DOJ Probe Finds Black Panthers Voting Rights Case Handled Appropriately
March 30, 2011 2 Comments
The Department of Justice‘s Office of Professional Responsibility has concluded that politics played no role in the handling of the New Black Panther Party voting rights lawsuit, which sparked a racially charged political fight.
After the 2008 election. the DOJ filed a lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) charging that its members violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by intimidating white voters at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day in 2008 after receiving complaints which included a YouTube video showing Panther members standing outside the polling place, dressed in military-style clothing and carrying a nightstick.
Five months after filing the suit in the Philadelphia district court, the Justice Department dropped the case and settled for an injunction barring on of the NBPP members from “displaying a weapon within 100 feet of a Philadelphia polling place for the next three years” —action that’s already illegal under existing law. There was outrage over the decision among Congressional Republicans, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
In light of this, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith requested an investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility as to why the lawsuit was dropped, accusing the Obama Department of Justice of “possible political interference” in the voter intimidation case.
In a letter to Rep. Smith, dated March 29, 2011, the OPR concluded that they “found no evidence of improper political interference or influence from within or outside the department” and the government attorneys “did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately, in the exercise of their supervisory duties in connection with the dismissal of the three defendants in the NBPP case,”