Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the unexplained dismissal of voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party and some of its members. Ranking Member Smith also requested that the review include whether the Department has adopted a policy of enforcing voting rights laws in a racially discriminatory manner. 

Ranking Member Smith: “The Department’s initial decision to drop the New Black Panther Party case created significant controversy, since the Justice Department had effectively won an injunction against the defendants. Its continued refusal to give any legitimate reason for the dismissal has only increased suspicions that race and politics played a role in the decision. 

“Recent allegations from a former Civil Rights Division attorney confirm our concerns that the Justice Department has adopted a policy of race-based non-enforcement of federal voting rights laws.  On July 6, J. Christian Adams, a former career Department attorney assigned to the New Black Panther Party trial team testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes instructed Voting Section attorneys that ‘cases are not going to be brought against black defendants [for] the benefit of white victims.’

“A founding principle of this nation is equality under the law.  If indeed the Department of Justice has adopted a policy of racially discriminatory non-enforcement of voting rights laws it means that the agency charged with enforcing our civil rights laws itself has a policy of racial discrimination.

“We are months away from the mid-term elections.  Steps must be taken to assure the American public that the Department will pursue all legitimate voter intimidation cases.”