attorneys on the complaint. The complaint alleged that the State of Georgia had racist intentions in prohibiting unsolicited absentee ballots from being mailed to voters, requiring voter identification, and prohibiting the potential bribing of voters with food and drinks at polling places:

...2. In particular, SB 202’s provisions:

- Prohibit government entities from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications and impose substantial fines on third-party organizations that send follow-up absentee ballot applications;

- Require most voters who lack certain identification numbers to photocopy another form of identification each time they request an absentee ballot, reduce the period of time in which voters may apply for an absentee ballot, and restrict the use and availability of drop boxes to return that ballot;

- Prohibit distributing food and water to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots; and

- Prohibit counting out-of-precinct provisional ballots unless they are cast after 5 p.m. on Election Day...

The complaint further alleged that Georgia's SB 202 "was enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color":

...Passage of SB 202 was Motivated by Discriminatory Purpose


134. SB 202 was enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color.


135. Against a history of voting discrimination in Georgia, demographic shifts in the voting population and changes in Black voters’ participation and mobilization, and Black Georgians’ unprecedented successes in electing candidates of choice, Georgia enacted SB 202 with knowledge of the disproportionate effect that numerous provisions, both singly and together, would have on Black voters’ ability to participate in the political process on an equal basis with white voters...

LGBTQ Legal Activism


Russ has authored several law review articles in the past focused on LGBTQ activism, including an emphasis on issues relating to LGBTQ minors and school kids.


In a publication entitled “Shall We Dance: Gay Equality and Religious Exemptions at Private California High School Proms,” published in the New York Law School Law Review in 1988, Russ argued for the application of certain constitutional interpretations regarding the rights of same-sex couples seeking to attend prom at a public high school and discussed the “political” expression implied to be demonstrated by taking a same-sex date to a school prom.

...Attending prom with the date of one's choosing can be an important expression of a student's individuality and worth. On a political level, being "out" at school and at prom sends a message about gay equality and the presence of gay people throughout society3 S-in fact, religious schools might argue that they should be permitted to prohibit same-sex dating at the prom precisely because it sends a "message," one they believe is contrary to church teaching.36..


Russ’s article concluded by explaining how in California that religious, private high schools could be made to provide certain rights and recognitions to gay youth seeking to attend prom as a couple. Further, Russ explored the merits of legal action against the schools by stretching the application of California’s anti-discrimination laws.

...As this Article has tried to demonstrate, gay youth at religious high schools can make a strong case that California's anti-discrimination law applies to their schools and protects their access to benefits. The law is complicated, however, with potential legal pitfalls that an unsympathetic court could use to derail the student's claim: by finding that the state's anti-discrimination laws do not apply to private schools, for example, or by holding that the state's interest in ending anti-gay discrimination is not compelling enough under state constitutional law or under a hybrid-rights test...

Other publications written by Russ include a law review article that focused on using case law to help “gay youth” organize at public schools and another that examined the interests of gay foreign nationals seeking asylum in the United States based on sexual persecution in their home countries. The article, titled "The Gap Between Asylum Ideals and Reality: Evaluating Human Rights Conditions for Gay Americans by the United States' Own Progressive Asylum Standards," was published in the UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy in 1998.



Although the United States fares far better than many other countries in its treatment of sexual minorities, gay people continue to face the threat of persecution in this country, particularly with the persistence of laws against same-sex sexual conduct in violation of international norms. Violence against gay men and lesbians persists in many parts of the country, and many remain in the closet lest they encounter ostracism and discrimination.


Despite these real problems, however, many gay refugees from around the world recognize that the United States offers a relatively better existence than their home countries do. The admission of gay people through America's asylum laws has generally occurred below the media radar. For the applicants themselves, the admission policy can be the difference between life and death: a chance to start a new existence, free from at least some of the most dangerous conditions confronting sexual minorities around the world.


The lessons of this century counsel strongly in favor of recognizing the humanity of all individuals, regardless of the differences used to separate us. Gay people, like all human beings, deserve the chance to live life to the fullest-free from fear of violence and hatred. International human rights law requires this; United States law and practice should, as well.


[1] DC Board of Elections

[2] Federal Election Commission

[3] Spectrum News, "Closing Arguments Over in Voting Rights Trial," July 31, 2015

[4] Department of Justice, USA v. State of Georgia, Complaint Filed on June 25, 2021

[5] New York Law School Law Review, "Shall We Dance? Gay Equality and Religious Exemptions," 1988

[6] UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy, "The Gap Between Asylum Ideals and Domestic Reality," 1998 

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