Justice Department lawyer Loretta King was supposed to be deposed at 10 a.m. today by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the Department’s handling of a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party. But the Justice Department said late Monday that it “will not agree to the unilateral conditions” set forth by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for depositions of three DOJ employees.
The conservatives who dominate the Civil Rights Commission had accused the Justice Department in a letter sent yesterday of “smothering” their report on the New Black Panther case by requiring the commission share information as a condition of the DOJ employees’ testimony. That civil voter intimidation case was filed in the waning days of the Bush administration after an incident at a Philadelphia polling station in which a member of the New Black Panther Party held a nightstick.
DOJ initially said last week that it would allow three Justice Department officials to testify about the case and the handling of civil rights law in the Obama administration — if the Commission would agree to turn over transcripts of the depositions and a copy of their report so the Justice Department could raise objections to any errors.
The Justice Department said it could not go ahead with the depositions if their terms were not met.
“The Department will not agree to the unilateral conditions set by the Commission, and thus the depositions may not go forward at this time,” Joseph H. Hunt, director of the Justice Department’s Federal Programs Branch, wrote in a letter to the Commission.
Hunt wrote that the Department of Justice “remains prepared to authorize” the testimony of three officials “provided the Commission accepts the Department’s good faith effort to accommodate the Commission’s requests on terms that also protect the Department’s interests.”
“Whether the depositions go forward at all, therefore, depends on whether the Commission is prepared to make that commitment and work with the Department on mutually agreeable arrangements for the depositions,” Hunt wrote.
DOJ obtained an injunction against the man holding the nightstick but did not pursue the case against the man who accompanied him, the chairman of the national party or the New Black Panther Party itself. Conservatives have taken issue with those decisions, which they have claim were made because the players were African-American.