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.
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