As reported this weekend, the decision by the Obama Department of Justice to dismiss a default judgment against the New Black Panther Party and all but one individual defendant in an egregious case of voter intimidation is now the subject of two inquiries, one by the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility and one by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
These investigations may provide answers to a number of key questions:
Who in the Justice Department made the decision?
Did the Justice Department misrepresent to members of Congress that the decision was made by career attorneys?
Did improper political considerations weigh in the decision?
Does this reflect a new policy toward enforcement of civil rights laws?
As to the reasons for the dismissal, some speculate that there was an effort to conceal more widespread voter intimidation or fraud which inured to the benefit of the Obama campaign. But there is perhaps something more basic and more far-reaching than that at work.
The liberal civil rights establishment and the left-leaning staff of career attorneys (a number of whom previously worked for or hope to work for the array of leftist civil rights groups) chaffed under the Bush administration. They vociferously opposed voter I.D. laws and resisted efforts to enforce portions of the Voting Rights Act which require states to clean up outdated voter rolls to eliminate the potential for fraud.
They grumbled when the administration pursued a civil rights case in Mississippi, U.S. v. Ike Brown. A former Justice Department lawyer explains: “Brown was the black head of the local Democratic Party who controlled the county, including the local election board, in a county that is majority black. He had his own local version of Tammany Hall. He was found guilty by a federal district court of engaging in blatant discrimination against white voters; case was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.” A line attorney pursued the case despite opposition by the then-section chief, Joe Rich. The former Justice Department attorney explains, “Other career lawyers refused to work on the case because they would not work on a case claiming discrimination by local black officials.”