The PJ Tatler

An Unconscionable Speaker

The American Constitution Society certainly knows how to pick its speakers. The Washington, D.C., chapter is having a brown bag lunch discussion on April 26 at the law firm of Jenner & Block on “Voting Rights and Redistricting.” The featured speaker will be J. Gerald Hebert.

The invitation identifies Hebert as a former senior official in the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Unmentioned is the fact that he has also been one of the main redistricting lawyers for the Democratic National Committee.

Luncheon attendees might want to think twice about acting on any advice from Hebert on how to handle voting rights cases. He once cost American taxpayers $86,626.24 in attorneys’ fees and costs awarded against the Justice Department for bringing an unjustified case under the Voting Rights Act.

Not only did Hebert lose, but Justice was castigated by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Jones, 125 F.3d 1418 (1997), for what it concluded was “a very troubling case.” (Hebert is listed as the Justice counsel of record in the district court opinion, U.S. v. Jones, 846 F.Supp. 955 (1994)). According to the 11th Circuit:

“A properly conducted investigation would have quickly revealed that there was no basis for the claim that the Defendants were guilty of purposeful discrimination against black voters…Unfortunately, we cannot restore the reputation of the persons wrongfully branded by the United States as public officials who deliberately deprived their fellow citizens of their voting rights. We also lack the power to remedy the damage done to race relations in Dallas County by the unfounded accusations of purposeful discrimination made by the United States.

We can only hope that in the future the decision makers in the United States Department of Justice will be more sensitive to the impact on racial harmony that can result from the filing of a claim of purposeful discrimination. The filing of an action charging a person with depriving a fellow citizen of a fundamental constitutional right without conducting a proper investigation of its truth is unconscionable…Hopefully, we will not again be faced with reviewing a case as carelessly instigated as this one.”

Need I say more?