The Justice Department Inspector General said Monday that his office will examine how the Civil Rights Division enforces voting laws after House Republicans expressed concern about the way prosecutors handled a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party.
Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote in a letter dated Sept. 13 that the review will not focus just on the case, which involved members an anti-white fringe group who stood outside a majority-black polling place in November 2008 wearing military clothing. His office will instead examine the Civil Rights Division Voting Section’s enforcement of voting laws over the years.
The letter was in response to inquiries from Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Frank Wolf of Virginia, the leading Republican on the House panel that oversees the DOJ budget. Both expressed concern that politics may have influenced the DOJ’s decision to dismiss charges against all but one defendant in the case.
“We believe that our review of these issues will address many of the issues raised in your recent letters to me,” Fine wrote.
Smith said he was “pleased” with the Inspector General’s decision to review the DOJ’s enforcement of voting laws over time.
“In order to preserve equality under the law, we must ensure that the Justice Department enforces the law without prejudice,” Smith said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing the results of Inspector General Fine’s review of this matter.”
The DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility is also examining potential prosecutorial misconduct stemming from the case. The office is wrapping up its probe, which has lasted more than a year, and is starting to write up a report on its findings, Fine wrote.