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7-29-10 PJL to Sessions Re - NBBP

7-29-10 PJL to Sessions Re - NBBP

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Published by: michellemalkin on Jul 29, 2010
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10/25/2012

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PATRICK J. LEAHY, VERMONT, CHAIRMANHERB KOHL, WISCONSIN JEFF SESSIONS, ALABAMADIANNE FEINSTEIN, CALIFORNIA ORRIN G. HATCH, UTAHRUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, WISCONSIN CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, IOWACHARLES E. SCHUMER, NEW YORK JON KYL, ARIZONARICHARD J. DURBIN, ILLINOIS LINDSEY O. GRAHAM, SOUTH CAROLINABENJAMIN L. CARDIN, MARYLAND JOHN CORNYN, TEXASSHELDON WHITEHOUSE, RHODE ISLAND TOM COBURN, OKLAHOMAAMY KLOBUCHAR, MINNESOTAEDWARD E. KAUFMAN, DELAWAREARLEN SPECTER, PENNSYLVANIAAL FRANKEN, MINNESOTA
BAUCE
A. COHEN,
Chief Counsel and Staff Director 
BRIAN
A.
BENCZKOWSKI,
Republican Staff Director 
July 29,2010The Honorable Jeff SessionsRepublican Ranking MemberSenate Committee on the Judiciary152 Dirksen Senate Office BuildingWashington, D.C. 20510Dear Jeff:
tinitrd
~tatrs ~rnatr
COMMITIEE ON THE JUDICIARYWASHINGTON, DC 20510-6275
I write in response to a letter from you and the other Republican members of the Committee sentlast Friday. I was in Vermont when you sent the letter, but did read about it in conservative mediaoutlets.The 2008 incident and the civil action that arose from it have been the subject of previousquestioning by members of the Judiciary Committee. The Justice Department has responded tonumerous questions about the New Black Panther case in oversight hearings and letters datingback to last year. In fact, in an oversight hearing just three months ago, you asked AssistantAttorney General Tom Perez of the Civil Rights Division about the case. He reiterated that twocareer attorneys with more than 60 years of combined experience made the determination to seecivil penalties and an injunction against the individual involved in the incident who was holding astick. The Justice Department's answers to inquiries indicate that career attorneys made thedetermination how to proceed in that case.In addition to your questioning, I submitted a question to Attorney General Holder following aMay hearing of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, asking theDepartment to clarify why it decided to resolve the New Black Panther Party case in the way thatit did, how the decision was made, what steps were taken if any to ensure that the decision wasmade on the merits and not based on political motivations, and what were the results. I look forward to the Attorney General's answers providing further clarity.What makes allegations ofpoliticization especially hard to credit is that the Department's decisionto seek civil penalties rather than criminal sanctions in this case pre-dates the Obamaadministration. As made clear by the January 7, 2009, civil complaint filed by Attorney GeneralMukasey and others at the Department, that decision was made during the Bush administration.Another decision by experienced career attorneys evaluating the case was to pursue those civilpenalties and obtain an injunction against King Shamir Shabazz, the only party alleged to have astick outside the polling place.
 
The Honorable Jeff SessionsJuly 29,2010Page 2 of3I have no reason to second guess the initial decision made under Attorney General Mukasey andthe Bush administration not to seek criminal prosecution stemming from the incident. and, instead,to bring a civil proceeding. Likewise, I have seen no credible basis to second guess the decisionby career attorneys later in the case about how to proceed and resolve it with an injunction againstMr. Shabazz. Just as I trust that the law and the facts informed the exercise of prosecutorialdiscretion and the decision not to prosecute former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and formerActing Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman - despite findings of serious wrongdoingby the Department's own Inspector General- the Justice Department exercised its authority in thecase arising from the 2008 incident. Prosecutorial discretion is a hallmark of the JusticeDepartment, and, as a former prosecutor, it is a principle I respect.The right to vote is a foundational right of every American. I have always supported properenforcement of laws that protect the right to vote. In addition, condemnation of the behaviorexhibited in this incident has been overwhelming across the political spectrum. No responsibleobservers have tried to excuse that behavior; there is no excuse for it.Your letter describes an ongoing review being conducted by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.Dr. Abigail Thernstrom, the Republican-appointed vice-chair of the Commission and aconservative political scientist who has frequently been a Republican witness on issues involvingrace and voting, has been harshly critical of the attacks on the Department's handling of thisincident. In a July 16 article in
Politico,
she said: "This doesn't have to do with the BlacPanthers; this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the[Obama] administration." She also said: "My fellow conservatives on the commission had thiswild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president."I also note Dr. Thernstrom's conclusions about the incident itself, which, as she described it in herJuly 6 column in the
National Review Online:
"[I]involved only two Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far - after months of hearings, testimony and investigation-no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots. Toomuch overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted tothis case." She concluded: "Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, makes aperfectly plausible argument: Different lawyers read this barely litigated statutory provisiondifferently." Earlier this week, Dr. Thernstrom wrote another column for the
National Online Review
in which she noted: "There is certainly no direct or hard evidence of either an effectivevoter-suppression effort of Justice Department indifference to such cases." While I may not agreewith Dr. Thermstrom very often, or even with every comment in her piece, that observation struck me as significant. Dr. Thernstrom's review ofthe facts and the process followed by the JusticeDepartment is consistent with the Department's anSwers to questions about this matter.

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