The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, frustrated by the Justice Department’s failure to explain the dismissal of charges against New Black Panther Party members who disrupted a Philadelphia polling place during last year’s elections, has subpoenaed the department demanding records showing how the case was handled.
David P. Blackwood, the commission’s general counsel, said Tuesday in a letter to the Justice Department that efforts since June to obtain an explanation had proceeded “without any success” and the “dearth of cooperation” had prompted the commission to issue subpoenas.
The commission has asked the department why a civil complaint against the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) and three of its members was dismissed after a federal judge in Philadelphia ordered default judgments in the case. The NBPP refused to respond to the charges or appear in court.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Tuesday that the department was reviewing the commission’s letter. She said that the Civil Division at the department reviews “these types of requests in accordance with longstanding guidelines governing the disclosure of internal department information.”
Among the documents being sought are witness statements, copies of any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, reports of suspected voting intimidation, all documents that influenced the decision to drop three of the defendants as parties to the case, and documents regarding communications by Mrs. King, Mr. Perrelli and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. relating to the case.
Mr. Blackwood also said the commission wanted the names of all Justice Department personnel who worked on the case, including those who interviewed witnesses in Philadelphia, others who exercised decision-making authority and all those in the appellate section who reviewed the litigation.
[Editors Note: Other articles on the New Black Panther case are listed here.]