The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights wants to investigate the Department of Justice’s handling of voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. According to this report, the Justice Department is instructing its attorneys not to cooperate.
The commission last week subpoenaed at least two Justice Department lawyers and sought documents from the department to explain why the complaint was dismissed just as a federal judge was about to punish the New Black Panther Party and three of its members for intimidating voters.
Joseph H. Hunt, director of the Justice Department’s Federal Programs Branch, ordered the lawyers’ silence in a letter to the attorney for J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney for the department in the New Black Panther case. The letter said “well-established” and “lawful” Justice Department guidelines prohibited Mr. Adams’ cooperation in the commission probe.
In the letter, Mr. Hunt said the Civil Rights Commission “possesses no authority to initiate criminal prosecution of anyone” and has the ability only to make referrals to the Justice Department recommending that a criminal case be opened. The commission does not have the authority to enforce subpoenas, he added.
It looks to me like an interesting turf battle is in the works. (Of course, I doubt it will compare with the Commission’s prior turf battles.)