Civil Rights Panel Postpones Vote on New Black Panthers Report After Member Walks Out

Jerry Markon, Washington Post, October 29, 2010

A federal commission had to postpone a vote on a report that criticizes the Justice Department’s handling of a voter-intimidation lawsuit Friday after a Democratic panelist walked out of the meeting in protest.

The draft of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report says that Justice tried to hide the extensive involvement of high-level political officials in the dismissal of the suit against members of the New Black Panther Party. The move, the report says, indicates that Justice’s Civil Rights Division is failing to protect white voters and is “at war with its core mission of guaranteeing equal protection (under) the laws for all Americans.”

The Justice Department has strongly denied the allegations in the report, which follows the commission’s year-long investigation into the Obama administration’s handling of the 2008 incident. The Bush administration had filed the lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party members, but the Justice Department under the Obama administration dismissed most of the case.

The commission, which is controlled by a bloc of conservative and liberterian members, was scheduled to vote on the report Friday morning. But it could not reach a quorum because commissioner Michael Yaki, a Democratic appointee, refused to participate.

“This has been a procedural and partisan farce from the beginning,” Yaki said in an impromptu news conference. “It’s not my responsibility to make a quorum for this kangaroo court . . . they want to score political points against the Obama Justice Department.”

Members of the commission’s majority, who drafted the report, denied they were motivated by politics and accused Justice Department officials of blocking their investigation, failing to turn over key documents and instructing witnessnes not to testify.

{snip}

The accusations illustrate the partisan nature of the debate over the New Black Panther Party case, which triggered outrage from conservatives and congressional Republicans, two internal Justice Department inquiries and the civil rights commission investigation. {snip}

Justice officials have said the case’s dismissal was based on a legal analysis and insufficient evidence. {snip}

{snip}

The commission’s draft report said the department’s “repeated attempts to obscure” the involvement of political appointees in the dismissal “raise questions about what the Department is trying to hide. ”

The commission’s findings are based mostly on the testimony of two Justice Department attorneys involved in the case, as well as media reports, including a recent article in The Washington Post. {snip}

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