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Black Panther Case Draws Scrutiny

Republicans on the Hill have teamed up with the Commission on Civil Rights to find out why the voter intimidation case was dropped.

by
Jennifer Rubin

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August 8, 2009 - 12:00 am
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As I have reported here at PJ Media and most recently at the Weekly Standard, the inexplicable dismissal by the Obama Justice Department of the  default judgment  in a case of egregious voter intimidation at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008 has unleashed a torrent of questions about why the case was dropped against all but one defendant (the individual actually wielding a nightstick got off with a proverbial slap on the hand) and who made the decision to drop it. The Justice Department has stonewalled, claiming career attorneys made the call.

But with news reports that career lawyers who did the legwork on the case were overridden and that the associate attorney general was involved in the decision to dismiss, Republicans on Capitol Hill and the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights are swinging into action.

First, Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, and Senate Republicans have joined together to block, at least temporarily, the confirmation of the president’s pick to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which handled the New Black Panther case. Roll Call reports:

Frustrated by what they say the Department of Justice is stalling in an investigation into alleged voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party during the 2008 election, House and Senate Republicans have coordinated a temporary blockade of President Barack Obama’s nomination of Tom Perez to be assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division. …

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, House Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) formally requested that a Member place a hold on Perez’s nomination.

“I write to request that you place a hold on the nomination of Mr. Tom Perez. … I ask that the hold remain in effect until the Department provides Congress with sufficient information about the sudden dismissal of a case alleging voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party on Election Day 2008,” Smith said in the letter.

“I am currently working with the Department to schedule a briefing on this matter. I have also written to the Department expanding upon my initial questions. I respectfully request that you place a hold on Mr. Perez’s nomination until the Department clearly addresses the questions raised in our correspondence and articulates its justification for dismissing the case,” he added.

According to Roll Call, a senator has in fact placed the nomination on hold.

In a news release, Rep. Smith explained that the Justice Department’s response to Congress about the case has been “overly vague, raising concerns about possible political interference in this case. … If the Department’s political appointees applied pressure to career attorneys to dismiss this case, then they have committed an offense that undermines every American’s right to choose their elected officials.”

In response to our inquiry as to why he took this action, Smith told PJ Media: “The American people deserve to know why the Obama Justice Department abruptly dismissed a case against the Democratic Party’s political supporters alleging voter intimidation on Election Day 2008. Every American has the right to choose their elected officials without fear of intimidation or retribution. I remain determined to review the facts and get to the bottom of what really caused the Obama Justice Department to dismiss this case.”

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