A trial attorney with the Department of Justice’s Voting Rights Section has resigned, citing concerns about the government’s refusal to prosecute a case involving voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party. A letter of resignation obtained by The Washington Examiner from a former Justice Department employee makes clear DOJ has refused to allow attorneys in the Voting Rights Section to testify before the congressionally-chartered bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, despite subpoenas that could result in their being held in contempt.
In his letter of resignation, J. Christian Adams said:
On the other hand, the events surrounding the dismissal of United States v. New Black Panther Party, et al., after the trial team sought and obtained an entry of default, has subjected me, Mr. Christopher Coates, and potentially at some point, all members of the team, to a subpoena from the United States Commission on Civil Rights. The subpoena is based on an explicit federal statute and seeks answers about why the case was dismissed.
I have incurred significant personal expense in retaining a number of separate attorneys and firms regarding this subpoena in order to protect my interests and advise me about my personal legal obligation to comply with the subpoena. Over the last few months, one of my attorneys has had multiple communications with Federal Programs regarding the subpoena. My attorney suggested to them that the Department should file a motion in district court to quash the subpoena and thereby resolve conclusively any question about my obligation to comply.
Months ago, my attorney advised the Department that a motion to quash would be welcome, and that I would assert no objection to the motion. Further, my attorney has explicitly sought to ascertain whether Executive Privilege has been invoked regarding the decisions of individuals not in the Voting Section to order the dismissal of the case. If Executive Privilege has been asserted, or will be, obviously I would not comply with the subpoena. These options would provide some conclusive legal certainly about the extent of my obligation to comply with a subpoena issued pursuant to a federal statute. Instead, we have been ordered not to comply with the subpoena, citing a federal regulation (emphasis mine).
Adams also cites his knowledge of the criminal character and “violent tendencies of” members of the New Black Panther Party, saying:
As you also know, the defendants in the New Black Panther lawsuit have become increasingly belligerent in their rhetoric toward the attorneys who brought the case. (See eg., April 23, 2010 statement of Malik Zulu Shabazz,http://www.newblackpanther.com/usccrphony case statement.pdf, describing the “phony case” brought by “the modern day racist lynch mob seeking to hang what [we] think .are [our] modern slaves.”) Their grievances toward us generally echo the assertions that the facts and law did not support the lawsuit against them, ab initio. Knowing intimately the criminal character and violent tendencies of the members of New Black Panther Party, it is my profound hope that these assertions are tempered.
This follows the departure of another attorney, who before transferring to South Carolina, read a statement to a surprised “goodbye luncheon” about his opposition to the way the case is handled (see here). More updates to follow. The document is below:
UPDATE: The New Black Panthers' website appears to be down. You can read Malik Zulu Shabazz's statement over at Main Justice.