A former Civil Rights Division lawyer who has accused Attorney General Eric Holder of not enforcing voting laws in a race-neutral manner is suggesting that an internal Justice Department investigation ascribes racial motivations to the mostly white George W. Bush-era DOJ team that brought a controversial voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party.
Citing unnamed “sources inside and outside the Department of Justice,” J. Christian Adams wrote in a recent blog post that a Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility draft report on the New Black Panther controversy “concludes that the case was brought because of racial bias.”
As a lawyer in the Voting Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Adams in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration assembled a civil lawsuit accusing members of the New Black Panther Party of intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling station on election day in November 2008. The suit was later mostly dropped under the Barack Obama administration, sparking an outcry from conservatives.
Adams, a conservative activist who was hired into the DOJ’s civil service lawyer ranks under what the DOJ Inspector General said was an improperly politicized hiring process during the Bush administration, quit the DOJ in May 2010 over the Black Panthers controversy. Adams had refused to submit to department policy requiring career civil servants to defer to politically appointed officials when speaking publicly about department matters.
The Office of Professional Responsibility is the DOJ’s internal ethics watchdog. OPR began looking into the Black Panther case in 2009 after a referral from the DOJ Inspector General office, which had been asked by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who chairs a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department budget, to investigate why the Obama administration didn’t pursue the lawsuit.
After the DOJ Inspector General came under continued political pressure by congressional Republicans to investigate, then-IG Glenn Fine responded in September 2010 by announcing his office would pursue a broader evaluation of how the Voting Section has enforced civil rights laws over time, suggesting he would look at its record during the Bush administration as well.
In his March 16 post on the conservative blogging network Pajamas Media, Adams said “the fix is in” regarding the draft OPR report, which he said had been sent to the Deputy Attorney General’s office for review.
“In essence, it will adopt the outrageous position of Attorney General Eric Holder when he testified to Congressman Frank Wolf’s Appropriations subcommittee a few weeks ago: all this fuss about the New Black Panther dismissal does a disservice to his people, or to quote the attorney general at the hearing, ‘my people.’”
At that March 1 hearing, Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) accused Holder, the first black Attorney General, of allowing reverse racism to flourish at the Justice Department, citing the partial dismissal of the Black Panthers case in May 2009. A clearly exasperated Holder said it would be wrong to compare the isolated incident with the Black Panthers in 2008 to the violence inflicted on blacks and white civil rights protesters in the South in the 1960s, which inspired the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“When you compare what people endured in the South in the ’60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, and to compare what people were subjected to there to what happened in Philadelphia—which was inappropriate, certainly that…to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all, for my people,” Holder replied, according to Politico.
In Philadelphia, two members of the anti-white fringe group stood outside a majority-black polling place in military-style fatigues. One of them held a nightstick but moved on when white Republican poll watchers called police.
Adams, who recently spoke on a panel entitled “Lawlessness, Racialism and Terror at Obama’s Department of Justice” at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, also criticized OPR head Robin Ashton in his blog post. He called her a “militant leftist partisan” who “actually left DOJ to do a detail on the Senate Judiciary Committee for Senator Patrick Leahy,” the Vermont Democrat who chairs the committee.
It is unclear whether the OPR report will be released publicly. The office’s work product is usually held internally at the DOJ. But in matters of public controversy, such as the OPR investigation of the Justice Department lawyers who authorized use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects, the reports are sometimes released.