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Dismissing the Black Panthers and the Professionals at Justice

Posted By Hans von Spakovsky On May 20, 2010 @ 3:00 pm In Ongoing Priorities | Comments Disabled

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We now have the second casualty of the Obama Administration from the New Black Panther voter intimidation case. Christian Adams, one of the career trial lawyers who worked on the case, submitted a letter of resignation on Friday, May 14 (effective June 4) apparently in disgust over “the events surrounding the dismissal” of the lawsuit, including testimony earlier that day by the Assistant Attorney General of Civil Rights, political appointee Thomas Perez, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  The first casualty was Chris Coates, the long-time career lawyer who led the trial team when he was the Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Coates was transferred to South Carolina and relieved of his position as Chief despite his award-winning job performance and his decades-long enforcement of the Voting Rights Act on behalf of racial and ethnic minorities throughout the country.

Adams has been involved in a number of prior voting rights cases, including successful cases on behalf of African-Americans in Georgetown, South Carolina, and Lake Park, Florida, and Hispanics in Florida and Texas. As Adams says in his letter, in “all of these matters, we pursued equal justice and vindicated the federal right to vote to the fullest extent possible under law.” However, his involvement in a lawsuit against local black Democratic Party and election official defendants in Noxubee, Mississippi, on behalf of white and black voters, made him (and Coates) marked men in the Voting Section. This despite the fact that, to the consternation of civil rights organizations like the NAACP, the Justice Department won that lawsuit, in which a federal judge characterized the intentional discriminatory and fraudulent behavior of the defendants as “blatant.”

Civil rights organizations were even more infuriated by the New Black Panther case, and it was dismissed against all but one defendant despite the fact that Justice had won the case by default when the defendants failed to answer the lawsuit. One of the dismissed defendants, Jerry Jackson, who can be seen in a video shot at the scene in his black, paramilitary Fascist uniform, was actually on the ballot in Philadelphia on Tuesday, winning reelection to the local Democratic Executive Committee.

Adams questions the orders of his superiors to not respond to a subpoena from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that is based on an explicit federal statute. Adams had to hire his own attorneys to advise him on the conflicting demands being made on him, and he quite properly faults the Justice Department for not going to federal court to allow a federal judge to make a determination on whether the subpoena must be complied with. As Adams says, that would have provided “some conclusive legal certainty about the extent of [his] obligation to comply” with the subpoena. Instead, the Department has simply refused to take any action other than telling Adams he cannot testify. The Department is violating federal law with impunity because it is the responsibility of the Justice Department to enforce subpoenas issued by the Commission. When Assistant Attorney General Perez was asked at the Commission hearing on May 14 why the Justice Department would not appoint a special counsel to enforce the subpoena given its obvious conflict of interest, he essentially refused to provide any excuse for not doing so.

Of course, Perez also avoided answering any substantive questions in his testimony. His constantly repeated answer on why the case was dismissed (which is being echoed by the NBPP) was because two high-level career lawyers, Loretta King and Steven Rosenbaum, had reevaluated the evidence in the case and decided the evidence did not warrant the lawsuit (King and Rosenbaum were two of the most partisan career lawyers I knew at the Division when I worked there).

Perez avoided talking about their consultation with Thomas Perrelli, the political appointee who is the Associate Attorney General, or Perrelli’s seemingly related visits to the White House that occurred on the very days that key decisions were being made in this case. King and Rosenbaum had limited knowledge of the case when they supposedly made a fact-based decision to dismiss the lawsuit. This lack of basic knowledge was embarrassingly confirmed when Rosenbaum and King showed up in Congress last year to brief Representatives Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf about the case. They asserted that Jerry Jackson was dismissed because he had a right to be at the polling place since he was a resident of the building; Justice even made that assertion in a letter to Smith on July 13, 2009. Not only was that completely wrong, it would have been obvious from a simple review of the pleadings which reflected Jackson’s actual address. This demonstrates that the actual facts and evidence in the case obviously had nothing to do with the dismissal.

If this sounds familiar, it should: Just like Rosenbaum and King, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano have both admitted they hadn’t even read Arizona’s new immigration law despite the fact that they have been condemning it and claiming it violates federal civil rights laws. So in the NBBP case, the Justice Department officials who ordered the dismissal didn’t know the basic facts and law in the case. They apparently had their minds made up just like Holder and Napolitano, to help lawbreakers.

What seems to be happening in the Civil Rights Division is that the few real professionals like Coates and Adams (who received awards for his job performance, too) are being driven out by the biased treatment of Obama political appointees. It is no surprise given the history of that Division, but it is a sad example of how the law enforcement power and authority of the Justice Department is abused by the radical partisans that inhabit that Division.


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