Name: Chiraag Bains
Position: Trial attorney, criminal section, civil rights division, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
Best known for: Based in Washington, Bains is seldom at his desk. As a trial attorney prosecuting hate crimes and other criminal cases, he crisscrosses the country defending the rights of some of the most defenseless populations. In addition to working on hate crimes, Bains also works on criminal cases involving human trafficking and interference with access to reproductive health clinics. Some are people beaten by police officers or prisoners abused by guards — victims who are on the wrong side of the law. Everyone has rights, Bains asserts, and it’s also “vital to society” that the public has faith in law enforcement. That means holding law enforcement accountable, too.
Government work: After joining the DOJ in 2010 through an Honors Program, Bains was detailed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington for seven months, where he prosecuted domestic violence misdemeanors and had 22 bench trials. Previously, he clerked for a federal district judge in Boston and on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cleveland. As a student, he served as a summer law clerk to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee and as an intern with the Community Relations Service, the DOJ’s racial and ethnic conflict resolution agency.
Motivation for service: Bains was inspired by the role of lawyers in the civil rights movement. He joined the DOJ because he believed that government could help people improve their lives and that it was the best place to become an effective litigator.
Biggest challenge: It can be difficult to extract the truth from reluctant witnesses — whether they are fearful victims, witnesses embarrassed about their own actions or officers reluctant to testify against co-workers. It also can be difficult to find ways to make the jury grasp the significance of these cases and to care about them, because witnesses in civil rights cases can carry baggage that some other witnesses may not.
Quote: “This is a phenomenal job. Our office is an institutional outgrowth of the civil rights movement in which so many struggled for equal rights and dignity. Today, my colleagues and I use the power of the federal government to protect the vulnerable, vindicate the rights of often unpopular victims and ensure fairness in the administration of justice.”
For a full profile, go to The Fed Page at washingtonpost.com/politics/federal-government.