EDITORIAL: Black Panther case: Racism rules

The Obama Justice Department stands accused

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Former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams made explosive allegations yesterday in testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, saying that a particular Justice Department official openly announced that civil rights laws would not be enforced to protect white voters. He also said he saw race-based harassment within the department itself.

“It was lawlessness,” Mr. Adams told the commission. He testified about the department’s bizarre decision last year to drop voter-intimidation cases it effectively had won against members of the New Black Panther Party. Mr. Adams, one of the trial attorneys who built the case, resigned from the Justice Department on June 1 in protest. His testimony focused at length on the broader policy choices underlying his superiors’ decision to drop the cases over his objections and those of five other lawyers.

Mr. Adams said that Julie Fernandes, a deputy assistant attorney general in the department’s Civil Rights Division, discussed Section 8 of the “motor voter” law at a meeting of the entire Voting Section of that division in November 2009. The provision in question requires local voting jurisdictions to review voting rolls regularly to remove the names of dead voters and others no longer eligible to vote. “We have no interest in enforcing this section of the law,” Ms. Fernandes reportedly said. “It has nothing to do with increasing turnout.”

According to Mr. Adams, Ms. Fernandes’ orders were par for the course in the Civil Rights Division. “There is an open hostility to race-neutral enforcement of the voting rights laws,” he stated. Officials, he said, openly refuse to bring “cases against black perpetrators [on behalf of white voters].”

That’s not even the worst of it. When a black lawyer in the department dared to work on a voting rights case against a notoriously corrupt black official in Mississippi, Mr. Adams said, “he was relentlessly harassed” by other Justice officials for having the integrity to help bring a case against a black defendant. If this story is true, it could be a civil rights violation within the Civil Rights Division. It also could amount to obstruction of justice.

To bolster his allegations, Mr. Adams provided the Commission on Civil Rights with a list of other instances in which, he claimed, either the Justice Department refused to bring cases because of the race of those involved or in which officials made comments hostile to race-neutral enforcement. “They don’t want to help white victims,” he said, adding that a number of other Justice Department officials, past and present, would surely testify similarly if under oath. The Washington Times has reported since last fall that such racial bias infuses the Civil Rights Division.

Mr. Adams later explained to The Washington Times that while the hostility towards protecting white victims has long been pervasive within the division, it is only under the Obama administration that top appointees have allowed and even encouraged race-based enforcement as either tacit or open policy.

If the law can be so selectively enforced, he said, “it’s tragic.” It’s also borderline criminal, at least. Heads should roll.

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