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Democrats: It’s OK When We Politicize the Justice Department

Why did political appointees at the DOJ override career prosecutors and drop a civil rights suit against the New Black Panther Party?

by
Jennifer Rubin

Bio

May 29, 2009 - 11:28 am
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Now Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, wants to know what is going on. PJ Media has obtained a letter sent on May 28 from Rep. Smith to Loretta King, the acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, demanding to know why the case was dropped. He writes:

For example, why did the Civil Rights Division voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit that it had effectively already won, against defendants who were physically threatening voters? Is the Division concerned that this dismissal will encourage the New Black Panther Party, or other groups, to intimidate voters? Why did the Division seek such limited relief against a defendant who was actually carrying and brandishing a weapon at a polling station on Election Day? What role did the change of administration play in the unusual resolution of voluntarily dismissing a case on which the Division had already prevailed?

Smith is also demanding a briefing on the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit and its dismissal and all non-privileged documents relating to the dismissal of the lawsuit. So the question remains: Is the Obama administration serious about impartially and apolitically enforcing federal law? Or is the Justice Department now the handmaiden to the Obama administration’s political agenda? Moreover, the absence of any oversight by the Democratic majority in Congress leaves one wondering whether “politicization” is still such a bad thing in their eyes, so long as the “right” political party is in charge.

It is true that every administration is entitled to its own priorities and policy agenda. But each and every administration must faithfully and vigorously enforce existing laws, especially those which protect fundamental rights such as the right to vote. The appearance that the administration would rather not set an example and exact appropriate penalties in a case of egregious voter intimidation raises serious and troubling questions.

The Judiciary Committee — Democrats included — should insist on some swift and complete answers from the Justice Department. And if they are not forthcoming, the public may rightly conclude that “transparency” and the “impartial administration of justice” are merely slogans for those seeking to gain office.

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Jennifer Rubin blogs at the Washington Post.
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