Commentary Magazine


Topic: Civil Rights Division

Watching DOJ

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes: Read More

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes:

The new documents include a series of emails between two political appointees: former Democratic election lawyer and current Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. Both DOJ officials were involved in detailed discussions regarding the NBPP decision. …

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political appointees were involved in the NBPP decision. Perez suggested that the dispute was merely “a case of career people disagreeing with career people.”

In fact, political appointee Sam Hirsch sent an April 30, 2009, email to Steven Rosenbaum (then-Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights) thanking Rosenbaum for “doing everything you’re doing to make sure that this case is properly resolved.” The next day, the DOJ began to reverse course on its NBPP voter intimidation lawsuit.

We’re going to see where the e-mail trail leads. There will be several storylines. First, how far will the scandal go? The administration may try to “amputate” at the assistant attorney general level (Perez), but evidence already revealed suggests that the associate attorney general level (the #3 position) can’t escape. But of course, the key question will be whether Eric Holder himself will be shoved off the stage. (We are going to get that frank discussion on race he’s been pining for regardless.)

Second, we’ll see how much interference Democrats are willing to run for the White House. The administration’s toady commissioner Michael Yaki tried his best to derail the commission’s investigation but wound up only embarrassing himself as the evidence gushed forth. Will House Democrats be in the mood to follow that path — or is this a fine opportunity to display their “independence” from the White House?

And finally, we’ll find out how much the administration has learned and how beholden it is to liberal activists. The Obama team has two options: (1) admit fault, repudiate a race-specific view of civil rights enforcement (e.g., only whites can be defendants), come clean, and let heads roll; or (2) fight tooth and nail, keep stonewalling, and reassure the NAACP and other liberal civil rights groups that they will stick with the left-leaning party line (i.e., civil rights laws are there to protect only “traditional” victims).

This issue is not remotely the biggest headache the administration will have to face in the next two years, but it sure will be revealing. And quite entertaining, I suspect.

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Washington Post Confirms More Than a Year of Conservative Reporting

Yes, that’s right. On Saturday’s front page, in a well-documented piece, the Washington Post did a very credible job in reporting the details of the New Black Party Panther case and, in large part, vindicating the witnesses and conservative outlets which have reported that: 1) the administration concealed that political appointees influenced the decision to dismiss a blatant case of voter intimidation; 2) the Obama administration does not believe in equal enforcement of civil rights laws; and 3) this single incident is indicative of a much larger problem than one case of voter intimidation.

As to the administration’s mindset:

Civil rights officials from the Bush administration have said that enforcement should be race-neutral. But some officials from the Obama administration, which took office vowing to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement, thought the agency should focus primarily on cases filed on behalf of minorities.

“The Voting Rights Act was passed because people like Bull Connor were hitting people like John Lewis, not the other way around,” said one Justice Department official not authorized to speak publicly, referring to the white Alabama police commissioner who cracked down on civil rights protesters such as Lewis, now a Democratic congressman from Georgia.

Translation: J. Christian Adams and Chris Coates, two former trial attorneys, testified truthfully under oath on this point; civil rights chief Thomas Perez did not.

Likewise, Adams and Coates are vindicated in their version of a case filed against an African American official:

Three Justice Department lawyers, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from their supervisors, described the same tensions, among career lawyers as well as political appointees. Employees who worked on the [Ike]Brown case were harassed by colleagues, they said, and some department lawyers anonymously went on legal blogs “absolutely tearing apart anybody who was involved in that case,” said one lawyer.

“There are career people who feel strongly that it is not the voting section’s job to protect white voters,” the lawyer said. “The environment is that you better toe the line of traditional civil rights ideas or you better keep quiet about it, because you will not advance, you will not receive awards and you will be ostracized.”

Translation: Wow.

As for the involvement of higher-ups:

Asked at a civil rights commission hearing in May whether any of the department’s political leadership was “involved in” the decision to dismiss the Panthers case, assistant attorney general for civil rights Thomas E. Perez said no.

“This is a case about career people disagreeing with career people,” said Perez, who was not in the department at the time. He also said that political appointees are regularly briefed on civil rights cases and, whenever there is a potentially controversial decision, “we obviously communicate that up the chain.”

Justice Department records turned over in a lawsuit to the conservative group Judicial Watch show a flurry of e-mails between the Civil Rights Division and the office of Associate Attorney General Thomas Perelli, a political appointee who supervises the division.

Translation: Perez did not exactly say the truth under oath.

What about orders not to enforce the law in a race-neutral fashion?

In the months after the case ended, tensions persisted. A new supervisor, Julie Fernandes, arrived to oversee the voting section, and Coates testified that she told attorneys at a September 2009 lunch that the Obama administration was interested in filing cases – under a key voting rights section – only on behalf of minorities.

“Everyone in the room understood exactly what she meant,” Coates said. “No more cases like the Ike Brown or New Black Panther Party cases.”

Fernandes declined to comment through a department spokeswoman.

Translation: Perez and Fernandes will have to go.

The administration must be awfully panicky. Lots of DOJ  attorneys assisted in preparing false responses to discovery requests from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The administration repeatedly misrepresented the facts in public. The Justice Department tried to prevent percipient witnesses from testifying pursuant to subpoenas. Perez testified under oath untruthfully. The  Obama administration stonewalled both the commission and congressmen trying to uncover the facts which conservative outlets and now the Post have revealed. The DOJ tried to bully attorneys who were prepared to tell the truth. There is a term for that: obstruction of justice.

And what’s more, GOP committee chairmen with subpoena power will take over in January when the new Congress convenes. Expect hearings, some resignations, and maybe a prosecution or two. The “small potatoes” story the mainstream media pooh-poohed will be the first serious scandal of the last two years of Obama’s term. Do I hear that Eric Holder wants to spend “more time with his family”?

Two final notes. Conservatives who caught wind of this story being underway expressed concern that the Post reporters might end up pulling their punches, given this Post editorial from several weeks ago. That fear turned out to be unfounded. This is one instance in which the wall between the editorial and news sections held firm. (It often works the other way, of course. The Post’s opinion editors, for example, were on top of the Chas Freeman story, which its news reporters ignored.) And secondly, sources who spoke to the reporters tells me that the Post was under severe pressure from the DOJ not to run this sort of story. It seems as though the Post‘s reporters find the current crew at the DOJ quite “unprofessional”. One must give credit to those two reporters for withstanding the pressure — and see it as a sign that the administration’s bark isn’t scaring anyone these days.

Yes, that’s right. On Saturday’s front page, in a well-documented piece, the Washington Post did a very credible job in reporting the details of the New Black Party Panther case and, in large part, vindicating the witnesses and conservative outlets which have reported that: 1) the administration concealed that political appointees influenced the decision to dismiss a blatant case of voter intimidation; 2) the Obama administration does not believe in equal enforcement of civil rights laws; and 3) this single incident is indicative of a much larger problem than one case of voter intimidation.

As to the administration’s mindset:

Civil rights officials from the Bush administration have said that enforcement should be race-neutral. But some officials from the Obama administration, which took office vowing to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement, thought the agency should focus primarily on cases filed on behalf of minorities.

“The Voting Rights Act was passed because people like Bull Connor were hitting people like John Lewis, not the other way around,” said one Justice Department official not authorized to speak publicly, referring to the white Alabama police commissioner who cracked down on civil rights protesters such as Lewis, now a Democratic congressman from Georgia.

Translation: J. Christian Adams and Chris Coates, two former trial attorneys, testified truthfully under oath on this point; civil rights chief Thomas Perez did not.

Likewise, Adams and Coates are vindicated in their version of a case filed against an African American official:

Three Justice Department lawyers, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation from their supervisors, described the same tensions, among career lawyers as well as political appointees. Employees who worked on the [Ike]Brown case were harassed by colleagues, they said, and some department lawyers anonymously went on legal blogs “absolutely tearing apart anybody who was involved in that case,” said one lawyer.

“There are career people who feel strongly that it is not the voting section’s job to protect white voters,” the lawyer said. “The environment is that you better toe the line of traditional civil rights ideas or you better keep quiet about it, because you will not advance, you will not receive awards and you will be ostracized.”

Translation: Wow.

As for the involvement of higher-ups:

Asked at a civil rights commission hearing in May whether any of the department’s political leadership was “involved in” the decision to dismiss the Panthers case, assistant attorney general for civil rights Thomas E. Perez said no.

“This is a case about career people disagreeing with career people,” said Perez, who was not in the department at the time. He also said that political appointees are regularly briefed on civil rights cases and, whenever there is a potentially controversial decision, “we obviously communicate that up the chain.”

Justice Department records turned over in a lawsuit to the conservative group Judicial Watch show a flurry of e-mails between the Civil Rights Division and the office of Associate Attorney General Thomas Perelli, a political appointee who supervises the division.

Translation: Perez did not exactly say the truth under oath.

What about orders not to enforce the law in a race-neutral fashion?

In the months after the case ended, tensions persisted. A new supervisor, Julie Fernandes, arrived to oversee the voting section, and Coates testified that she told attorneys at a September 2009 lunch that the Obama administration was interested in filing cases – under a key voting rights section – only on behalf of minorities.

“Everyone in the room understood exactly what she meant,” Coates said. “No more cases like the Ike Brown or New Black Panther Party cases.”

Fernandes declined to comment through a department spokeswoman.

Translation: Perez and Fernandes will have to go.

The administration must be awfully panicky. Lots of DOJ  attorneys assisted in preparing false responses to discovery requests from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The administration repeatedly misrepresented the facts in public. The Justice Department tried to prevent percipient witnesses from testifying pursuant to subpoenas. Perez testified under oath untruthfully. The  Obama administration stonewalled both the commission and congressmen trying to uncover the facts which conservative outlets and now the Post have revealed. The DOJ tried to bully attorneys who were prepared to tell the truth. There is a term for that: obstruction of justice.

And what’s more, GOP committee chairmen with subpoena power will take over in January when the new Congress convenes. Expect hearings, some resignations, and maybe a prosecution or two. The “small potatoes” story the mainstream media pooh-poohed will be the first serious scandal of the last two years of Obama’s term. Do I hear that Eric Holder wants to spend “more time with his family”?

Two final notes. Conservatives who caught wind of this story being underway expressed concern that the Post reporters might end up pulling their punches, given this Post editorial from several weeks ago. That fear turned out to be unfounded. This is one instance in which the wall between the editorial and news sections held firm. (It often works the other way, of course. The Post’s opinion editors, for example, were on top of the Chas Freeman story, which its news reporters ignored.) And secondly, sources who spoke to the reporters tells me that the Post was under severe pressure from the DOJ not to run this sort of story. It seems as though the Post‘s reporters find the current crew at the DOJ quite “unprofessional”. One must give credit to those two reporters for withstanding the pressure — and see it as a sign that the administration’s bark isn’t scaring anyone these days.

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Obama Justice Department Rocked

The former head of the Justice Department’s New Black Panther trial team, Chris Coates, testified Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. See here and here and here (subscription required). Before Coates broke his silence, the commission’s critics, a minority of the commissioners, and the mainstream media insisted that the dismissal of a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case had no significance beyond the single incident on Election Day 2008. However, Coates’s account of the administration’s hostility to race-neutral enforcement of voting laws and refusal to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring that states clean up their voting rolls to prevent voter fraud) blew that assertion to smithereens.

I was in the hearing room on Friday. Nearly as riveting as Coates’s testimony was the frantic performance of the administration’s chief lackey, Commissioner Michael Yaki. He asked Coates about the civil rights division’s memo-writing procedures, Bush-era cases, and Coates’s friendship with a former department attorney but never asked any questions about the specific allegations that Obama appointees opposed equal enforcement of the voting laws. An audience member wisecracked, “When all else fails, blame George Bush.” Read More

The former head of the Justice Department’s New Black Panther trial team, Chris Coates, testified Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. See here and here and here (subscription required). Before Coates broke his silence, the commission’s critics, a minority of the commissioners, and the mainstream media insisted that the dismissal of a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case had no significance beyond the single incident on Election Day 2008. However, Coates’s account of the administration’s hostility to race-neutral enforcement of voting laws and refusal to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring that states clean up their voting rolls to prevent voter fraud) blew that assertion to smithereens.

I was in the hearing room on Friday. Nearly as riveting as Coates’s testimony was the frantic performance of the administration’s chief lackey, Commissioner Michael Yaki. He asked Coates about the civil rights division’s memo-writing procedures, Bush-era cases, and Coates’s friendship with a former department attorney but never asked any questions about the specific allegations that Obama appointees opposed equal enforcement of the voting laws. An audience member wisecracked, “When all else fails, blame George Bush.”

Try as Democrats might to ignore the blockbuster evidence, Coates’s testimony was a game changer. Granted, the testimony contained information already revealed in conservative outlets and by former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams. But Coates confirmed these facts and added a wealth of new details. An African American attorney and his mother (who also works for DOJ) were harassed for working on a voting case brought against an African American defendant. Obama’s deputy assistant general for civil rights, Julie Fernandez, repeatedly told attorneys not to enforce Section 8 or bring cases against minority defendants. Coates’s supervisor, who directly ordered the case’s dismissal, told him to stop asking applicants if they could enforce laws in a race-neutral fashion. Coates briefed civil rights chief Thomas Perez on the hostility toward race-neutral enforcement of voting laws — before Perez feigned ignorance of such sentiments in sworn testimony. In sum, Coates’s appearance was the scandal’s tipping point.

Conservative outlets have reported on the case for over a year; mainstream reporters have averted their eyes. After Coates’s performance, the Washington Post’s page-one story proclaimed that the case is “ratcheting up.” Politico had pooh-poohed the story; it now acknowledges that conservatives had it correct all along. (“Coates’ highly-charged testimony before the Civil Rights Commission echoed [conservatives’] allegations, as well as the testimony of J. Christian Adams.”) The testimony was so stunning that the New York Times might have to cover it.

Meanwhile, the DOJ’s spokesman bristled that Coates wasn’t “authorized” to testify and wasn’t an “appropriate” witness. In a transparent coordination with Yaki, DOJ’s spokesman blamed the Bush administration for politicizing the department. But it will be impossible to shrug off or smear Coates. As the Post conceded, Coates’s testimony will “carry greater weight because he worked decades ago as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, has won awards from civil rights groups and lacks the partisan GOP resume of the department’s harshest opponents.”

Moreover, Coates testimony was all the more compelling because he was so circumspect, refusing to testify about internal discussions that the department considers privileged. (He readily agreed to provide more details if the DOJ waived its privilege claim.) He declined to draw inferences unsupported by his own observations. Asked whether Obama appointees’ directive not to enforce Section 8’s anti-fraud provisions was racially motivated, he answered with a litigator’s precision: it might have not been the intent, but the result was to allow bloated voting rolls in heavily minority districts that were Democratic strongholds.

No wonder the administration tried to muzzle Coates. Nevertheless, the department’s stonewalling has failed, and those parroting the administration’s line (“much ado about nothing”) look foolish. Inevitably, more Justice Department witnesses and documents will surface. (Judicial Watch has sued the DOJ, demanding documents evidencing the involvement of the department’s No. 3 man.)

Moreover, after November, Republicans almost certainly will assume chairmanships of key congressional committees. (Staff members from the offices of Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf, who have doggedly pursued the case, listened attentively in the front row on Friday.) A spokesman for Smith released this statement:

A founding principle of this nation is equality under the law. That means it is unacceptable for the Justice Department to determine whether to enforce a law based upon the race of a defendant or victim. And yet, according to testimony by the former chief voting rights attorney for the Department, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. … The Judiciary Committee should immediately open an investigation into allegations of improper practices within the Civil Rights Division and Justice Department officials should be subpoenaed to testify before Congress. There is no excuse for racial discrimination anywhere, but within the halls of the U.S. Department of Justice, it is the height of hypocrisy.

If Obama appointees refuse to testify voluntarily, the new chairmen will issue subpoenas.

It will be interesting to hear Obama officials explain why they failed to investigate accusations of wrongdoing and instead insisted that voting-rights laws be enforced only on behalf of minorities. It will be must-see TV when Perez is grilled on his inaccurate testimony claiming ignorance of hostility to the colorblind enforcement of voting laws. Will attorneys be referred to their state bar for professional misconduct?

This has become another headache for the Obama administration, especially for Eric Holder. Maybe he will want to “spend more time with his family” before Republican chairmen grab their gavels.

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Obstruction of Justice

On August 6, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent Eric Holder a letter reiterating its request to allow Chris Coates, the former head of the New Black Panther Party trial team, to testify. Coates had, upon his relocation to the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina, given a goodbye speech detailing the dangers of his colleagues’ aversion to colorblind enforcement of civil rights laws, which is the central focus of the commission’s work. The commission, in an effort to avoid any claim of “privilege,” offered to limit questioning to whether there is a “policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws” and whether the administration is refusing to enforce the portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires local and state governments to clean up the voting rolls to prevent fraud.

On August 11, civil rights department head Thomas Perez, who has been accused of giving misleading testimony to the commission and to Congress, sent a rather preposterous response. He assured the commission that there was no problem, no problem at all, because the Justice Department is committed “to the evenhanded application of the law.” And since Perez has told the commission so, there is no need to allow Coates to testify. (“In light of my clear articulation of our enforcement policy … we do not believe that a Civil Rights Division attorney who has been on detail to the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina since mid-January 2010 is the appropriate witness to testify.”)

It’s jaw-dropping, really, even for this crew. Coates, who has detailed knowledge of the most explosive allegations, can’t be the right person to testify, because he was shuffled off to South Carolina after his maddening experience on the New Black Panther trial case and a fiery farewell address in which he accused the department of failing to enforce the law in an “evenhanded” manner. So he can’t possibly be the right person to testify.

As this report details, an acrimonious commission meeting took place on Friday in which a minority of the commissioners carried the department’s water and found no problem with the galling stonewall. But a majority of the commissioners found that the Obama administration had been obstructionist and passed a motion that restated the commission’s statutory authority and the attorney general’s refusal to cooperate with the commission’s investigation:

The Commission’s organic statute authorizes it to subpoena witnesses and the production of written material in aid of its mission, and it authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the Commission’s subpoenas in federal court if any person or entity refuses to comply. The Commission’s statute also requires that “All Federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties,” 42 U.S.C. § 1975b(e), but it is equally unclear whether the Commission has recourse to seek judicial enforcement of this command, absent representation from the Department of Justice. … In the NBPP investigation that is the subject of this report, the Department of Justice refused to comply with certain Commission requests for information concerning DOJ’s enforcement actions, and it instructed its employees not to comply with the Commission’s subpoenas for testimony.

The commission also adopted the following:

Congress should consider amendments to the Commission’s statute to address investigations in which the Attorney General and/or the Department of Justice have a conflict of interest in complying fully with the Commission’s requests for information.  Options to address a potential conflict of interest might include the following:

Enactment of a statutory procedure by which the Commission may request the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel with authority to represent it in federal court, which request the Attorney General must personally respond to in writing within a specified period of time.

Enactment of a statutory provision to clarify that the Commission may hire its own counsel and proceed independently in federal court if the Attorney General refuses to enforce a subpoena or other lawful request, especially those directed at the Department of Justice, its officers, or its employees.

A conscious decision not to alter the Commission’s statute or a statutory confirmation that the Attorney General and Department of Justice can act against the Commission’s interest without any particular explanation.

The last option would surely be popular with congressional Democrats.

But the real resolution of this will probably come only if Coates and others defy the department’s order to ignore the commission’s subpoenas (not likely if they want to continue working in this administration), or if control of the House and/or Senate flips to GOP control, and Coates, Perez, and others are ordered to appear and give congressional testimony under oath.

On August 6, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent Eric Holder a letter reiterating its request to allow Chris Coates, the former head of the New Black Panther Party trial team, to testify. Coates had, upon his relocation to the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina, given a goodbye speech detailing the dangers of his colleagues’ aversion to colorblind enforcement of civil rights laws, which is the central focus of the commission’s work. The commission, in an effort to avoid any claim of “privilege,” offered to limit questioning to whether there is a “policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws” and whether the administration is refusing to enforce the portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires local and state governments to clean up the voting rolls to prevent fraud.

On August 11, civil rights department head Thomas Perez, who has been accused of giving misleading testimony to the commission and to Congress, sent a rather preposterous response. He assured the commission that there was no problem, no problem at all, because the Justice Department is committed “to the evenhanded application of the law.” And since Perez has told the commission so, there is no need to allow Coates to testify. (“In light of my clear articulation of our enforcement policy … we do not believe that a Civil Rights Division attorney who has been on detail to the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina since mid-January 2010 is the appropriate witness to testify.”)

It’s jaw-dropping, really, even for this crew. Coates, who has detailed knowledge of the most explosive allegations, can’t be the right person to testify, because he was shuffled off to South Carolina after his maddening experience on the New Black Panther trial case and a fiery farewell address in which he accused the department of failing to enforce the law in an “evenhanded” manner. So he can’t possibly be the right person to testify.

As this report details, an acrimonious commission meeting took place on Friday in which a minority of the commissioners carried the department’s water and found no problem with the galling stonewall. But a majority of the commissioners found that the Obama administration had been obstructionist and passed a motion that restated the commission’s statutory authority and the attorney general’s refusal to cooperate with the commission’s investigation:

The Commission’s organic statute authorizes it to subpoena witnesses and the production of written material in aid of its mission, and it authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the Commission’s subpoenas in federal court if any person or entity refuses to comply. The Commission’s statute also requires that “All Federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties,” 42 U.S.C. § 1975b(e), but it is equally unclear whether the Commission has recourse to seek judicial enforcement of this command, absent representation from the Department of Justice. … In the NBPP investigation that is the subject of this report, the Department of Justice refused to comply with certain Commission requests for information concerning DOJ’s enforcement actions, and it instructed its employees not to comply with the Commission’s subpoenas for testimony.

The commission also adopted the following:

Congress should consider amendments to the Commission’s statute to address investigations in which the Attorney General and/or the Department of Justice have a conflict of interest in complying fully with the Commission’s requests for information.  Options to address a potential conflict of interest might include the following:

Enactment of a statutory procedure by which the Commission may request the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel with authority to represent it in federal court, which request the Attorney General must personally respond to in writing within a specified period of time.

Enactment of a statutory provision to clarify that the Commission may hire its own counsel and proceed independently in federal court if the Attorney General refuses to enforce a subpoena or other lawful request, especially those directed at the Department of Justice, its officers, or its employees.

A conscious decision not to alter the Commission’s statute or a statutory confirmation that the Attorney General and Department of Justice can act against the Commission’s interest without any particular explanation.

The last option would surely be popular with congressional Democrats.

But the real resolution of this will probably come only if Coates and others defy the department’s order to ignore the commission’s subpoenas (not likely if they want to continue working in this administration), or if control of the House and/or Senate flips to GOP control, and Coates, Perez, and others are ordered to appear and give congressional testimony under oath.

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Please, Mr. Attorney General, Stop Obstructing Justice

From the onset of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department has refused to allow percipient witnesses, including the trial team, to testify. Eric Holder has prevented those accused of quashing the voter-intimidation case and those who complained about the quashing to testify. J. Christian Adams had to quit his job in order to tell his story.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is now challenging the mainstream-media canard — this is “small potatoes” — and pushing Holder to end the stonewalling. The chairman of the commission, Gerald Reynolds, wrote to Holder yesterday. The letter reads, in part:

Mr. Adams testified that there is hostility within the Civil Rights Division to the race neutral enforcement of civil rights protections, and that such hostility may be supported by statements of current political appointees in the Division. By way of example, his testimony indicated that career employees refused to work on the Ike Brown litigation (in which the court found that the voting rights of white and black voters had been violated by a black official) and, most importantly, that specific instructions were given to Mr. Chris] Coates [head of the Black Panther trial team] from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes to the effect that “cases are not going to be brought against black defendants for the benefit of white victims; that if somebody wanted to bring these cases it was up to the U.S. Attorney, but the Civil Rights Division wasn’t going to be bringing it.”

Without waiving its rights to examine Department personnel in the future as to the decision making process in the New Black Panther Party litigation, the Commission will agree to limit Mr. Coates’s (initial) questioning to non-deliberative statements or actions relating to whether there is a policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws and whether there is a policy not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.

(And oh, by the way, the chief pooh-pooher on the commission, a Republican who’s now the darling of the left, “fearlessly” abstained from the vote to send the letter. What could possibly be the objection or the reason to take a pass — or have the facts simply become too overwhelming to dispute?)

To reiterate: we are talking about a serious allegation that Obama’s Justice Department refuses to enforce the civil rights laws without regard to the race of the defendant and — without any legal basis — is preventing a witness from testifying. If it were not for their partisan loyalty and desire to minimize a scandal they have ignored for far too long, the mainstream media and the punditocracy would be going nuts. Imagine if the Bush administration had refused to allow a key Justice Department attorney to testify as to why a Republican administration dropped a slam-dunk case against a white racist organization. It’s inconceivable that a Republican administration would attempt such a thing or that the media would yawn in response.

Let’s see what Holder’s excuse is now for blocking an inquiry into his department’s lawless conduct.

From the onset of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department has refused to allow percipient witnesses, including the trial team, to testify. Eric Holder has prevented those accused of quashing the voter-intimidation case and those who complained about the quashing to testify. J. Christian Adams had to quit his job in order to tell his story.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is now challenging the mainstream-media canard — this is “small potatoes” — and pushing Holder to end the stonewalling. The chairman of the commission, Gerald Reynolds, wrote to Holder yesterday. The letter reads, in part:

Mr. Adams testified that there is hostility within the Civil Rights Division to the race neutral enforcement of civil rights protections, and that such hostility may be supported by statements of current political appointees in the Division. By way of example, his testimony indicated that career employees refused to work on the Ike Brown litigation (in which the court found that the voting rights of white and black voters had been violated by a black official) and, most importantly, that specific instructions were given to Mr. Chris] Coates [head of the Black Panther trial team] from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes to the effect that “cases are not going to be brought against black defendants for the benefit of white victims; that if somebody wanted to bring these cases it was up to the U.S. Attorney, but the Civil Rights Division wasn’t going to be bringing it.”

Without waiving its rights to examine Department personnel in the future as to the decision making process in the New Black Panther Party litigation, the Commission will agree to limit Mr. Coates’s (initial) questioning to non-deliberative statements or actions relating to whether there is a policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws and whether there is a policy not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.

(And oh, by the way, the chief pooh-pooher on the commission, a Republican who’s now the darling of the left, “fearlessly” abstained from the vote to send the letter. What could possibly be the objection or the reason to take a pass — or have the facts simply become too overwhelming to dispute?)

To reiterate: we are talking about a serious allegation that Obama’s Justice Department refuses to enforce the civil rights laws without regard to the race of the defendant and — without any legal basis — is preventing a witness from testifying. If it were not for their partisan loyalty and desire to minimize a scandal they have ignored for far too long, the mainstream media and the punditocracy would be going nuts. Imagine if the Bush administration had refused to allow a key Justice Department attorney to testify as to why a Republican administration dropped a slam-dunk case against a white racist organization. It’s inconceivable that a Republican administration would attempt such a thing or that the media would yawn in response.

Let’s see what Holder’s excuse is now for blocking an inquiry into his department’s lawless conduct.

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Stacking the Deck, Providing Cover

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern —

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern —

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

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Did Thomas Perez Testify Truthfully?

J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department attorney who was a key member of its New Black Panther litigation team, made a splash when he testified that the Civil Rights Division under Obama is hostile to filing civil rights cases that don’t follow the historic pattern — i.e., a white defendant violating minorities’ rights. (Helpful summaries are found here and here.) It is, if accurate, far more explosive than the dismissal of an isolated case, as egregious as the withdrawal of a default judgment against the New Black Panthers was.

The notion that civil rights laws can’t or shouldn’t be used against a minority defendant who seeks to deprive others of their civil rights is noxious to most Americans. According to Adams’s testimony, however, it is a commonplace at the Justice Department and was articulated by Julie Fernandes, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Moreover, it raises a question as to whether Thomas Perez was being truthful to Congress and to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when he testified under oath that he was unaware of any such sentiments. Before the Commission, Adams testified: “But Mr. Chris Coates and I and [Robert] Popper went and met with him the day before he testified here for about an hour, and we laid out all of our arguments and begged him not to testify inaccurately about the case.” He nevertheless testified that the case was unsupported by the law and the facts, and suggested the lawyers may have violated Rule 11, which provides for sanctions in the event of a frivolous legal action.

But that’s not all. A knowledgeable source tells me that at that same meeting, trial team head Chris Coates, who participated in the meeting by phone, explicitly warned him that there was a deep hostility to race-neutral enforcement of the law and he provided details to Perez. Sitting in the room with Perez were Adams and Popper. Perez had aides who were taking notes in the room. Nevertheless, under oath and before Congress and the Commission, Perez testified that he was unaware of such sentiments. If, indeed, he was briefed and then delivered this testimony, then he misled Congress and the Commission.

Now did he conduct a thorough investigation and find Coates unpersuasive? Well, the testimony before the Commission was the next day and I doubt there was time to commence — let alone complete — such an inquiry. Moreover, he denied having heard about such allegations. If he had been briefed the day before, this was patently untrue.

It is time for Congress to exercise appropriate oversight and get to the bottom of this issue. Moreover, since the Justice Department can’t investigate itself, I don’t see why a special prosecutor isn’t in order.

Now, two additional former DOJ attorneys have come forward to corroborate the hostility toward colorblind enforcement. Their affidavits can be read here. The witnesses are piling up and the stonewall is turning to rubble. We may finally be getting to the reason why Eric Holder’s Justice Department has done everything possible to keep members of the trial team from testifying. Their exposure is much greater than one case.

J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department attorney who was a key member of its New Black Panther litigation team, made a splash when he testified that the Civil Rights Division under Obama is hostile to filing civil rights cases that don’t follow the historic pattern — i.e., a white defendant violating minorities’ rights. (Helpful summaries are found here and here.) It is, if accurate, far more explosive than the dismissal of an isolated case, as egregious as the withdrawal of a default judgment against the New Black Panthers was.

The notion that civil rights laws can’t or shouldn’t be used against a minority defendant who seeks to deprive others of their civil rights is noxious to most Americans. According to Adams’s testimony, however, it is a commonplace at the Justice Department and was articulated by Julie Fernandes, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Moreover, it raises a question as to whether Thomas Perez was being truthful to Congress and to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when he testified under oath that he was unaware of any such sentiments. Before the Commission, Adams testified: “But Mr. Chris Coates and I and [Robert] Popper went and met with him the day before he testified here for about an hour, and we laid out all of our arguments and begged him not to testify inaccurately about the case.” He nevertheless testified that the case was unsupported by the law and the facts, and suggested the lawyers may have violated Rule 11, which provides for sanctions in the event of a frivolous legal action.

But that’s not all. A knowledgeable source tells me that at that same meeting, trial team head Chris Coates, who participated in the meeting by phone, explicitly warned him that there was a deep hostility to race-neutral enforcement of the law and he provided details to Perez. Sitting in the room with Perez were Adams and Popper. Perez had aides who were taking notes in the room. Nevertheless, under oath and before Congress and the Commission, Perez testified that he was unaware of such sentiments. If, indeed, he was briefed and then delivered this testimony, then he misled Congress and the Commission.

Now did he conduct a thorough investigation and find Coates unpersuasive? Well, the testimony before the Commission was the next day and I doubt there was time to commence — let alone complete — such an inquiry. Moreover, he denied having heard about such allegations. If he had been briefed the day before, this was patently untrue.

It is time for Congress to exercise appropriate oversight and get to the bottom of this issue. Moreover, since the Justice Department can’t investigate itself, I don’t see why a special prosecutor isn’t in order.

Now, two additional former DOJ attorneys have come forward to corroborate the hostility toward colorblind enforcement. Their affidavits can be read here. The witnesses are piling up and the stonewall is turning to rubble. We may finally be getting to the reason why Eric Holder’s Justice Department has done everything possible to keep members of the trial team from testifying. Their exposure is much greater than one case.

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Justice Department Sued Over Black Panther Documents

The Justice Department has been stonewalling individual members of Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in their efforts to get to the bottom of the Obama-Holder Justice Department’s decision to abandon a default judgment against the New Black Panther Party and multiple individual defendants in a case of blatant voter intimidation. Now the conservative legal watchdog Judicial Watch is going to court to pry the documents loose:

Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on May 29, 2009. The Justice Department acknowledged receiving the request on June 18, 2009, but then referred the request to the Office of Information Policy (OIP) and the Civil Rights Division. On January 15, 2010, the OIP notified Judicial Watch that it would be responding to the request on behalf of the Offices of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, Public Affairs, Legislative Affairs, Legal Policy, and Intergovernmental and Public Liaison.

On January 15, the OIP also indicated that the Office of the Associate Attorney General found 135 pages of records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request, but that all records would be withheld in full. On January 26, the OIP advised Judicial Watch that the Office of Public Affairs and Office of Legal Policy completed their searches and found no responsive documents. On February 10, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division indicated that after an extensive search it had located “numerous responsive records” but determined that “access to the majority of the records” should be denied. On March 26, the OIP indicated that the Office of Legislative Affairs and the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison completed searches and found no documents.

It’s about time the courts rule on the panoply of made-up defenses and fake privileges that Holder has cooked up to avoid turning over these documents. Let the courts decide if the Obama administration can have it both ways — declining to invoke executive privilege but relying on the privilege under other names (“deliberative privilege”).

A knowledgeable lawyer e-mails me: “Notice DOJ revealed nothing about the number of panther documents in the AG and deputy AG office. Even for  the associate attorney general they revealed there were 135 but they weren’t going to turn them over. Failing to even name a number is extremely suspicious because those units can be searched quicker and easier for compliant documents. It leads one to conclude any number would be an embarrassment, and a high number would be a catastrophe. So, don’t reveal a number. Typical of this non-transparent operation.”

And now we’re going to see the administration’s true colors played out in open court. As a Judicial Watch spokesman said: “If there is nothing to hide, then Eric Holder should release this information as the law requires. And this is just one more example of how Obama’s promises of transparency are a big lie.”

But the Obama team may have a different problem: if either or both houses of Congress flip to Republican control, new chairmen will populate key committees and subpoenas will begin to fly. Congress is in an even better position to get access to the documents, as attorney-client privilege doesn’t work against a co-equal branch of government. In sum, Holder is running out of room to hide, finally.

The Justice Department has been stonewalling individual members of Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in their efforts to get to the bottom of the Obama-Holder Justice Department’s decision to abandon a default judgment against the New Black Panther Party and multiple individual defendants in a case of blatant voter intimidation. Now the conservative legal watchdog Judicial Watch is going to court to pry the documents loose:

Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on May 29, 2009. The Justice Department acknowledged receiving the request on June 18, 2009, but then referred the request to the Office of Information Policy (OIP) and the Civil Rights Division. On January 15, 2010, the OIP notified Judicial Watch that it would be responding to the request on behalf of the Offices of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, Public Affairs, Legislative Affairs, Legal Policy, and Intergovernmental and Public Liaison.

On January 15, the OIP also indicated that the Office of the Associate Attorney General found 135 pages of records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request, but that all records would be withheld in full. On January 26, the OIP advised Judicial Watch that the Office of Public Affairs and Office of Legal Policy completed their searches and found no responsive documents. On February 10, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division indicated that after an extensive search it had located “numerous responsive records” but determined that “access to the majority of the records” should be denied. On March 26, the OIP indicated that the Office of Legislative Affairs and the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison completed searches and found no documents.

It’s about time the courts rule on the panoply of made-up defenses and fake privileges that Holder has cooked up to avoid turning over these documents. Let the courts decide if the Obama administration can have it both ways — declining to invoke executive privilege but relying on the privilege under other names (“deliberative privilege”).

A knowledgeable lawyer e-mails me: “Notice DOJ revealed nothing about the number of panther documents in the AG and deputy AG office. Even for  the associate attorney general they revealed there were 135 but they weren’t going to turn them over. Failing to even name a number is extremely suspicious because those units can be searched quicker and easier for compliant documents. It leads one to conclude any number would be an embarrassment, and a high number would be a catastrophe. So, don’t reveal a number. Typical of this non-transparent operation.”

And now we’re going to see the administration’s true colors played out in open court. As a Judicial Watch spokesman said: “If there is nothing to hide, then Eric Holder should release this information as the law requires. And this is just one more example of how Obama’s promises of transparency are a big lie.”

But the Obama team may have a different problem: if either or both houses of Congress flip to Republican control, new chairmen will populate key committees and subpoenas will begin to fly. Congress is in an even better position to get access to the documents, as attorney-client privilege doesn’t work against a co-equal branch of government. In sum, Holder is running out of room to hide, finally.

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New Black Panther Documents: Appellate Experts Overridden

At the heart of the New Black Panther Party case is a basic question: were the Justice Department trial lawyers ordered to withdraw the default judgment for proper, legal reasons (i.e., the trial team had erroneously pursued the case) or for improper, political reasons? At the Friday hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Rep. Frank Wolf submitted with his testimony some internal Justice Department documents, including an internal memorandum from the Civil Rights Division’s appellate section, which was asked to weigh in by the Voting Rights Section. In a memo dated May 13, 2009 (just days before the Obama administration ordered the case pulled), the appellate lawyers offered their own opinion of the case. They included this in their summary:

We can make reasonable arguments in favor of default relief against all defendants and probably should, given the unusual procedural situation. The argument may well not succeed at the default stage, and we should expect the district court to schedule further proceedings But it would be curious not to pray for the relief on the default that we would seek following trial. Thus, we generally concur in Voting’s recommendation to go forward, with some suggested modifications in our argument, as set forth below.

Translation: the Voting Sections lawyers should go for it. This recommendation was overridden by the Obama administration. And the question we return to again and again is this: why did the Obama team reject the advice of not only the trial team of career lawyers but also of the experts in the appellate section? What infirmity did only the Obama team spot that somehow had eluded all these experienced voting-rights gurus? Well, we don’t know. The Obama administration so far has refused to permit the trial attorneys to testify to shed further light on what pressure they were subjected to and what they were told was the rationale for the dismissal. So for now, the mystery — and the stonewall — continues.

At the heart of the New Black Panther Party case is a basic question: were the Justice Department trial lawyers ordered to withdraw the default judgment for proper, legal reasons (i.e., the trial team had erroneously pursued the case) or for improper, political reasons? At the Friday hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Rep. Frank Wolf submitted with his testimony some internal Justice Department documents, including an internal memorandum from the Civil Rights Division’s appellate section, which was asked to weigh in by the Voting Rights Section. In a memo dated May 13, 2009 (just days before the Obama administration ordered the case pulled), the appellate lawyers offered their own opinion of the case. They included this in their summary:

We can make reasonable arguments in favor of default relief against all defendants and probably should, given the unusual procedural situation. The argument may well not succeed at the default stage, and we should expect the district court to schedule further proceedings But it would be curious not to pray for the relief on the default that we would seek following trial. Thus, we generally concur in Voting’s recommendation to go forward, with some suggested modifications in our argument, as set forth below.

Translation: the Voting Sections lawyers should go for it. This recommendation was overridden by the Obama administration. And the question we return to again and again is this: why did the Obama team reject the advice of not only the trial team of career lawyers but also of the experts in the appellate section? What infirmity did only the Obama team spot that somehow had eluded all these experienced voting-rights gurus? Well, we don’t know. The Obama administration so far has refused to permit the trial attorneys to testify to shed further light on what pressure they were subjected to and what they were told was the rationale for the dismissal. So for now, the mystery — and the stonewall — continues.

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What Did Eric Holder Know and When Did He Know It?

From the beginning of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department insisted that the decision to dismiss a case of egregious voter intimidation was made by career attorneys. Now we are learning that there was significant involvement by political appointees, including the attorney general himself. In a prepared testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which opened its hearing today, Rep. Frank Wolf explained:

“According to the Appellate Division memos first disclosed in the Times article, Appellate Chief Diana K. Flynn said that ‘the appropriate action was to pursue the default judgment’ and that Justice had made a ‘reasonable argument in favor of default relief against all defendants.’

Flynn’s opinion was shared by a second Appellate Division official, Marie K. McElderry, who stated, ‘The government’s predominant interest is preventing intimidation, threats and coercion against voters or persons urging or aiding persons to vote or attempt to vote.’

Given these troubling disclosures, I have repeatedly called on the attorney general to re-file this civil suit and allow a ruling from the judge based on the merits of the case, not political expediency.  The career trial team should be allowed to bring the case again – per the guidance I obtained from the Congressional Research Service’s American Law Division in its July 30 memo – to allow our nation’s justice system to work as it was intended: impartially and without bias.

Sources within the department stated that Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, a political appointee, in conjunction with the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, Ms. Loretta King, and her deputy, Mr. Steve Rosenbaum, overruled the career attorneys in the Voting Rights section.  Earlier this week, the department finally acknowledged that the Attorney General was made aware – on multiple occasions – of the steps being taken to dismiss this case.”

Wolf may be referring to the Justice Department’s supplemental response to an interrogation from the Commission, a copy of which I have received. The Department confirms, “The Attorney General was generally made aware by the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Associate’s staff that the Civil Rights Division was considering the appropriate actions to take in the New Black Panther Party litigation case.” The response states that Holder was “likely provided a brief update” but “did not make the decisions regarding any aspect” of the case. Did he weigh in? Did he advocate a position? Did his underlings? We don’t know.

But one thing is certain: if the case was significant enough to brief the attorney general on, you can bet that the decisions were approved if not instigated by political appointees. The veil is beginning to be lifted. Now it is time to put Holder and Perrelli under oath and find out what they knew and when they knew it. And then we can determine whether the Justice Department has been covering up the politicization of the enforcement of civil rights.

From the beginning of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department insisted that the decision to dismiss a case of egregious voter intimidation was made by career attorneys. Now we are learning that there was significant involvement by political appointees, including the attorney general himself. In a prepared testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which opened its hearing today, Rep. Frank Wolf explained:

“According to the Appellate Division memos first disclosed in the Times article, Appellate Chief Diana K. Flynn said that ‘the appropriate action was to pursue the default judgment’ and that Justice had made a ‘reasonable argument in favor of default relief against all defendants.’

Flynn’s opinion was shared by a second Appellate Division official, Marie K. McElderry, who stated, ‘The government’s predominant interest is preventing intimidation, threats and coercion against voters or persons urging or aiding persons to vote or attempt to vote.’

Given these troubling disclosures, I have repeatedly called on the attorney general to re-file this civil suit and allow a ruling from the judge based on the merits of the case, not political expediency.  The career trial team should be allowed to bring the case again – per the guidance I obtained from the Congressional Research Service’s American Law Division in its July 30 memo – to allow our nation’s justice system to work as it was intended: impartially and without bias.

Sources within the department stated that Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, a political appointee, in conjunction with the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, Ms. Loretta King, and her deputy, Mr. Steve Rosenbaum, overruled the career attorneys in the Voting Rights section.  Earlier this week, the department finally acknowledged that the Attorney General was made aware – on multiple occasions – of the steps being taken to dismiss this case.”

Wolf may be referring to the Justice Department’s supplemental response to an interrogation from the Commission, a copy of which I have received. The Department confirms, “The Attorney General was generally made aware by the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Associate’s staff that the Civil Rights Division was considering the appropriate actions to take in the New Black Panther Party litigation case.” The response states that Holder was “likely provided a brief update” but “did not make the decisions regarding any aspect” of the case. Did he weigh in? Did he advocate a position? Did his underlings? We don’t know.

But one thing is certain: if the case was significant enough to brief the attorney general on, you can bet that the decisions were approved if not instigated by political appointees. The veil is beginning to be lifted. Now it is time to put Holder and Perrelli under oath and find out what they knew and when they knew it. And then we can determine whether the Justice Department has been covering up the politicization of the enforcement of civil rights.

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Lawyers and Double Standards

There has been much huffing and puffing about the criticism of Justice Department lawyers who used to represent al-Qaeda defendants and now represent the U.S. in making terrorism policy and litigate on behalf of the U.S. government. Bill Kristol strikes back today. His retort is worth reading in full, but here’s a sample:

If you want to see some really high-class smoke being blown, it’s worth taking a look at the recent statement signed by a bunch of Republican lawyers defending liberal lawyers now working at the Justice Department who’d previously represented or advocated for terrorist detainees. Nameless straw men (including me) and women (Liz Cheney) are subject to name-calling — ‘shameful,’ ‘unjust,’ and ‘destructive’ appear in the first paragraph alone. In all three paragraphs of the lawyers’ letter, highfaluting generalities are generally and highfalutingly invoked. The self-esteem and self-importance of lawyers are much in evidence. The only thing missing is an actual argument.

The reason I suspect the letter is light in arguments is that there is nothing wrong with asking who is making the cockeyed policy. And there is reason to find out why are we coming up with an approach that looks as though it were straight from the ACLU handbook. A couple of points are worth noting. First, there is an issue of potential conflicts of interest. (You aren’t supposed to hop from one side to another regarding the same legal matter, and perhaps in related matters as well). And second, there is legitimate concern as to whether Eric Holder hired a bunch of lefty ideologues with extreme views when he was supposed to be hiring the best and brightest lawyers to advance, within the bounds of ethics, the interests of the U.S. government.

Interestingly, today Hans Von Spakovsky goes through the profiles of the lawyers who now popualate the Civil Rights Division. It’s amusing, if not horrifying, to see what kind of ideological extremists and, as he puts it, “hacks” have gotten jobs there. He sums up:

The new administration is free to select whomever it wants for political posts at the Justice Department — even lawyers who were involved in lawsuits that resulted in sanctions against the Department. But we all remember the Left’s relentless attacks upon the Bush Civil Rights Division for installing conservatives in leadership positions. We were subjected to endless blather about the Bush team’s arrogance for refusing to approve a handful of cases recommended by career staff, its chutzpah in allowing political appointees to manage certain litigation, and its sheer temerity for stripping some career section chiefs of their authority to exercise unfettered discretion in establishing the enforcement and policy agendas of the Division. The soaring rhetoric turned out to be just that, rhetoric.

Hypocrisy, actually.

In short, the Obami can hire anyone they want to the Justice Department. But then they should be prepared to defend their hires and get off their high horses. After screaming that  George W. Bush “politicized” the  Justice Department, they have a lot to answer for. But they prefer to just holler at their critics.

There has been much huffing and puffing about the criticism of Justice Department lawyers who used to represent al-Qaeda defendants and now represent the U.S. in making terrorism policy and litigate on behalf of the U.S. government. Bill Kristol strikes back today. His retort is worth reading in full, but here’s a sample:

If you want to see some really high-class smoke being blown, it’s worth taking a look at the recent statement signed by a bunch of Republican lawyers defending liberal lawyers now working at the Justice Department who’d previously represented or advocated for terrorist detainees. Nameless straw men (including me) and women (Liz Cheney) are subject to name-calling — ‘shameful,’ ‘unjust,’ and ‘destructive’ appear in the first paragraph alone. In all three paragraphs of the lawyers’ letter, highfaluting generalities are generally and highfalutingly invoked. The self-esteem and self-importance of lawyers are much in evidence. The only thing missing is an actual argument.

The reason I suspect the letter is light in arguments is that there is nothing wrong with asking who is making the cockeyed policy. And there is reason to find out why are we coming up with an approach that looks as though it were straight from the ACLU handbook. A couple of points are worth noting. First, there is an issue of potential conflicts of interest. (You aren’t supposed to hop from one side to another regarding the same legal matter, and perhaps in related matters as well). And second, there is legitimate concern as to whether Eric Holder hired a bunch of lefty ideologues with extreme views when he was supposed to be hiring the best and brightest lawyers to advance, within the bounds of ethics, the interests of the U.S. government.

Interestingly, today Hans Von Spakovsky goes through the profiles of the lawyers who now popualate the Civil Rights Division. It’s amusing, if not horrifying, to see what kind of ideological extremists and, as he puts it, “hacks” have gotten jobs there. He sums up:

The new administration is free to select whomever it wants for political posts at the Justice Department — even lawyers who were involved in lawsuits that resulted in sanctions against the Department. But we all remember the Left’s relentless attacks upon the Bush Civil Rights Division for installing conservatives in leadership positions. We were subjected to endless blather about the Bush team’s arrogance for refusing to approve a handful of cases recommended by career staff, its chutzpah in allowing political appointees to manage certain litigation, and its sheer temerity for stripping some career section chiefs of their authority to exercise unfettered discretion in establishing the enforcement and policy agendas of the Division. The soaring rhetoric turned out to be just that, rhetoric.

Hypocrisy, actually.

In short, the Obami can hire anyone they want to the Justice Department. But then they should be prepared to defend their hires and get off their high horses. After screaming that  George W. Bush “politicized” the  Justice Department, they have a lot to answer for. But they prefer to just holler at their critics.

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Civil Rights Laws Run Only One Way?

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less. Read More

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less.

This only serves to highlight the remarks of Chris Coates, the head of the Justice Department’s trial team, who upon his departure had these pointed words for his colleagues (paraphrased by Hans von Spakovsky):

Since many minority officials are now involved in the administration of elections in many jurisdictions, it is imperative that they believe that the anti-discrimination and anti-intimidation provisions of the Voting Rights Act will be enforced against them by the Justice Department, just as it is imperative that white election officials believe that Justice will enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act against them. I fear that actions that indicate that the Justice Department is not in the business of suing minority election officials, or not in the business of filing suits to protect white voters from discrimination or intimidation, will only encourage election officials, who are so inclined, to violate the Voting Rights Act.

I cannot imagine that any lawyers who believe in the rule of law would want to encourage violations of the Voting Rights Act by anyone, whether the wrongdoers are members of a minority group or white people.

It’s hard to believe that had the polling place been in Alabama and the intimidators been clad in KKK garb that the Obama Justice Department would not have proceeded full steam ahead against all defendants to the full extent of the law. But when the roles were reversed, a different standard seemed to apply. Indeed, Coates is no stranger to that double standard of enforcement from the liberal civil rights lawyers who dominate the Civil Rights Division. He explained his experience in a voter-intimidation case he brought when the victims were white and the perpetrator African American:

Selective enforcement of the law, including the Voting Rights Act, on the basis of race is just not fair and does not achieve justice.

I have had many discussions concerning these cases. In one of my discussions concerning the Ike Brown case, I had a lawyer say he was opposed to our filing such suits. When I asked why, he said that only when he could go to Mississippi (perhaps 50 years from now) and find no disparities between the socioeconomic levels of black and white residents, might he support such a suit. But until that day, he did not think that we should be filing voting-rights cases against blacks or on behalf of white voters.

The problem with such enforcement is that it is not in compliance with the statute enacted by Congress. There is simply nothing in the VRA itself or its legislative history that supports the claim that it should not be equally enforced until racial socioeconomic parity is achieved. Such an enforcement policy might be consistent with certain political ideologies, but it is not consistent with the Voting Rights Act that Justice is responsible for enforcing.

And that may be what is at the root of the New Black Panther Party case — the unspoken but endemic belief on the Left that the civil rights laws run only one way. The Obama administration must sense that this is anathema to most Americans. Hence, the stonewall. But having dismissed the New Black Panther Party case, it should now explain its decision and justify that approach to civil rights enforcement. Does the administration really believe that it simply isn’t right to prosecute a case where white Republicans are bringing the claim? It sure does look that way.

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What’s the Basis for Holder’s Stonewall?

In the flap over the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department appears to be making up rules as it goes along. Back on December 18, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a letter from its general counsel David Blackwood to the Justice Department’s Joseph H. Hunt, wrote to explain why the commission had resorted to sending subpoenas to obtain information on the controversial dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and to try to dislodge the reason for the Justice Department’s apparent refusal to cooperate with the commission. He wrote:

To allay your concerns, the Commission requested a meeting where we would negotiate revisions to our discovery plan so as to eliminate or minimize the likelihood the Commission’s work would interfere with OPR’s pending investigation. Your refusal to schedule a meeting even to discuss the Commission’s pending discovery requests and depositions suggests that DOJ is not interested in working to develop a path that will allow each agency to fulfill its statutory obligation. As you are aware, the Commission first began requesting related information from the Department on June 16, 2009, six months ago. After six months passed without a substantive response from DOJ, the Commission felt it necessary to issue subpoenas.

Hunt wrote back on December 23, denying that the department was refusing to cooperate and asserting that it wasn’t unwilling to meet with the commission. Hunt seemed to suggest that the department wanted the chance to “set forth its position in writing,” but alas, it never consented to a meeting and still has not presented a viable legal theory for refusing to cooperate. In its blizzard of excuses in its discovery response, Eric Holder’s Justice Department asserts the attorney-client privilege. But a 1982 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel specifically found that “the interests implicated by the attorney-client privilege generally are subsumed under a claim of executive privilege … and the considerations of separation of powers and effective performance of constitutional duties determine the validity of the claim of privilege.” A 1986 opinion similarly makes clear that the attorney-client privilege “is not usually considered to constitute a separate basis [from executive privilege] for resisting congressional demands for information.” In short, there really isn’t an attorney-client privilege, just executive privilege, but the Obami seem unwilling to use that politically charged defense. Read More

In the flap over the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department appears to be making up rules as it goes along. Back on December 18, 2009, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a letter from its general counsel David Blackwood to the Justice Department’s Joseph H. Hunt, wrote to explain why the commission had resorted to sending subpoenas to obtain information on the controversial dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and to try to dislodge the reason for the Justice Department’s apparent refusal to cooperate with the commission. He wrote:

To allay your concerns, the Commission requested a meeting where we would negotiate revisions to our discovery plan so as to eliminate or minimize the likelihood the Commission’s work would interfere with OPR’s pending investigation. Your refusal to schedule a meeting even to discuss the Commission’s pending discovery requests and depositions suggests that DOJ is not interested in working to develop a path that will allow each agency to fulfill its statutory obligation. As you are aware, the Commission first began requesting related information from the Department on June 16, 2009, six months ago. After six months passed without a substantive response from DOJ, the Commission felt it necessary to issue subpoenas.

Hunt wrote back on December 23, denying that the department was refusing to cooperate and asserting that it wasn’t unwilling to meet with the commission. Hunt seemed to suggest that the department wanted the chance to “set forth its position in writing,” but alas, it never consented to a meeting and still has not presented a viable legal theory for refusing to cooperate. In its blizzard of excuses in its discovery response, Eric Holder’s Justice Department asserts the attorney-client privilege. But a 1982 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel specifically found that “the interests implicated by the attorney-client privilege generally are subsumed under a claim of executive privilege … and the considerations of separation of powers and effective performance of constitutional duties determine the validity of the claim of privilege.” A 1986 opinion similarly makes clear that the attorney-client privilege “is not usually considered to constitute a separate basis [from executive privilege] for resisting congressional demands for information.” In short, there really isn’t an attorney-client privilege, just executive privilege, but the Obami seem unwilling to use that politically charged defense.

So has the president or his attorney general invoked executive privilege? Commissioner Todd Gaziano told me it’s not clear. He says, “Not only has the Department refused to give us the information — the documents and answers to which we are statutorily entitled — but it still has not given us a legal argument or justification for not doing so.” He noted that this occurs “in the face of binding department authority,” which shows there is no valid attorney-client privilege.

The White House thought it appropriate to invoke executive privilege to block testimony of its social secretary, so perhaps that’s where they’re going with this. But that privilege arguably can only be invoked by the president or his department heads, in this case Holder. Maybe if Obama ever gives a press conference he can tell us. Or maybe at the upcoming confirmation hearing of the not-yet-selected No. 2 man in the Justice Department, an enterprising senator can find out why the department thinks it can make up new rules, avoid explaining what exactly they are, and refuse to permit anyone to peer into a decision that apparently is so indefensible, it requires a Nixonian-like defensive strategy.

While Holder has prevented his employees from testifying before the commission, former voting-rights section chief Chris Coates has made his views known. His rationale (which should be read in full here) for bringing the case against the New Black Panther Party is a tribute to the notions of equal protection and fairness. The Holder team won’t tell us what was wrong with that analysis and why it countermanded the decision of Coates and his team, dismissing a case as egregious as the New Black Panther Party matter. As Coates said in his goodbye remarks to his colleagues:

A lot has been said about the politization [sic] of the Civil Rights Division. I believe that one of the most detrimental ways to politicize the enforcement process in the Voting Section is to enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act only for the protection of certain racial or ethnic minorities; or to take the position that the Voting Section is not going to enforce certain provision [sic] of any of the voting statutes the Voting Section has the responsibility to enforce. Such decisions carry with them obvious, enormous implications for partisan political struggles.

Well that seems to be what’s going on here — made-up rules and politics run rampant in the Justice Department. Not what the Obami promised, is it?

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Re: New Black Panther Party Case

Based on what I have learned so far, the Justice Department seems to be responding in less than candid fashion to the discovery of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A knowledgeable source who has reviewed the responses tells me:

There are statements in the response that reveal the Department isn’t replying in good faith and isn’t trying very hard to get to the bottom of the case. For example, the Commission asked for information about communications from a Philadelphia lawyer who said he represented one of the black panthers, even though he never filed a pleading. The Department says they can’t find any evidence of such communications. They might start by looking at the publicly filed pleadings in the case because an affidavit was filed in the case discussing communications with the attorney in some detail.

Then there is the lack of information about those individuals in outside liberal civil rights groups who are believed to have communicated with Obama officials about the case’s dismissal. Despite the Justice Department’s reticence to reveal any information, I am told that the communications from Kristen Clarke of the NAACP about the case are widely known in the division. My source tells me that Loretta King, former acting assistant attorney general of civil rights, spoke with Clarke “inside DOJ headquarters at the Robert F. Kennedy building on numerous occasions.” Former Justice Department lawyer Hans von Spakovsky similarly reports:

One former Voting Section career lawyer who had left the Justice Department to go to work for the NAACP, Kristen Clarke, admitted to the Washington Times that she talked to the new political leadership after Obama was inaugurated, berating them for not dismissing the [New Black Panther Party] case. Sources at Justice tell me Clarke made an identical pitch to her former colleagues in the Voting Section once Obama and Eric Holder came to power.

The entreaties proved productive. According to the Washington Times, Loretta King, whom Obama named the acting assistant attorney general of the [Civil Rights Division], ordered [Chief of the Civil Rights division Chris] Coates to dismiss the case against three of the defendants despite their default. King apparently received approval from Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli to do so. Who else Perrelli spoke with in the Justice Department and the White House is the subject of continued stonewalling in response to the subpoenas served on Justice by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Read More

Based on what I have learned so far, the Justice Department seems to be responding in less than candid fashion to the discovery of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A knowledgeable source who has reviewed the responses tells me:

There are statements in the response that reveal the Department isn’t replying in good faith and isn’t trying very hard to get to the bottom of the case. For example, the Commission asked for information about communications from a Philadelphia lawyer who said he represented one of the black panthers, even though he never filed a pleading. The Department says they can’t find any evidence of such communications. They might start by looking at the publicly filed pleadings in the case because an affidavit was filed in the case discussing communications with the attorney in some detail.

Then there is the lack of information about those individuals in outside liberal civil rights groups who are believed to have communicated with Obama officials about the case’s dismissal. Despite the Justice Department’s reticence to reveal any information, I am told that the communications from Kristen Clarke of the NAACP about the case are widely known in the division. My source tells me that Loretta King, former acting assistant attorney general of civil rights, spoke with Clarke “inside DOJ headquarters at the Robert F. Kennedy building on numerous occasions.” Former Justice Department lawyer Hans von Spakovsky similarly reports:

One former Voting Section career lawyer who had left the Justice Department to go to work for the NAACP, Kristen Clarke, admitted to the Washington Times that she talked to the new political leadership after Obama was inaugurated, berating them for not dismissing the [New Black Panther Party] case. Sources at Justice tell me Clarke made an identical pitch to her former colleagues in the Voting Section once Obama and Eric Holder came to power.

The entreaties proved productive. According to the Washington Times, Loretta King, whom Obama named the acting assistant attorney general of the [Civil Rights Division], ordered [Chief of the Civil Rights division Chris] Coates to dismiss the case against three of the defendants despite their default. King apparently received approval from Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli to do so. Who else Perrelli spoke with in the Justice Department and the White House is the subject of continued stonewalling in response to the subpoenas served on Justice by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Coates was the head of the department’s New Black Panther Party trial team and has been subpoenaed by the commission. Von Spakovsky also details how Obama officials made life miserable for Coates in recent months, resulting in his recent transfer to South Carolina.

As to the substance of the department’s responses, my source points out that although the Justice Department touts that it sought relief against one defendant, “the injunction was limited to only the city limits, and only to actual weapon possession, over the objections of the career attorneys.” One of those career attorneys who objected was, of course, Coates.

It is noteworthy that even on small matters, the Justice Department’s response comes up short. As is standard practice, the Civil Rights Commission requested a “privilege log” — that is, a detailed explanation of which documents were being withheld because of a claim of privilege, with some basic descriptive material that can then be the basis, if necessary, for review by a judge. However, as far as I can tell, even that log was not provided by the Justice Department. Perhaps even that would have given away too much.

The lengths to which the Justice Department has gone to avoid giving away information that is apparently widely known and available is remarkable. As my source noted, “Reasonable people may start to conclude what is being concealed is worth these lawless risks.”

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Obama Lawyers Fined by Federal Court

Sanctimonious Eric Holder and his equally sanctimonious minions strode into the Justice Department filled with contempt for their predecessors, who they said had “politicized” the administration of justice. (They then proceeded to override the judgment of professional lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel on the constitutionality of D.C. voting rights, appoint a slew of left-wing lawyers who are now making policy on terrorism, and override career prosecutors who chose not to pursue charges against CIA operatives who employed enhanced interrogation techniques.)

Specifically in the civil rights arena, the Obami charged that the Bush administration had failed to act with due diligence to enforce federal law. The Obama political appointees then proceeded to dismiss the New Black Panther Party case, an egregious case of voter intimidation. When last we checked, the Obama administration was refusing to allow its lawyers to respond to a subpoena by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (Responses to written discovery requests are due on January 11.) Now comes further evidence of what passes for the “administration of justice” in the Obama-Holder regime:

This week, a federal district court in Kansas imposed sanctions on the same Civil Rights Division (CRD) officials who spiked the Panthers case, Loretta King and Steve Rosenbaum, for their refusals to provide information in another case. Breaking the president’s promise to have the most transparent administration in history, Rosenbaum and King’s concealment of information will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars. … What is clear from reading the order is that, as usual, the CRD made broad accusations of discriminatory conduct when it filed its complaint, but when it was asked to provide specific examples or actual evidence of such discrimination, it failed to do so. Lawyers for both sides have until January 20 to determine the amount of the award to be made to the defendants. While the CRD lawyers “shall be solely responsible for paying the monetary sanctions,” there is no doubt the department will reimburse them, so the American taxpayer will end up footing the bill for Rosenbaum’s outrageous behavior and his failure to properly supervise the lawyers who work for him.

It is noteworthy that these two lawyers — the ones who directly superimposed their own legal judgment in the New Black Panther Party case — are now the subject of  the court’s order, which as the report notes is unusual, in that it is “directed at individual lawyers that specifically says their employer is not responsible for paying the costs.” To boot, King is a multiple-sanctions recipient. During the Clinton administration, she was one of the Justice Department attorneys who was responsible for a fine of more than half a million dollars.

It’s important to keep in mind that, according to those most closely involved in the matter, it’s highly unlikely that King and Rosenbaum themselves initiated the dismissal of the New Black Panther Case. The Washington Times has fingered the No. 3 man in the Justice Department. Nevertheless, the Obama team has contended to Republican congressmen that it was these “professionals” who made the call. And these are among the Obama lawyers who now are going to “improve” enforcement of civil rights laws. We now know what the Obama “professional” lawyers look like in action.

Sanctimonious Eric Holder and his equally sanctimonious minions strode into the Justice Department filled with contempt for their predecessors, who they said had “politicized” the administration of justice. (They then proceeded to override the judgment of professional lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel on the constitutionality of D.C. voting rights, appoint a slew of left-wing lawyers who are now making policy on terrorism, and override career prosecutors who chose not to pursue charges against CIA operatives who employed enhanced interrogation techniques.)

Specifically in the civil rights arena, the Obami charged that the Bush administration had failed to act with due diligence to enforce federal law. The Obama political appointees then proceeded to dismiss the New Black Panther Party case, an egregious case of voter intimidation. When last we checked, the Obama administration was refusing to allow its lawyers to respond to a subpoena by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (Responses to written discovery requests are due on January 11.) Now comes further evidence of what passes for the “administration of justice” in the Obama-Holder regime:

This week, a federal district court in Kansas imposed sanctions on the same Civil Rights Division (CRD) officials who spiked the Panthers case, Loretta King and Steve Rosenbaum, for their refusals to provide information in another case. Breaking the president’s promise to have the most transparent administration in history, Rosenbaum and King’s concealment of information will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars. … What is clear from reading the order is that, as usual, the CRD made broad accusations of discriminatory conduct when it filed its complaint, but when it was asked to provide specific examples or actual evidence of such discrimination, it failed to do so. Lawyers for both sides have until January 20 to determine the amount of the award to be made to the defendants. While the CRD lawyers “shall be solely responsible for paying the monetary sanctions,” there is no doubt the department will reimburse them, so the American taxpayer will end up footing the bill for Rosenbaum’s outrageous behavior and his failure to properly supervise the lawyers who work for him.

It is noteworthy that these two lawyers — the ones who directly superimposed their own legal judgment in the New Black Panther Party case — are now the subject of  the court’s order, which as the report notes is unusual, in that it is “directed at individual lawyers that specifically says their employer is not responsible for paying the costs.” To boot, King is a multiple-sanctions recipient. During the Clinton administration, she was one of the Justice Department attorneys who was responsible for a fine of more than half a million dollars.

It’s important to keep in mind that, according to those most closely involved in the matter, it’s highly unlikely that King and Rosenbaum themselves initiated the dismissal of the New Black Panther Case. The Washington Times has fingered the No. 3 man in the Justice Department. Nevertheless, the Obama team has contended to Republican congressmen that it was these “professionals” who made the call. And these are among the Obama lawyers who now are going to “improve” enforcement of civil rights laws. We now know what the Obama “professional” lawyers look like in action.

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Getting Answers, Perhaps

When last we left the standoff between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) and the Obama Justice Department concerning dismissal of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) voter-intimidation case, the DOJ had interceded to at least delay the deposition of two of its employees, both members of the NBPP trial team. As it indicated in its open meeting last Friday, the USCCR is now directing its inquiries to the DOJ itself, although the depositions of DOJ employees have only been postponed. Today the USCCR’s general counsel, David Blackwood, fired off a letter and voluminous document request to Joseph H. Hunt, the director of the DOJ’s Federal Programs Branch. The letter, a copy of which I have received, recaps the DOJ’s stonewalling:

In the present case, beginning in June 2009, the Commission has consistently requested the voluntary production of information from the Department, without any success. It was only after the Department, by letter dated September 9, 2009, formally indicated that no information would be forthcoming (pending completion of an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility), and subsequently ignored the Commission’s letter of September 30, 2009, that subpoenas were issued by the Commission. While your letter refers to an ongoing “dialogue” between the Department and the Commission, it is the dearth of cooperation on the part of the Department that has resulted in the Commission’s need to issue subpoenas.

The DOJ apparently was skeptical of the USCCR’s authority to issue subpoenas, but Blackwood reminds Hunt: “In this regard, your attention is directed to 42 U.S.C. § 1975a(e)(2). This provision grants the Commission the authority to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of written documents or other materials. This provision in no way prohibits or excludes requests directed to federal agencies or their employees.” And he also recites previous incidents in which as late as 2004 then Chairman Mary Frances Berry directed document requests to the DOJ’s Civil Division, which did cooperate.

It doesn’t appear that the DOJ has formally raised executive-privilege issues, but in case they are mulling that option, Blackwood reminds Hunt that

“to the extent that some documents or other communications may involve internal pre-decisional deliberative discussions, it should be understood that: (1) as between the Commission and the Department the only legal privilege that exists is the President’s constitutionally-based executive privilege, (2) the executive privilege must be invoked by the President, or possibly by a Department Head on the President’s behalf, (3) the President should not routinely invoke executive privilege, and may not do so to shield potential wrongdoing, and (4) the President’s executive privilege is not absolute and should not be read broadly to frustrate the core functions of an investigative agency. “

And finally, Blackwood bats down any suggestion that the DOJ’s internal investigation should forestall a legally authorized subpoena, noting that if in fact actual misconduct occurred by political appointees, “any perceived misconduct within its purview relating to matters of civil rights enforcement strengthens the requisite nature of the Commission’s discovery requests and weakens any claim that matters must be protected from review.”

Along with the letter is a 26-page discovery request, including both interrogatories and requests for documents. These cover every imaginable line of inquiry, including this query:

Identify and describe in detail the decision-making process within DOJ relating to the New Black Panther Party litigation. This request includes, but is not limited to, the decision-making processes that: (i) led to the initial filing of said litigation; (ii) the decision to seek a default; (iii) the decision to delay seeking a default judgment; (iv) the decision to seek review by the appellate section; (v) the decision to review the relief sought in the original complaint; and (vi) the decision to dismiss certain defendants and to reduce the relief sought against the remaining defendant.

And this curious one, which suggests that outside groups may have played a role in the decision to dismiss the case:

Identify and describe in detail all communications, whether oral or written, by or between the Department and any outside third parties with regard to the New Black Panther Party litigation. This request includes, but is not limited to, all communications with Kristen Clarke of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Others suggest that career attorneys were run over by the Obama political appointees: “Identify all career employees in the Civil Rights Division who objected to the ultimate relief sought in the New Black Panther Party litigation.” There are 49 interrogatories (with subparts on many) and 51 categories of requested documents. I am informed by someone with requisite knowledge that “this particular subpoena is a bi-partisan appeal for information, that includes specific requests from Democratic commissioners.”

Unless Obama is prepared to invoke executive privilege, it seems we are about to get to the bottom of this case.

When last we left the standoff between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) and the Obama Justice Department concerning dismissal of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) voter-intimidation case, the DOJ had interceded to at least delay the deposition of two of its employees, both members of the NBPP trial team. As it indicated in its open meeting last Friday, the USCCR is now directing its inquiries to the DOJ itself, although the depositions of DOJ employees have only been postponed. Today the USCCR’s general counsel, David Blackwood, fired off a letter and voluminous document request to Joseph H. Hunt, the director of the DOJ’s Federal Programs Branch. The letter, a copy of which I have received, recaps the DOJ’s stonewalling:

In the present case, beginning in June 2009, the Commission has consistently requested the voluntary production of information from the Department, without any success. It was only after the Department, by letter dated September 9, 2009, formally indicated that no information would be forthcoming (pending completion of an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility), and subsequently ignored the Commission’s letter of September 30, 2009, that subpoenas were issued by the Commission. While your letter refers to an ongoing “dialogue” between the Department and the Commission, it is the dearth of cooperation on the part of the Department that has resulted in the Commission’s need to issue subpoenas.

The DOJ apparently was skeptical of the USCCR’s authority to issue subpoenas, but Blackwood reminds Hunt: “In this regard, your attention is directed to 42 U.S.C. § 1975a(e)(2). This provision grants the Commission the authority to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of written documents or other materials. This provision in no way prohibits or excludes requests directed to federal agencies or their employees.” And he also recites previous incidents in which as late as 2004 then Chairman Mary Frances Berry directed document requests to the DOJ’s Civil Division, which did cooperate.

It doesn’t appear that the DOJ has formally raised executive-privilege issues, but in case they are mulling that option, Blackwood reminds Hunt that

“to the extent that some documents or other communications may involve internal pre-decisional deliberative discussions, it should be understood that: (1) as between the Commission and the Department the only legal privilege that exists is the President’s constitutionally-based executive privilege, (2) the executive privilege must be invoked by the President, or possibly by a Department Head on the President’s behalf, (3) the President should not routinely invoke executive privilege, and may not do so to shield potential wrongdoing, and (4) the President’s executive privilege is not absolute and should not be read broadly to frustrate the core functions of an investigative agency. “

And finally, Blackwood bats down any suggestion that the DOJ’s internal investigation should forestall a legally authorized subpoena, noting that if in fact actual misconduct occurred by political appointees, “any perceived misconduct within its purview relating to matters of civil rights enforcement strengthens the requisite nature of the Commission’s discovery requests and weakens any claim that matters must be protected from review.”

Along with the letter is a 26-page discovery request, including both interrogatories and requests for documents. These cover every imaginable line of inquiry, including this query:

Identify and describe in detail the decision-making process within DOJ relating to the New Black Panther Party litigation. This request includes, but is not limited to, the decision-making processes that: (i) led to the initial filing of said litigation; (ii) the decision to seek a default; (iii) the decision to delay seeking a default judgment; (iv) the decision to seek review by the appellate section; (v) the decision to review the relief sought in the original complaint; and (vi) the decision to dismiss certain defendants and to reduce the relief sought against the remaining defendant.

And this curious one, which suggests that outside groups may have played a role in the decision to dismiss the case:

Identify and describe in detail all communications, whether oral or written, by or between the Department and any outside third parties with regard to the New Black Panther Party litigation. This request includes, but is not limited to, all communications with Kristen Clarke of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Others suggest that career attorneys were run over by the Obama political appointees: “Identify all career employees in the Civil Rights Division who objected to the ultimate relief sought in the New Black Panther Party litigation.” There are 49 interrogatories (with subparts on many) and 51 categories of requested documents. I am informed by someone with requisite knowledge that “this particular subpoena is a bi-partisan appeal for information, that includes specific requests from Democratic commissioners.”

Unless Obama is prepared to invoke executive privilege, it seems we are about to get to the bottom of this case.

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