Records ordered to explain lack of action on Panthers case
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 Dec. 8 in a letter to the Justice Department that efforts since June to obtain an explanation had proceeded “without any success” and that the “dearth of cooperation” had prompted the commission to issue subpoenas.
“We are both mindful of the sensitivity of the subject matter involved and aware that, in response to similar requests, the department has raised various concerns and matters of privilege,” Mr. Blackwood said. sion — akin to that of a congressional committee — disclosure to the commission of the information sought is both proper and required,” he added.
David P. Blackwood, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights general counsel, said Dec. 8 in a letter to the Justice Department that efforts since June to obtain an explanation had proceeded “without any success” and that the “dearth of cooperation” had prompted the commission to issue subpoenas.
“While such considerations carry weight, cooperation with commission investigations is a mandatory statutory obligation.
“Moreover, due to the unique investigative role of the commis-
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 Philadel- phia ordered default judgments in the case. The NBPP refused to respond to the charges or appear in court.
Voting Rights Section was in the final stages of seeking the judgments when Loretta King, who was serving as acting assistant attorney general, ordered a delay.
She issued the delay after meeting with Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the department’s No. 3 political appointee, who approved the dismissal, according to interviews with department officials who sought anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Dec. 8 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.”
In January, the Justice Department filed a civil complaint in Philadelphia against the NBPP after two of its members