July 23, 2010

Scary Black Man Stories: The New Black Panther Case

There is major gnashing of teeth over the New Black Panther Party and the decision by the DOJ not to prosecute some of its members on voter intimidation charges initially brought by the department and then inexplicably dropped. J. Christian Adams, a former trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division testified before the U.S. Civil Rights commission that top officials at the Justice Department killed the case and flatly declared that “The section doesn’t want to protect white voters.”

The DOJ filed its complaint under Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act.  Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act (42 U.S.C. 1973i(b) states that:

“No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for urging or aiding any person to vote or attempt to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for exercising any powers or duties under section 3(a), 6, 8, 9, 10, or 12(e).”

According to the Campaign Legal Center Blog, "the legislative history of this law makes clear that Congress wanted to expand the scope of voter protection by enacting a law that would bar voter intimidation.  In fact, Congress’s explanations of the purposes behind Section 11(b) support the view that neither proof of intent to intimidate nor proof of any actual effect of voter intimidation must be shown to establish a violation of Section 11(b).  Rather, as DOJ has read the statute, an interpretation I share, plaintiffs need only show that the conduct engaged in had a tendency to intimidate, threaten or coerce a reasonable voter.  Importantly, there is no requirement that to prevail under Section 11(b) that a plaintiff prove any purpose of subjective intent to intimidate."

Based on the CLC's reading of the statute and the legislative history behind it, on its face, the decision to drop the case doesn't seem to make much sense.  It would seem the case was very clear cut.  Further, since the defendants failed to appear in court to defend themselves, the government stood to win this one by default.  I'm betting the DOJ officials that made the bonehead call to dismiss the case are sure wishing they had gone the other way now.  Former DOJ attorneys like Robert Driscoll, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General from 2001-03,  are backing up Adam's charges that the Civil Rights enforcement division won't enforce voting rights laws in a race neutral manner. The DOJ had already won this case. All that was left was to show up for sentencing.  It was boneheaded not to go ahead and take the convictions which the Panthers handed to them.

On the other hand, As reported at the Adam Sewer Archive "the decision not to file a criminal case occurred before Obama was even in office. From the testimony of Thomas Perez, head of the Civil Rights Division, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in May:

Perez Testimony.jpg This means that the case was downgraded to a civil case 11 days before Obama was inaugurated, 26 days before Eric Holder became attorney general, and about nine months before Thomas Perez was confirmed as head of the Civil Rights Division.  Obama's DOJ inherited the dumbed down case.  If the Bush DOJ's decision not to pursue the case was not cause for outrage, why should the fact that Obama and Holder are black be so when they have done nothing more than maintain continuity with the prior administration's enforcement decision?

The answer is it shouldn't.   Call the effort to portray it as racially motivated bias against whites by a government apparatus under the control of a black president and black DOJ head what it is: Race Baiting: implying that there is an underlying race-based motive in the actions of others towards the group baited, where none in fact exists.