Federal Court Rules Against Obama Administration in Black Panther FOIA Case

There has been relatively little attention given a remarkable ruling by United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton. In ruling that the conservative watch dog group Judicial Watch was entitled to attorneys fees, Walton found that Obama political appointees not only influenced the decision in the controversial Black Panther case but withheld documents that should have been turned over under federal law.

The Justice Department originally charged The New Black Panther Party and two of its members, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson in the case.

Some of us were critical of the decision of the Obama Administration to drop charges. I failed to see how the appearance of Black Panther members brandishing a weapon on Election Day in 2008 was not a violation. Indeed the decision by the Justice Department seemed to invite other groups to appear with such weapons to intimidate voters. Notably, the Black Panthers had already defaulted in the case, but the Obama Administration reversed course and dismissed charges against three of the defendants.

The Obama Administration opposed attorneys fees despite the success of the group in forcing the release of documents and the disclosure of misrepresentations by the Administration.

Walton wrote:

The documents reveal that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims in that case, which would appear to contradict Assistant Attorney General Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in that decision. Surely the public has an interest in documents that cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decision-making.

In sum, the Court concludes that three of the four fee entitlement factors weigh in favor of awarding fees to Judicial Watch. Therefore, Judicial Watch is both eligible and entitled to fees and costs, and the Court must now consider the reasonableness of Judicial Watch’s requested award.

The Justice Department at one point argued that the information sought included information previously released and thus they could withhold it in a FOIA case. The court noted correctly that that was an absurd argument: “If anything, the fact that the information was already in the public domain indicates that the DOJ was legally required to disclose the documents. . . . The DOJ therefore has not discharged its burden of showing that its withholding of documents that were already in the public domain was legally correct or even had a reasonable basis in law.”

I remain perplexed by the decision of the Obama Administration to dismiss these charges and then fight so hard not to release documents. It made in my view for bad law (for the country) on voter intimidation and now bad law (for DOJ) on FOIA production. While the former decision is not contained in a judicial ruling, it set a remarkably tolerant standard in policy toward those who display weapons to polling places — something that was once common for white supremacists and others seeking to intimidate voters. It is equally bizarre that the Justice Department chose to fight such a relatively tiny fee award — securing a reduction of fees at the cost of a legal and factual judgment against the Administration.

DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams resigned in May 2010 in protest over the Obama Administration’s handling of the case.

The video below appears to be Minister King Samir Shabazz engaged in past threats against whites.

Source: Washington Examiner

31 thoughts on “Federal Court Rules Against Obama Administration in Black Panther FOIA Case”

  1. It will be interesting to see what all does find the light of day after obama is gone. This is how obama “won”. Aside from voter intimidation, we had dead people voting, pets voting, people voting over and over in multiple districts, heck, some districts had more votes than registered voters! Felons voted, bus loads of people going from county to county voting over and over. This would explain how someone like obama would have got an election. But yet, no one is investigating such blatant fraud. I’m guessing to do so would be “racist” so that’s why investigations into voter fraud were not pursued. Contrast this with President Bush’s election. Those Florida votes were counted over and over and over, and even to Algore’s standards. Several months later, a small article was published in the newspapers, buried way in the back. The news was that…. shhh…. President Bush got more votes. All the news agencies kept counting and counting and President Bush simply got more votes. But all the liberal wingnuts kept shouting he “stole the election”. Maybe all the REAL voter fraud with obama is considered “payback”.

  2. I’m not sure if I am remembering the same event or not but I remember an event at the time being made a lot of by Rush and Hannity and the like of the Panthers trying to keep white voters from voting but that statements made from voters white and black was that they were not intimidated by the Panthers. The voting place was predominately black and that the Panthers were there to keep activists from trying to intimidate the black voters from voting. Seems there had been past events when there had been people outside the polling place catching voters before they went in and saying things to disuade voters from going in. “Someone” saw the Panthers there and called the press. It immediately hit the conservative shows.

  3. Darren Smith,

    From the OPR report linked-to above:

    …although the legislative history shows that Congress did not intend to require proof that defendants in a section11(b) case had a subjective intent to intimidate, coerce, or threaten voters or those aiding voters, some courts have required such a showing.

    see also United States v. Harvey, 250F. Supp. 219 (E.D.La.1966) (requiring showing that voters subjectively felt intimidated, threatened, or coerced by the defendant’s actions).

    There were no voters or poll workers who “subjectively felt intimidated, threatened, or coerced.” If the intent were to intimidate, the result was an utter failure.

  4. Nal.

    I would disagree with you on this.

    There was a case after the Oklahoma City Bombing where during a abortion clinic protest, a protester parked a Ryder delivery truck in front of the building. This type of truck was used during the bombing and the notoriety of this was still fresh in the minds of the public. Certainly this was a threat. Why else would someone park an empty delivery truck in front of a clinic by a member of the protesting group? It obviously was meant to intimidate.

    The person who drove the Ryder truck to the scene was convicted on a felony threats charge. I wish I had the specific case for you but I read about it in a trade journal many years ago.

    Now, lets turn the roles around. If the KKK had dressed up, carried night sticks, and did exactly what these panthers have done would it appear to be any different? Now about The American Nazi Party?

Comments are closed.