eric_holder.jpgWASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department is moving forward with plans to expand its civil rights division, pursuing cases of discrimination in the workplace, housing and voting rights.

From his first day on the job, Attorney General Eric Holder has pledged to strengthen the Civil Rights Division he inherited from the Bush administration.

A scathing internal Justice Department report earlier this year found Bush administration officials politicized hiring and job assignments within the division, favoring conservatives whom one official called “real Americans.''

At his confirmation hearing, Holder called the allegations disturbing and said the Obama administration was committed to an energetic and nonpartisan approach to the nation's civil rights laws.

He underscored those points in an interview in Tuesday's editions of The New York Times.

As part of the effort, the Obama administration is boosting funding to hire more staff for civil rights, and Holder said earlier this year that the effort will take years, not months.

The attorney general has said he wants to return to the traditions of civil rights legal work that existed at the Department before the Bush administration, calling the effort a reconstruction of how the division used to work.

The civil rights division was formed in the late 1950s, and has often been at the center of contentious debates over racial equality in the years since, from voting rights to busing to affirmative action.

Pictured above is U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.