The Obama Justice Department did not improperly let politics or the race of the defendants affect the handling of a high-profile civil voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party, a probe by DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) concluded after an extensive investigation.
Justice Department attorneys “did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately, in the exercise of their supervisory duties in connection with the dismissal of the three defendants in the NBPP case,” the head of OPR wrote in a letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) obtained by TPM.
OPR’s investigation began in the summer of 2009. After an extensive investigation which included reviews of the New Black Panther Party file, “thousands of pages of internal Department e-mails, memoranda, and notes” and interviews with 44 current and former Department employees, OPR “found no evidence that the decision to dismiss the case against three of the four defendants was predicated on political considerations,” wrote DOJ’s Robin Ashton.
“We found that the decision by the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, a career Department employee, was made following appropriate consultation with, or notification to, career attorneys and supervisors, and Department leadership,” Ashton wrote.
“We found no evidence of improper political interference or influence from within or outside the Department in connection with the decision in the case,” she wrote. “In sum, we concluded that the decision to dismiss three of the four defendants and to seek more narrowly-tailored injunctive relief against King Samir Shabazz was predicated on a good faith assessment of the law and the facts of the case and had a reasonable basis.”
“We found no evidence that political considerations were a motivating factor in reaching the decision. We also concluded that the decision to initiate the NBPP case was based upon a good faith assessment of the facts and the law. We found no evidence that political considerations were a motivating factor in authorizing the civil action against the four defendants,” Ashton wrote.
“Finally, we found no evidence to support allegations (which were raised during the course of our investigation) that the decision makers, either in bringing or dismissing the claims, were influenced by the race of the defendants, or any considerations other than an assessment of the evidence and the applicable law,” Ashton wrote.
“In sum, we examined only whether any of the individuals involved in the decision-making process - with respect to either the initiation or dismissal of claims in the NBPP case - committed professional misconduct in the performance of their official duties,” Ashton wrote.
“We determined that the attorneys involved in the NBPP case made good faith, reasonable assessments of the facts and the law,” Ashton wrote. “We did not attempt to evaluate the relative merits of their differing positions.”
The full letter is available here.