Records or­dered to ex­plain lack of action on Pan­thers case

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JERRY SEPER

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.

The depart­ment’s

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

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