We haven’t yet written anything about the Washington Post’s story on the New Black Panthers case. The Post’s account, which highlights a schism in the Justice Department over whether enforcement of the civil rights laws should be race-neutral, is certainly interesting, but unless I am missing something it contains little that has not been widely reported and discussed in the conservative press. So if the Post’s account is significant, it is mostly because it ran in a liberal newspaper. But this shouldn’t be a big surprise, as the Post is much less slavish in toeing the liberal line than the New York Times and many other newspapers.
Here are a few excerpts from the Post’s story:
Interviews and government documents reviewed by The Washington Post show that the case tapped into deep divisions within the Justice Department that persist today over whether the agency should focus on protecting historically oppressed minorities or enforce laws without regard to race.
Those divisions have become quite well known through the efforts of Chris Adams and others.
Before the New Black Panther controversy, another case had inflamed those passions. Ike Brown, an African American political boss in rural Mississippi, was accused by the Justice Department in 2005 of discriminating against the county’s white minority. It was the first time the 1965 Voting Rights Act was used against minorities and to protect whites.
Coates and Adams later told the civil rights commission that the decision to bring the Brown case caused bitter divisions in the voting section and opposition from civil rights groups.
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 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.”
The Department of Justice is overwhelmingly liberal and has been for a long time; when Bush administration officials tried to get a little balance in the department, they were accused of “politicizing” it.
The Post describes how the case against the New Black Panthers, who intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place, came about:
A criminal investigation was dropped. But on Dec. 22, Adams, Coates and another lawyer recommended a civil lawsuit under a Voting Rights Act section banning the intimidation or attempted intimidation of voters or those “aiding” voters.
“It is shocking to think that a U.S. citizen might have to run a gauntlet of billy clubs in order to vote,” they wrote in an internal memo.
It would be interesting to poll that question. How many Americans do you suppose think it is OK for an American to have to squeeze past billy club-wielding thugs in order to cast a ballot? Outside the Obama administration, I would guess the answer is close to zero. There is an interesting parallel to card-check, the Union Thug Empowerment Act. The Obama administration also thinks it is a great idea to abolish the secret ballot in union elections, so that thugs can threaten unwilling workers and coerce them into voting for the union. The Obama administration embraces not only the ends, but also the means of national socialism.
Legal experts have called the department’s reversal exceedingly rare, especially because the defendants had not contested the charges.
Coates and Adams say the case was narrowed because of opposition to filing voting-rights actions against minorities and pressure from civil rights groups, but have not cited evidence.
Justice Department officials have repeatedly said the reversal stemmed from a legal review and insufficient evidence.
This last statement makes no sense. The defendants had defaulted and the case had been won.
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.
Race-based law enforcement is just one more disgraceful policy of which the Obama administration is guilty.
PAUL adds: The Obama administration’s record when it comes to color-blind law enforcement may be problematic. In fairness, though, I think it should be noted that in the New Black Panther Party case, the Justice Department did not drop its case against the one individual who actually wielded a billy club.