The news that Christopher Coates, former chief of the Justice Department’s Voting Section, is set to testify Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is crucial to the panel’s investigation of allegations that the Obama administration has not enforced the nation’s civil rights laws in a race-neutral manner.
The testimony by Coates, a career government lawyer, is expected to shed light on whether DOJ:
• Discriminated against white voters in dismissing the voter-intimidation case against two members of the New Black Panther Party and the party itself that arose from incidents at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008.
• Had a general policy or practice in its Civil Rights Division of not enforcing voting laws when the subjects of complaints were racial minorities.
• Had a racially motivated policy of not enforcing Section 8 of the National Voting Rights Act, which requires states to remove ineligible voters from the voter rolls.
When Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general who heads the Civil Rights Division, testified under oath before the independent Commission on Civil Rights in May, the Obama appointee repeatedly denied a racially motivated policy was in place. Perez also testified that he would investigate any statement to the contrary by anyone in his division.
However, Perez has refused to address the truth of subsequent sworn allegations alleging that Julie Fernandes, his deputy assistant attorney general in charge of voting issues, ordered and implemented such a race-based policy. In fact, Perez has publicly embraced her leadership.
In July, J. Christian Adams, a former career lawyer, testified under oath about Fernandes’ statements. Some veteran DOJ watchers say the absence of any Section 8 enforcement activity by the Civil Rights Division more than 20 months into the Obama administration, despite evidence of non-compliance by states throughout the country, lends credence to Adams’s charges.
Testimony by Coates that the Civil Rights Division under Perez purposely did not pursue full, equal, and race-neutral enforcement of federal voting laws could — and rightfully should — cause huge problems for this or any administration.
Adams testified on these matters after resigning from the Justice Department. He said Coates could confirm his testimony and specific accusations that Fernandes did not equally or fairly enforce voting rights laws.
The news that Coates indeed will testify follows revelations earlier this week by Judicial Watch. A privilege log obtained by Judicial Watch in a lawsuit against the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act shows that political appointees at Justice were much more involved in the decision to dismiss the Black Panthers case than they repeatedly claimed.
The log directly contradicts Perez’s sworn testimony and DOJ’s statements to the public as well as members of Congress.