Black Panther Answers ‘Overdue’
Civil Rights Commission Chairman Seeks Responses In Voter Intimidation Case
BY MICHAEL P. TREMOGLIE, FOR THE BULLETIN
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 04, 2009
The Chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Gerald A. Reynolds, has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking answers to their questions about a voter intimidation case in Philadelphia involving the New Black Panther Party (NBPP). It considers the responses “overdue.”
The letter, dated September 30, 2009, is seemingly an unprecedented action. It asks for Mr. Holder to “instruct Department officials to fully cooperate” with the Commission’s investigation, as required by federal law.
The correspondence noted that the Commission still has not received any of the documents they requested in their initial June inquiries. It has questions surrounding the “unusual decision” by the DOJ to dismiss the case against two of the three defendants and the equally unusual injunction obtained against the third defendant.
It needs this information because the Commission is responsible to investigate voting rights deprivations and evaluate federal enforcement of federal voting rights laws. They want to form an independent opinion about the DOJ’s enforcement actions and the potential impact on future voter intimidation enforcement. It may also try “to determine whether any decisions in the case were induced or affected by improper influences.”
The communication reminded Mr. Holder that Congress mandates that, “all Federal agencies shall fully cooperate with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties.” It wants Mr. Holder to identify the person responsible for complying with the requests.
The Commission voted in September to make its review of the implications of the NBPP matter the subject of its annual enforcement report. The report focuses on a selected area of civil rights enforcement.