The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has found that political appointees, not career Justice Department lawyers, made the decision to drop a voter intimidation case against two black panthers after the Justice Department had already won a lawsuit against them by default. That contradicts claims made by the Obama administration and its civil-rights chief, Tom Perez.
Earlier, a career Justice Department lawyer, Chris Coates, testified that under the Obama administration, the Justice Department has a policy of systematically ignoring voter intimidation and voting-rights violations when the perpetrator is a minority.
The case arose out of intimidating behavior by members of the bigoted New Black Panther Party outside a Philadelphia polling place.
The testimony by Coates, a former ACLU lawyer hired by the Justice Department under the Clinton administration, “supported earlier accusations made by J. Christian Adams,” a former Justice Department lawyer:
Adams had told the commission that DOJ officials “over and over and over” showed “hostility” to prosecution of voter-intimidation cases involving “black defendants and white victims.”
Adams testified that Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, a political appointee, himself overruled a unanimous recommendation for continued prosecution by Adams and his associates of voter intimidation of white voters by members of The New Black Panthers at a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.
Adams had also testified that Julie Fernandes, a deputy assistant general in the Civil Rights Division in charge of voting matters, told Voting Section leadership that the Obama administration would not file election-related cases against minority defendants — no matter what the alleged violation of the law.
Coates verified Adams’ testimony about Fernandes, and also said he had been “specifically instructed” by Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, “not to ask any other applicants whether they would be willing to, in effect, race-neutrally enforce the VRA (Voting Rights Act).”
The Washington Post recently ran an interesting story about “deep divisions” and internal infighting at the Justice Department about whether to enforce the civil-rights laws “without regard to race,” even in cases where the perpetrator may be a member of a minority group — like the Ike Brown case in Mississippi, where a black political boss violated the voting rights of many whites as well as a few blacks. (Lawyers who worked on that case during the Bush Administration ended up being harassed by left-wing colleagues who did not believe that the civil-rights laws should be enforced when the perpetrator is a minority. A relative of one of those lawyers who worked in the Justice Department was also harassed.)
The Supreme Court has ruled that voting rights protect people of all races, not just members of historically disadvantaged groups.