WASHINGTON -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a lawsuit, against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records detailing contacts between DOJ and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) over a voter intimidation lawsuit filed against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Kristen Clark, a representative of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, reportedly met with representatives from DOJ to discuss the lawsuit just prior to DOJ's decision to drop the case.
On November 2, 2010, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the following information:
Any and all records of communication between the Civil Rights Division and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund (including, but not limited to communications with Kristen Clarke, Director of Political Participation) concerning, regarding or relating to U.S. v. New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, et al. (09-CV-0065). The time frame for this request is November 4, 2008 to May 22, 2009.
By law, DOJ was required to respond to Judicial Watch's FOIA request by December 3, 2010. However, to date, no documents have been produced. In fact, DOJ has failed to respond to Judicial Watch's request in any manner.
The issue at the center of Judicial Watch's lawsuit is whether or not the NAACP improperly influenced the DOJ, an independent law enforcement agency, to drop a lawsuit against members of the Black Panthers who allegedly threatened and intimidated white voters outside a polling station during the 2008 election. A DOJ official testified that the NAACP lobbied against using civil rights statutes to protect anyone who is not considered a traditional minority, a position that reportedly found favor inside the Justice Department.
According to the October 22, 2010, edition of The Washington Post: "Interviews and government documents reviewed by The Washington Post show that the [New Black Panther Party] case tapped into deep divisions within the Justice Department that persist today over whether the agency should focus on protecting historically oppressed minorities or enforce laws without regard to race."
This conclusion is consistent with testimony by another DOJ attorney, Christopher Coates, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which conducted a year-long investigation of the New Black Panther Party scandal, that there exists at the DOJ "a deep-seated opposition to the equal enforcement of the Voting Rights Act against racial minorities and for the protection of whites who have been discriminated against."
"Who is running the Justice Department? That is what we're trying to find out with this lawsuit. I find it outrageous that leftist special interest groups seem to be directing the activities of the nation's top law enforcement agency," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "The Obama Justice Department has made a mess of the Black Panther lawsuit. We already know the Justice Department's decision to drop the case was tainted by politics and racism. There is something amiss in the Holder Justice Department. And its casual violations of the freedom of information law highlight this administration's contempt for transparency and the rule of law."
The DOJ filed its lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and three of its members following an incident that took place outside of a Philadelphia polling station on November 4, 2008. A video of the incident, showing a member of the New Black Panther Party brandishing a police-style baton weapon, was widely distributed on the Internet. According to multiple witnesses, members of the New Black Panther Party blocked access to polling stations, harassed voters and hurled racial epithets. Nonetheless, DOJ ultimately overruled the recommendations of its own staff and dismissed the majority of its charges.
This latest FOIA lawsuit is part of Judicial Watch's comprehensive investigation of the New Black Panther Party scandal. Judicial Watch previously uncovered evidence that top political appointees at DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. The documents directly contradict sworn testimony byThomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision.
On Thursday, March 31, Judicial will host a panel discussion at its Washington, DC, headquarters to discuss the New Black Panther Party litigation and other scandals that have plagued the Holder Justice Department. The panel is entitled, "Politics and the Holder Justice Department: Rule of Law at Risk?"