American Hero: Coates Negates a Year of Justice Department Spin on New Black Panther Case
We no longer must consult history for a lawyer-hero willing to take personal risk for sacred principles such as the rule of law and racial equality. Our age can claim Christopher Coates.
September 23, 2010 - 5:28 am
It has been a very bad week for the dwindling number of people defending the dismissal of the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party by Eric Holder’s Justice Department. Today might have been the worst day of all. Former Voting Section Chief Christopher Coates testified to the United States Civil Rights Commission that Obama political appointees dismissed the case because they are opposed to enforcing civil rights laws in a racially neutral fashion.
And that was just the beginning.
In a dramatic hearing in Washington, D.C., Coates simply destroyed the year-long spin from the Justice Department regarding the dismissal. Coates is the former Voting Section chief, and served as lead attorney on the Black Panther case. He has practiced voting rights law longer than any other lawyer at the Justice Department. His testimony today was the worst possible nightmare for the Obama political officials responsible for the dismissal.
I testified before the Commission in July that Obama political appointee Julie Fernandes made it clear that the Voting Section at the Justice Department would not be bringing any more cases against traditional national racial minorities, like the members of the New Black Panthers. Under oath, Coates corroborated my testimony.
The public has been wondering for over a year why the case was dismissed. Coates testified why today:
[There is a] deep-seated opposition to the race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act against racial minorities and for the protection of whites who have been discriminated against.
Coates verified that the DOJ is infested with racially motivated hostility towards equal enforcement of the law. Like me, Coates testified about the history of open and pervasive hostility inside the Voting Section to protecting the rights of white voters. This hostility first emerged in the case against Ike Brown in Noxubee County, Mississippi, going back as far as 2004:
The opposition within the Voting Section to taking actions on behalf of white voters in Noxubee County, Mississippi, … was widespread.
Coates confirmed that senior managers didn’t even want to open the investigation into discrimination against white voters in Noxubee County:
The Deputy Chief who was leading that election coverage asked me: “can you believe that we are going to Mississippi to protect white voters?”
Coates described how his memoranda were doctored by former Voting Section Chief Joe Rich, confirming my testimony as well as an article that appeared here at PJM this week.
Coates also testified that he was reprimanded by Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King when he asked attorneys in job interviews if they could enforce the law equally. Coates asked them if they were willing to enforce the law in a racially neutral fashion, regardless of the race of the wrongdoer, even if the wrongdoer was black. Naturally, this inquiry into the applicant’s sense of fairness greatly offended the racially obsessed King. Her agenda was quite different than Coates’ agenda. Coates testified he was summoned to the senior political offices for a tongue-lashing by King, and the interview questions Coates was asking had to go:
King took offense that I was asking such a question of job applicants and directed me not to ask it again because she does not support equal enforcement of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
King wanted like-minded attorneys who were corruptly willing to turn a blind eye toward racial discrimination committed by national racial minorities. Soon thereafter, Coates was stripped of his power even to interview applicants. King wasn’t taking any chances that fair-minded, law-abiding attorneys might slip through — only the corrupt need apply.
He testified, as I did, that Justice Department attorneys and staff flatly refused to work on cases where the wrongdoer was black:
[An attorney told Coates in] no uncertain terms that he had not come to the Voting Section to sue African American defendants. … One of the social scientists who worked in the Voting Section and whose responsibility it was to do past and present research into a local jurisdiction’s history flatly refused to participate in the investigation. On another occasion, a Voting Section career attorney informed me that he was opposed to bringing voting rights cases against African American defendants … until we reached the day when the socio-economic status of blacks in Mississippi was the same as the socio-economic status of whites living there.
All of the employees Coates discusses here are still employed by the Civil Rights Division.
I testified that DOJ officials have made inaccurate statements to the public, to Congress, and to the Civil Rights Commission about the NBPP dismissal. Coates agreed, and testified:
I do not believe the representations to this Commission accurately reflect what occurred in the NBPP case and do not reflect the hostile atmosphere that has existed within the Civil Rights Division for a long time against race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
Coates also said that he was testifying because the Department has made misrepresentations to Congress, to the Civil Rights Commission, and to the public, sometimes under oath.
Coates described the significance of these misrepresentations. He testified:
If incorrect representations are going to successfully thwart an inquiry into the systemic problems regarding race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act by the Civil Rights Division, problems that were manifested in the disposition of the NBPP case, that end is not going to be furthered or accomplished by my sitting silently by at the direction of my supervisors while incorrect information is provided. I do not believe that I am professionally, ethically, legally, much less, morally bound to allow such a result to occur.
Coates provided even more detail about a disgusting case of racially motivated harassment that occurred in the Voting Section:
A young African American who worked in the Voting Section as a paralegal volunteered to work on the Ike Brown case, and he later volunteered to work on the NBPP case. Because of his participation in the Ike Brown case, he and his mother, who was an employee in another Section of the Civil Rights Division, were harassed by an attorney in that other Section and by an administrative employee and a paralegal in the Voting Section.
The employees responsible for this disgusting behavior should be fired, or should resign in shame. The perpetrators know who they are — and so does the political leadership. They are not fit to work in the Civil Rights Division.
There was much howling and complaining about the Bush administration hiring attorneys without experience working for left-wing civil rights groups. But now the public learns the truth: perpetrators of genuine racial harassment and gangster intimidation infest the Civil Rights Division, worked for civil rights groups, and were not hired by the Bush administration. (Look for more details here at PJM in a future article about the individuals responsible.)
Coates also corroborated my testimony that Kristen Clarke of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund lobbied to have the lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party dismissed. How far this once proud civil rights organization has fallen. Kristen Clarke acted as an advocate for racist thugs.
Finally, Coates testified as I did that the Department is unwilling to use Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to protect a white minority. Indeed, he confirmed, the Department refuses to even conduct an analysis whether a voting change will harm a white minority in places like Noxubee County, Mississippi.
It is disingenuous for some in the media to ignore this spiraling scandal. It will be even harder for critics like Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom to ignore testimony like we heard today. Today offers reasonable people like Thernstrom a chance at a redeeming reversal of course. Coates said:
The final disposition of the NBPP case, even in the face of a default by the defendants, was caused by this incorrect view of civil rights enforcement, and it was intended to send a direct message to people inside and outside the Civil Rights Division. That message is that the filing of voting cases like the Ike Brown and the NBPP cases would not continue in the Obama administration. The disposition of the NBPP case was not required by the facts developed during the case or the applicable law, as has been claimed, but was because of this incorrect view of civil rights enforcement that is at war with the statutory language in the VRA and with racially fair enforcement of federal law.
Overall, Coates painted a picture of racially motivated lawlessness inside the Department of Justice. I testified about the same circumstances, and there are many others who could provide sworn accounts of the same racially corrupt state of affairs.
America has only heard from two of us, but there are many more who know the truth.
The Department would do well to admit wrongdoing and fix the problem, else they might suffer a cascade of current employees meeting with congressmen in preparation for potential hearings next year. Under law, DOJ staff cannot be fired for sharing information with members of Congress, such as Representatives Lamar Smith, Frank Wolf, or Darrell Issa. You can find their numbers on the internet.
While today was a particularly bad day for the Department and their deceitful spin about the New Black Panther dismissal, the rest of the week saw other significant developments. On Wednesday, Judicial Watch filed a new Freedom of Information Act lawsuit — they are seeking documents relating to the scope of direct White House involvement in the dismissal of the case.
Also on Wednesday, Mike Roman had a blockbuster piece that reveals Philadelphia New Black Panther Jerry Jackson, one of the polling place stormtroopers, is a felon in possession of a firearm. The Holder Justice Department is failing to enforce federal felon in possession statutes against Jackson, which make it a crime for him to possess a firearm.
Earlier in the week, Judicial Watch released logs, which I covered here at PJM, showing the Department has not been telling the truth about the extent of senior political appointee involvement in the dismissal. Instead of merely being informed about the decision of lower political appointees, the highest levels of the Justice Department were telling their underlings what they thought should be done. All along, the DOJ has characterized the dismissal as a disagreement between civil servants. This week we learned that testimony — sometimes under oath — was false.
Finally, the DOJ inspector general assured Republican Congressmen Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith that he was opening an investigation into whether the Voting Section enforces civil rights laws in a racially discriminatory fashion and harasses employees who bring cases like the New Black Panther lawsuit.
It was a very bad week for the DOJ.
Yet Americans have a new hero today. The extraordinary courage it took for Coates to risk his job, his career, even his safety to come forward and testify is extraordinary. Aspiring lawyers looking for a role model can find in Coates a noble reason to enter the profession.
We no longer must consult history for a lawyer-hero willing to take personal risk for sacred principles such as the rule of law and racial equality. Our age can claim Christopher Coates. My profession has not seen a hero like Coates since the giants of the civil rights movement convinced the courts to eradicate legal racial discrimination. Coates has dedicated a lifetime to following in their footsteps, to ensuring free access to the ballot.
Today, in the twilight of his career, America witnessed his finest hour.