Obama administration abandons voter intimidation lawsuit
Sources told The Bulletin that there is internal dissension in the Department of Justice (DOJ) about a voter intimidation case from last year's presidential election. Obama appointees did not want to proceed with the case, while the career prosecutors did. The incident occurred in Philadelphia and involved the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (NBPPSD).
The DOJ filed a lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act against the NBPPSD and three of its members alleging the defendants intimidated Philadelphia voters during the Nov. 4, 2008 general election. The action was filed in January before President George W. Bush left office. The complaint, filed in the United States District Court in Philadelphia, alleged that on Election Day, Nov. 4, 2008 in Philadelphia, NBPPSD members Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were stationed at the entrance to a polling location at 1221 Fairmount Avenue, wearing the uniform of the organization. It also states Mr. Shabazz repeatedly brandished a "police-style baton weapon."
|We watched that here at Rantburg at the time.|
The complaint said NBPPSD Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz confirmed that the placement of Messrs. Shabazz and Jackson was part of a nationwide effort to deploy NBPPSD members at polling locations on Election Day. The Justice Department sought an injunction to prevent any similar future actions by NBPPSD members at polling locations. "Intimidation outside of a polling place is contrary to the democratic process," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker at the time. "The Department takes allegations of voter intimidation seriously."
None of the defendants responded to the lawsuit. Instead of immediately filing for a default judgment as is the normal procedure, sources told The Bulletin the DOJ asked for and received an order from the court providing an extension of time to file. Specifically, they asked the court to give them until May 15. But on May 15, DOJ changed its mind again. Rather than a default judgment, the DOJ filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit for two of the defendants. This included Mr. Jackson, who identified himself to police as a member of the Democratic Committee in the 14th Ward. He also produced credentials to that effect. DOJ only asked for a default judgment against one defendant, Samir Shabazz, which was granted on May 18. But sources say the proposed order for the default judgment asks for none of the usual conditions the Justice Department would want, such as keeping Mr. Shabazz away from any polling locations for a set number of years into the future.
Hans von Spakovsky is a former career Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. He thinks the inaction by the Justice Department is unprecedented. He told The Bulletin that the dismissal by Justice, with no notice on the Justice Department press site, particularly against an organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a horrible miscarriage of justice. He said DOJ has failed in its duty to enforce voting laws. He is outraged by the action. "It is absolutely unprecedented for the Justice Department to dismiss a lawsuit after the defendants failed to answer the suit and are thus in default," he said.
Mr. von Spakovsky said that the NBPPSD's lack of response was the legal equivalent of an admission of all the allegations made about the defendants' organized effort to threaten and intimidate voters. "And dismissing an individual who was a local Democratic party official who defaulted by not answering the complaint smacks of the worst sort of political partisanship," he said. "It is completely contrary to all of the promises that Eric Holder made when he was confirmed to be Attorney General."
Vito F. Canuso, chairman of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, said that what the Justice Department did is tantamount to filing a lawsuit for $100,000. Then when they win the suit for $100,000 they ask for $10,000. Neither the Justice Department nor the Republican National Committee responded to requests for comment.
Posted by: ryuge 2009-05-29