Posts Tagged ‘J. Christian Adams’
Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Recent testimony before the the U.S. Civil Rights Commission from a former Justice Department lawyer has “raised serious concerns as to whether the Civil Rights Division’s enforcement policies are being pursued in a race-neutral fashion,” the panel’s chairman wrote in a letter to the head of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division Wednesday.

J. Christian Adams, former trial attorney, testifies before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (photo by Channing Turner / Main Justice)

In a letter to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, Chairman Gerald A. Reynolds highlighted several statements by former DOJ lawyer J. Christian Adams, who testified before the commission last week about the Justice Department’s handling of a voter fraud case against the New Black Panther Party.

During his testimony, Adams stated that Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Julie Fernandes said the Voting Section would not bring cases under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act — which is sometimes called the “Motor Voter” law and deals with the state’s administration of voter registration.

“We have no interest in enforcing this provision of the law. It has nothing to do with increasing turnout, and we are just not going to do it,” Adams said Fernandes told Voting Section lawyers at a brown bag lunch.

“I was shocked. It was lawlessness,” Adams told the commission.

“If Mr. Adams’ testimony is to be believed, a senior official in the one federal division responsible for enforcing the Motor Voter law announced a policy of non-enforcement with respect to a lawfully-adopted Congressional statute,” wrote Reynolds, a political conservative appointed to the commission by President George W. Bush in 2004. “I sincerely hope you will pursue and investigate these charges.”

In a footnote, Reynolds said that Section 8 “requires state election officials to periodically update their voter rolls—for example, by removing deceased persons and felons from the rolls and updating the information of those who have changed addresses or moved permanently out of the jurisdiction—to ensure their accuracy.”

The Justice Department interprets the statute differently. In a question and answer page about the law updated last month, the DOJ said that the National Voter Registration Act “does not require any particular process for removing persons who have been disqualified from voting pursuant to State law by virtue of being convicted of a crime or being adjudged mentally incompetent.”

According to the website, the law only requires states to make “reasonable efforts” to remove deceased persons from the voting rolls, but it does specify any particular process for doing so.

“States can follow whatever state law process exists for doing this, and there is no federal process to be met,” the website says.

DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler declined to comment on the letter or on the statements allegedly made by Fernandes, but said the Justice Department makes enforcement decisions based on the merits of the case and not the race, gender or ethnicity of the parties.

“We are committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of both the civil and criminal provisions of the federal laws that prohibit voter intimidation,” Schmaler said. “We continue to work with voters, communities, and local law enforcement to ensure that every American can vote free from intimidation, coercion or threats.”

UPDATED:

Michael Yaki, a Democratic member of the commission, said the letter only represented the view of a single commissioner.

“He doesn’t bother to say that Adam’s testimony is largely uncorroborated and unsubstantiated, that Adams’ himself was not a credible witness given that he claimed to be nonpartisan yet listed himself as a ‘Republican lawyer’ at the time of his tenure in the Department,” Yaki said. “It is another futile attempt to smear the Justice Department and hide the Commission’s own inaction during the politicization of the Civil Rights Division during the time of Alberto Gonzales and Bradley Schlozman.”

The letter is embedded below.

Reynolds’ Letter to Perez

who formerly headed the Center for New Black Leadership
Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

(From left to right) Bradley Schlozman, former acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights; J. Christian Adams, a former lawyer in the Voting Section; and Joseph Rich, former chief of the Voting Section.

A former Justice Department official told Main Justice that the attorney behind the controversial New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case was hired in the Civil Rights Division Voting Section under a process the DOJ Inspector General later determined was improperly influenced by politics.

Joseph Rich, the former chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section and a 36-year employee of the Department of Justice, said that shortly before he left the DOJ in 2005 he received a call from Bradley Schlozman, then a Deputy Assistant Attorney General who later became acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division.

Rich was later one of several employees who were quoted in a Justice Department Inspector General’s report, which concluded the hiring process used by Schlozman was improperly politicized. Rich, a liberal-leaning critic of the Civil Rights Division management during the George W. Bush administration, also wrote about his experiences for The Los Angeles Times.

Rich said Schlozman asked him to attend an interview with J. Christian Adams, a solo practitioner from Alexandria, Va., who had worked for the Secretary of State in South Carolina. Adams had also volunteered for the Republican National Lawyers Association, a GOP-funded group that sought to draw attention to voting fraud.

Adams did not have an extensive background in civil rights, Rich said, but may have had limited voting rights experience from his time in South Carolina. “He is exhibit A of the type of people hired by Schlozman,” Rich said.

Rich said he sat in on the interview, but Schlozman asked most of the questions. There was no discussion of Adams’ political background at the meeting, according to Rich. Adams was offered the position shortly thereafter, and Rich said he doesn’t believe anyone else was interviewed for the job.

“I was invited to the interview but was never asked for a recommendation,” Rich said.”This was an example of the way things were being done. There’s no evidence that this was a normal hiring process.” As a supervisor, Rich said, he normally would have been involved in hiring decisions.

Contacted by Main Justice, Adams did not dispute Rich’s account, but said that during the interview he discussed his background representing indigent clients.

The Inspector General’s report doesn’t name Adams, but said that Schlozman hired 99 attorneys, 63 of whom had conservative or Republican affiliations and only 2 of whom had liberal affiliations.

Adams was one of the first hires in the Voting Section in years, as hiring was virtually at a standstill for several years during the Bush administration, Rich said. Rich left the Justice Department before Adams started his job.

The Obama administration’s transition team compiled a report on the division, which found that 236 civil rights lawyers left the division from 2003 to 2007. Many were made to feel unwelcome and left, some former Civil Rights Division attorneys have said. Others took an unusual buyout offer that critics have said was extended to encourage perceived liberals to leave the division.

The transition report said that “the politicization of legal analyses and case decisions at the expense of sound law enforcement was particularly egregious in the Voting Section, and the politicized personnel decisions… had a particularly deleterious impact here.”

“It is evident that the [Voting] Section, at times at the behest of DOJ’s highest ranking officials, prioritized a voter fraud prevention and prosecution agenda designed to suppress minority voter turnout; and decisions on some [Voting Rights Act] Section 5 submissions were crafted to serve partisan ends,” the transition report said.

Adams quit his job with the Justice Department earlier this year, citing the DOJ’s handling of a November 2008 incident at a Philadelphia polling place and its refusal to allow him to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about it. Now a free agent, Adams is slated to appear on Tuesday before the commission to discuss the case.

Two members of the anti-white fringe group stood outside the majority-black polling place in military-style garb, one of them holding a night stick.

Adams helped compile a civil voter intimidation lawsuit against the men, based on a rarely used section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But the Obama DOJ later dismissed the case against all but one defendant, citing a lack of a pattern of intimidation, the fact that one of the Black Panthers was a registered Democratic poll watcher and that lack of evidence that the leadership of the organization condoned the one New Black Panthers behavior. The DOJ obtained an injunction against the Black Panther who carried the nightstick.

Adams has since become a vocal critic of the decision to dismiss most of the case, saying in a recent two-part interview on Fox News that racial and political motivations were at play.

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Former Civil Rights Division lawyer J. Christian Adams has escalated his war with the Department of Justice, giving a two-part interview to Fox News asserting that racial motivations were behind dismissal of a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party.

J. Christian Adams on Fox News (Fox News).

And for the first time, the Justice Department has criticized J. Christian Adams‘ own motivations on the record.

The November 2008 incident at a Philadelphia polling place has become a cause celebre for conservatives. Two members of the anti-white fringe group stood outside the polling place in military-style garb, one of them holding a night stick.

The Obama DOJ dismissed the case last year, citing a lack of a pattern of intimidation and the fact that one of the Black Panthers was a registered Democratic poll watcher. The DOJ obtained an injunction against the Black Panther who carried the nightstick.

“You’re supposed to be able to go vote without somebody with a weapon shouting racist slurs at you,” Adams said in his first Fox News interview on Wednesday. “They said, ‘You’re about to be ruled by the black man, Cracker.’ They called people ‘white devils.’ They tried to stop people from entering the polls.”

In fact, no voters at all in the Philadelphia precinct have come forward to allege intimidation. The complaints have come from white Republican poll watchers, who have given no evidence they were registered to vote in the majority black precinct.

An Associated Press story inaccurately described the scene as one where white voters were being intimidated by the Black Panther members. The only white people at the scene that day appeared to be the Republican poll watchers. And Fox News host Megyn Kelly inaccurately described video taken of the incident as made by a “voter.” In fact, the video was made by Stephen Robert Morse, a blogger hired by the local Republican Party on behalf of the John McCain presidential campaign.

The Philadelphia video also did not capture any racial slurs, although the two Black Panthers were shown in an earlier National Geographic documentary using derogatory terms against whites. The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the New Black Panther Party as a hate group.

“It is not uncommon for attorneys within the department to have good faith disagreements about the appropriate course of action in a particular case, although it is regrettable when a former department attorney distorts the facts and makes baseless allegations to promote his or her agenda,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler told Fox News in a written statement.

Described as a DOJ “whistleblower” by Fox News host Kelly, Adams was hired as a career lawyer under an improperly politicized process during the Bush administration.  Adams quit the Justice Department June 4, after officials banned him from testifying before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the handling of the case.

Asked by Kelly if he thought the DOJ is corrupt, Adams said: “I don’t think the department or the fine people who work there are corrupt.” But he said the decision to dismiss the case was corrupt, and accused the DOJ of having a policy of not pursuing cases where blacks intimidate white voters.

As Main Justice has previously reported, Adams was hired in 2005 by Bradley Schlozman, a Bush-era political appointee who hired “right-thinking Americans” with conservative affiliations in a process the Department of Justice Inspector General concluded was improperly politicized.

Adams has also written a piece for the American Spectator that likened President Barack Obama’s world view to that of Nazi appeasers and argued on a conservative blogging network that health care reform is a threat to liberty.

Adams is making his case in a variety of media outlets. In the past few weeks, he’s written an editorial in The Washington Times, wrote a post for and been interviewed by Pajamas Media, and was featured in segments on Fox News on Wednesday and Thursday.

Adams also said on Fox News that one of the lawyers who made the decision not to pursue the case further, Steve Rosenbaum, did not read the case materials before making his decision. “It was so derelict and so corrupt, that Chris Coates actually threw the memo” at Rosenbaum, Adams said, referring to the former Voting Section chief, who has since been reassigned by the DOJ to South Carolina.

Adams said he wasn’t at the meeting but was told that it took place.

Parts one and two of Adams’ interview are embedded below. Additional reporting by Ryan J. Reilly.

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The former Civil Rights Division lawyer who quit the Justice Department after he was denied permission to speak about his work on a controversial voter intimidation case will testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights next month.

J. Christian Adams at a Federalist Society meeting in Washington in November (Photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney on a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, resigned from the Justice Department on June 4.

Adams’ lawyer said earlier this month that his client planned to cooperate with the commission.

The conservative-controlled commission chose July 6 over the objection of the panel’s two Democratic commissioners, who said they will not be able to attend.

Spokeswoman Lenore Ostrowsky said that the commission is “not privy to any communications between the Department of Justice and Mr. Adams” and did not know if there were still any restrictions on what he was allowed to say in his testimony.

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately reply to request for comment on restrictions the DOJ might seek on Adams’ testimony.

“To me the question is whether this is the commissions show or the Adams show,” Commissioner Michael Yaki, one of the Democratic board members who opposed the July 6 hearing, said in an interview. “These folks are desperate to create news items.”

A little over a week after he left the Justice Department, Adams started his own website, ElectionLawCenter.com with the slogan “more red than the ivory tower.” He has used the forum to criticize the Voting Section’s work and highlight lawsuits against Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which he wrote “is on the outer frontier of the permissible exercise of federal power over the states.”

Adams has not discussed the New Black Panther Party case on the website.

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The former career Civil Rights Division lawyer who quit the Justice Department after he was denied permission to testify about his work on a controversial voter intimidation case intends to cooperate with a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights probe, Main Justice has learned.

J. Christian Adams at a Federalist Society meeting in Washington in November (Photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

But it remains unclear what information J. Christian Adams, who left the Justice Department last week, will be allowed to give in response to a commission subpoena, his lawyer acknowledged.

“Absent some other resolution, Mr. Adams wants to relieve any obligation he has under the subpoena and provide whatever information he can, to the extent he is able,” Adams’s lawyer, Richard Bolen, wrote to the commission in an e-mail Friday.

Bolen told Main Justice that he hoped to talk with the Justice Department about what Adams can discuss. Even after leaving federal employment, there are restrictions on what Adams is allowed to say.

“He felt there was no way he could comply with all the demands on him,” Bolen said, referring to the conflict over the subpoena. “Something had to give, and it was his employment.”

Adams, who has a history of conservative advocacy, was hired as a Voting Section lawyer during the George W. Bush administration under a process later found to have been improperly politicized.

He was the lead attorney on a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party, a fringe organization that has been characterized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-white rhetoric.

Two New Black Panther Party members stood outside a polling in Philadelphia on election day in 2008 wearing military-style garb, one of them holding a nightstick.

Although no voters in the majority-black precinct complained about the New Black Panthers, Republican poll watchers did. Adams filed a voter intimidation lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. in the final days of the Bush administration. The Obama Justice Department dropped most of the case last year, but obtained an injunction against the man who held the nightstick. DOJ said the case against the remaining defendants was unsustainable.

But Republican members of Congress objected, and the conservative-dominated Civil Rights Commission opened an investigation.

The commission subpoenaed Adams to testify about the circumstances of the dismissal. The Justice Department did not allow him to do so, citing a policy that prohibits career line attorneys from testifying before committees or revealing internal DOJ work product.

In his letter of resignation from the DOJ, Adams cited the department’s handling of the voter intimidation case and subsequent investigation by the commission. Bolen added that Adams is considering opening his own private practice.

Adams is also represented by Jim Miles, another lawyer from South Carolina.

Bolen said he did not know whether Adams will testify publicly or privately in front of the commission.

Last month, the conservative-controlled commission heard testimony about the case from Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez. The commission is focusing its 2010 enforcement report on the New Black Panther Party case.

Adams was hired in 2005 by then-Civil Rights Division political appointee Bradley Schlozman. A joint investigation by the Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found that Schlozman violated civil service rules by improperly taking political and ideological affiliations into account when making career attorney hires.

Before joining the Civil Rights Division, Adams volunteered with the National Republican Lawyers Association and worked as a GOP poll watcher in Florida. He also wrote a piece for The American Spectator that likened President Barack Obama’s world view to that of Nazi appeasers and argued on a conservative blogging network that health care reform is a threat to liberty.

Christopher Coates, the former head of the Voting Section who is now stationed in South Carolina, wrote a letter praising Adams which was read at his going away party two weeks ago, acccording to Hans von Spakovsky, another Bush-era Civil Rights Division employee who, along with Schlozman, was accused by Democrats of purging perceived liberals from the division in violation of civil service rules.

Adams declined to comment on his cooperation with the commission. A Justice Department spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

The Justice Department trial attorney behind a controversial lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party has resigned, citing the way the DOJ handled the voter intimidation case and subsequent investigation by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

J. Christian Adams, a lawyer with a history in conservative activism who was hired into a career position under a politicized process during the Bush administration, wrote in a May 14 letter to the chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division that he has incurred significant personal expense in connection with the Civil Rights Commission investigation.

Adams was subpoenaed by the commission to testify about the case, but the Justice Department refused to let him appear. Adams wrote that  his expenses were incurred in “retaining a number of separate attorneys and firms regarding this subpoena in order to protect my interests and advise me about my personal legal obligation to comply with the subpoena.”

J. Christian Adams at a Federalist Society meeting in Washington in November (Photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

The Washington Examiner first reported the resignation Tuesday evening. Main Justice first reported that Adams had been hired in part due to his political affiliations.

The Justice Department’s handling of the voter intimidation case has generated controversy since Adams filed the lawsuit on behalf of the DOJ in the final days of the Bush presidency. Last week, the conservative-controlled Civil Rights Commission heard testimony about the case from Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez. The commission is focusing its 2010 enforcement report on the New Black Panther Party case.

Last year, the commission issued a subpoena to the Justice Department, seeking documents and witness testimony on the decision to drop most of the case. But the DOJ declined to allow its employees to testify and said its lawyers are not subject to contempt of court for refusing to disclose internal DOJ documents, under a 1951 U.S. Supreme Court decision, United States ex rel. Touhy v. Ragen.

Adams argued that he had a legal obligation to testify before the commission, and one of his lawyers asserted he could be thrown in jail if he didn’t comply.

In the letter, Adams also indicated that his resignation is in part because of the language used by members of the New Black Panther Party about the other lawyers who handled the case.

“As you also know, the defendants in the New Black Panther lawsuit have become increasingly belligerent in their rhetoric toward the attorneys who brought the case,” Adams wrote, citing a statement from the New Black Panther Party that described it as a “phony case” that was brought by “the modern day racist lynch mob.”

“Knowing intimately the criminal character and violent tendencies of the members of New Black Panther Party, it is my profound hope that these assertions are tempered,” Adams wrote.

Adams was hired in 2005 by then-Civil Rights Division political appointee Bradley Schlozman. A joint investigation by the Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found that Schlozman violated civil service rules by improperly taking political and ideological affiliations into account when making career attorney hires.

As Main Justice first reported, Adams has a background in conservative advocacy. He volunteered with the National Republican Lawyers Association and worked as a Bush poll watcher in Florida. He also wrote a piece for The American Spectator that likened President Barack Obama’s world view to that of Nazi appeasers and argued on a conservative blogging network that health care reform is a threat to liberty.

In his resignation letter, Adams rebuffed the notion that his decisions were political, writing that he “aggressively sought and litigated voting cases to protect the federal voting rights… without regard for what political or ideological faction objected to the cause of action.” He cited his work defending the voting rights of African-Americans in Georgetown, S.C. and Lake Park, Fla., and Spanish-speaking voters in Florida and Texas.

Reached on Tuesday evening, Adams declined to comment on his resignation and his future plans. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Adams’ resignation.

“[W]hile there are many things I will miss about the Voting Section, such as working with you and some excellent lawyers here, some things I will certainly not miss,” Adams wrote in the letter, addressed to acting Voting Section Chief Chris Herron. Herron replaced former Chief Christopher Coates, who requested to be transferred to South Carolina. “And someone with your dedication to reaching the right answer, as compared with the easy or popular answer, will appreciate this circumstance. I wish you the best of luck.”

Adams’ resignation letter is embedded below. This post has been updated.

J. Christian Adams resignation letter 051910

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has tried for months to get Justice Department officials to testify on the department’s handling of a November 2008 case against the New Black Panther Party. Now Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez has agreed to testify before the commission next month, where he’ll face questioning about a case that has been a favorite punching bag for conservatives for nearly a year and a half.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez (Photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

According to a letter obtained by Main Justice, The Justice Department and the commission agreed that Perez would testify separately from the hearing scheduled this Friday, which will feature several Republican poll watchers and a former Bush administration official. Perez’s testimony will take place on May 14 in a round-robin format that allocates each of the eight commissioners five minutes at a time.

Perez was not at the Justice Department when the Civil Rights Division decided against pursuing the case, which was filed by a career lawyer with a conservative background in the waning days of the Bush administration.

On Election Day in November 2008, two members of the New Black Panther Party dressed in military garb and stood outside a Philadelphia polling place. One of the men carried a nightstick, which some alleged was intended to intimidate voters. A lawyer in the Bush administration filed a case against the men and the New Black Panther Party. After the Obama administration took office, another career lawyer appointed to acting head of the Civil Rights Division determined the case had no merit. The department dropped the case and obtained an injunction against the man with the nightstick. House Republicans cried foul, and the conservative-controlled U.S. Commission on Civil Rights took up the case.

Last week, the commission announced details about the hearing scheduled for this Friday. Those testifying include Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.); Philadelphia Republican poll watchers Bartle BullMike Mauro and Chris Hill; and former Assistant Attorney General and Acting Associate Attorney General Gregory Katsas, now of Jones Day. The Justice Department is not allowing career lawyers Christopher Coates or J. Christian Adams to testify, according to the letter.

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Gregory Katsas (Jones Day)

UPDATED Feb. 10: Hearing has been postponed due to weather conditions.

Gregory Katsas, former Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division in the Bush administration, will testify this week at a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on the Justice Department’s handling of a civil case against the New Black Panther Party.

Members of the group stood outside of a polling place in Philadelphia on Election Day in 2008, one of them holding a nightstick.

In the last days of the Bush administration, J. Christian Adams, a conservative career attorney hired by Bradley Schlozman, a high ranking Civil Rights Division official later found to have violated hiring rules by considering political affiliation in an internal DOJ report, brought a case against the New Black Panther Party, its president Malik Zulu Shabazz, and the two members who stood at the poll.

Months later, a career attorney, Loretta King, appointed to a temporary leadership position by the Obama administration, decided to drop the case against the party, Shabazz and one of the members who stood outside the polling place. DOJ obtained a temporary injunction against the member who held a nightstick.

Conservatives have cited the event as evidence of politicization in the Justice Department and alleged that the Obama administration is protecting the New Black Panther Party. Every witness scheduled to appear at Friday’s hearing is affiliated with the Republican Party.

The makeup of the commission has been called into question by some; four of the eight current members of the Civil Rights Commission are Republicans, two are Democrats and two are independents who switched their affiliation from Republican to independent. Months ago Michael Yaki, one of the commission’s two Democrats, complained, ”This is basically going to be a partisan kangaroo court, convened by my partisan colleagues.”

Adams, the career Civil Rights Division attorney who brought the case against the New Black Panther Party, is not set to testify. Adams, who served as a poll watcher for the George W. Bush campaign in 2004, previously argued through a lawyer that he had an obligation to testify despite instruction from the Justice Department to ignore the commission’s subpoena. DOJ would be responsible for enforcing the subpoena, but cited internal guidelines to prevent Adams from responding.

Katsas, who is set to testify, rejoined the law firm Jones Day in November. In his eight years at the department, Katsas represented the government in every federal circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. He seemed to specialize in the controversial, arguing in cases concerning the detention of enemy combatants at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the use of national security letters in counterterrorism investigations, the applicability of the state secrets privilege, the closure of immigration hearings for suspected terrorists, and the constitutionality of federal statutes on topics ranging from the Pledge of Allegiance to partial-birth abortion.

Also set to appear at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing is Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) who, ironically, was involved in an event that could well be construed as intimidation. Just a few days before the 2008 election,  an 83-year-old Wolf staffer whacked an opponent’s videographer with a metal cane. As in the New Black Panther Party case, a video posted on YouTube became a primary driver of the media coverage of the event.

Chris Hill, an army veteran who runs the conservative group Gathering of Eagles which has clashed, sometimes violently, with anti-war protesters, will also appear at the hearing. He was interviewed by Fox News at the polling location in Philadelphia shortly after the incident.

In addition, Bartle Bull, a civil rights lawyer who supported John McCain in 2008 and was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly about the incident at the polling place, will speak at the hearing.

Just one of the three witnesses testifying about the facts of the Election Day incident has not yet spoken about it publicly – poll watcher Mike Mauro. He appeared in the background of the news footage but was not interviewed.

From the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:

There are three fact witnesses who will testify at the hearing scheduled for February 12, 2010: Mike Mauro, Chris Hill, and Bartle Bull. Each of these individuals was a poll watcher affiliated with either the Republican Party or the McCain campaign.

Both Mr. Hill and Mr. Bull were interviewed by reporters. Their comments are reflected in the video excerpts provided. Mr. Mauro is also seen in the videos, but does not make any comments and was not interviewed. He is the young gentleman in the blue jacket seen off to the side in several of the videos taken at the property.

All of these witnesses will describe the actions and comments of members of the New Black Panther Party, as well as conservations they may have had with poll workers inside the voting facility.

In addition, the Commission will hear from Gregory Katsas, a former Department of Justice official, on the topics referenced in the attached letter.

Finally, Congressman Frank Wolf will be appearing before the Commission to discuss his concerns and efforts relating to this matter.

Joe Palazzolo contributed to this story, which has been updated since it was published.

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The leader of the New Black Panther Party skipped a deposition scheduled for this morning by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Main Justice has learned.

A commission hearing on the Justice Department’s handling of the case against the New Black Panther Party and three of its members, including party leader Malik Zulu Shabazz, is scheduled for Feb. 12. Today’s deposition was intended to allow the commission to gather more information about the case, which centers around a politically controversial incident at a polling place in Philadelphia on Nov. 4, 2008.

Malik Z. Shabazz

A government lawsuit filed in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration in January 2009 alleged that two Black Panthers intimidated voters at the polling place by standing outside its entrance in military-style garb, one of them holding a night stick. Shabazz wasn’t present at the Philadelphia polling place, but he was named a defendant by virtue of his position as head of the Washington, D.C.-based black power fringe group.

When the Black Panthers last year failed to respond to the lawsuit, a career DOJ attorney named Loretta King, who was then acting head of the Civil Rights Division, recommended dismissing most of the case. Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, an Obama administration political appointee, approved her recommendation.

Outraged Republicans have asked the DOJ’s internal ethics watchdog to investigate whether politics played a role in the dismissal. The Justice Department, however, has said the lawsuit was dismissed because it didn’t rise to the level of a coordinated voter intimidation campaign and there were questions about suing people in part based on their clothing. The government did obtain an injunction against the Black Panther who’d held the night stick.

David Blackwood, counsel to the commission, wrote a letter today to Shabazz noting the commission had received no communication from him, despite issuing a subpoena for his testimony on Jan. 22 and writing him a follow-up letter on Jan. 25.

Starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, commission staffers sat around for 25 minutes waiting for Shabazz to appear, according to Blackwood’s letter. He added that unless the commission received communication with him before Feb. 4, the matter would be referred to the Justice Department for enforcement and sanctions.

The conservative-dominated Civil Rights Commission intends to make the incident the focus of its annual enforcement report for 2010. Last year’s report focused more broadly on the issue of the mortgage crisis. In recent meetings, Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki has denounced the conservative majority for focusing on the Black Panther matter. Yaki has sought to broaden the scope of the 2010 enforcement report, which Commissioner Todd Gaziano titled “Implications of DOJ’s Actions in the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) Litigation for Enforcement of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hopes to release a list of witnesses scheduled for the Feb. 12 hearing on the handling of the case in the upcoming days, said commission spokesperson Lenore Ostrowsky.

No representatives of the Justice Department are expected to attend, but the Republican poll watchers who complained may, according to a person familiar with the commission’s plan. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has requested and been granted time to speak during the commission’s upcoming meeting.

OPR now conducting full investigation, IG says

Separately today, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine replied to a letter from Wolf which requested an investigation into whether the politics affected the division’s handling of the case.

Fine wrote that he “has advocated changing the [Office of the Inspector General's] jurisdiction to allow us to investigate all matters within the Department, including matters such as this one that involve Department attorneys’ exercise of their legal duties. Unfortunately, unlike all other [Office of the Inspector Generals] which have unlimited jurisdiction to investigate all allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse within their agencies, the Department of Justice [Office of the Inspector General] does not.”

Fine wrote that Office of Professional Responsibility had told his office it was “in the midst of its investigation – which is a full investigation, not a preliminary investigation or inquiry.” It intends to share the results of its investigation with Congress, according to Fine’s letter. Previously OPR had only said it was conducting a more limited preliminary “inquiry” into the matter, according to documents released last summer by House Republicans.

Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ron Weich also wrote Wolf today regarding his concern that the Office for Professional Responsibility could not conduct an “unbias and independent review” of the matter. “We believe that such a charge is groundless,” Weich said.

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has scheduled a hearing on the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case investigation for Feb. 12, Main Justice has learned. The commission may announce the hearing at its meeting Friday morning.

The big question is whether career Civil Rights Division laywer J. Christian Adams will testify in defiance of Justice Department orders. Adams, who has a history of conservative advocacy, was the line prosecutor who compiled the voter intimidation case against the black power group, and he has appeared eager to assist the conservative-dominated U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigation. Adams was hired in 2005 under a process the DOJ Inspector General later concluded was improperly politicized.

Also slated to testify in the commission’s probe is Chris Hill, a Republican poll watcher and witness to the events in Philadelphia. The commission recently held depositions in Philadelphia.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department rebuffed a request from the Civil Rights Commission for more information about its decision in May to dismiss voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party.

The Justice Department’s response is embedded below.

Department Response