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. I’m surprised….. Obama started the law suit….. Then dropped it…. And then got sanctioned for not providing documents previously released under a FOIA request…..Seems its not this judges fault this time…..

  2. Not surprised about this ruling from Bush appointee Judge Walton. He has ruled against the EPA and for the mining companies previously. The only information out about this is on anti-Obama right wing websites. You know…… the ones that hated and destroyed ACORN. Their goal is to repress the black vote.

  3. Nal,

    This is another of Obamas…. Clusters….not quite the legacy one wants to have….

  4. Darren Smith:

    How on Earth can that not be implied as an intimidation.

    From the previous link:

    Moreover, the most compelling evidence of intimidation – the statement from poll watcher Chris Hill that the Panthers had blocked his access to the polls – was undermined by an interview Hill had given to Fox News afterwards.

    “As I walked up they [Jackson and Shabazz] closed ranks together,” Hill told Fox. “I’m an Army veteran – that doesn’t scare me. So I walked directly in between then [and] went inside.”

    The administration drops charges for reasons that are beyond reasonable

    Lack of evidence is reasonable.

  5. This does not surprise me in the slightest. The administration drops charges for reasons that are beyond reasonable, and of course when asked why, they fight the process to find out. I have seen this type of behavior before.

    A gov’t official drops charges and then fights tooth and nail to answer for why.

    You see in the video two or three guys dressed in what can historically be know to be a subversive or revolutionary group such as the berets and such and then carrying a nightstick? How on Earth can that not be implied as an intimidation. How is this appripriate in a voting place given the totality of the circumstances. And the defense, I’m sure it would have been akin to “Just because we put a 30-06 bullet in his mailbox doesn’t mean we directly threatened him.”

    Then we see Mrs. Obama electioneering in a voting location by telling people that they should support her husband’s agenda. Then spokesman Gibbs just brushes it aside, dismissing this as an example of a wife wanting the best for her husband. Well, sorry that does not cut it. Any other regular person who did that would have the Sheriff’s Office at the very minimum detaining them for questioning, and at worse a citation being issued. Not here. Because they are the political class, immune from such reproach due either to power they wield or that others do not want to touch them.

    But this is not unusual in light of a few people on both sides of the aisle manipulating votes, either by Gerrymandering, disenfranchising, allowing felons to vote, double voting, registration fraud, and on and on an on.

    And for why? because I think deep down these few believe “well if the opposition is doing this so can I.” The voters do not matter to these people beyond only that they are the means to their unscrupulous ends.

    This is what to me is so frustrating about dealing with the political class and the environment that allows many of them to misbehave or at least act without Honor or ethical constraint.

    Kind of reminiscent this is of the Soviet addage “It’s not the votes that count, it’s who counts the votes that matters.”

    In my view when a political class or faction begins to illegally manipulate the vote, or the above violations, they forfeit their legitimacy because if they gain control of the vote, tyrrany is only a matter of time.

    Why do we as free loving citizens allow this to continue?

  6. So what else is new for Obama….. Not much…. Except not to vote for the other guy…..

  7. Obama appointees. Here we go again with the Willard routine. The incoming President should be free of political allies and have no appointees. Get Wilard to agree to that. The Willard and The Donald will probably be the ticket.

  8. Quite frankly of tired of people saying “The gov’t does this” and “the gov’t does that”.

    It’s not the gov’t that breaking the law. It’s people breaking the law. They just happen to work in gov’t and use it’s tools to pervert justice.

  9. The resignation of J. Christian Adams was one of the best things that could have happened to the DOJ.

  10. Thanks, Nal … anyone with half a brain can see what’s going on here.

    Eric Holder in response to Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex, of course) charge that the DOJ was “refusing to protect the rights of anybody other than African Americans to vote.”:

    “”When you compare what people endured in the South in the ’60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, to compare what people subjected to that with what happened in Philadelphia… I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line for my people.”

    Such comparisons are indeed disingenuous and serve only to promote a propaganda well developed and repeated by those who wish to cover their own racism and bigotry with the thin veneer of “justice”. I’d like to set a few dogs and turn a few hoses on these creeps.

  11. The formerj DOJ attorney who resigned under protest was a Bush appointee who was also a Bush operative during the Florida recount. This same attorney filed an ethics complaint against Hilary Clintons brother, Hugh Rodham that was later dismissed. He is dirty and this whole Black Panther Party dustup is just a made up ruse to scare voters and get headlines. The DOJ should have disclosed anything that they were required to under the law, but the whole matter was rigged from the start. They should be blowing the whistle on this dirty, former DOJ attorney.

  12. The DOJ “argument” clearly links to all other FOIA and whistleblower cases. The DOJ and administration claim they cannot release information regarding drone killings because the drone program 1. isn’t in the public domain 2. is in the public domain. This same bizarre argument holds for torture and financial fraud.

    What it shows is the rule of law is being broken down by the govt. itself. I don’t know why this doesn’t scare more people. It should. We have lower court judges upholding the law but the upper courts have routinely rendered political, not constitutional opinions, overturning the rule of law.

    No society functions well without the rule of law. America will not be exceptional in this regard.

  13. Report Details Friciton in Civil Rights Division Over Black Panthers Case

    Race traitors?

    According to the white Republican poll watchers, this couple had been cowering inside the polling place, afraid to come after the Panthers called them “race traitors.” Angela Counts had reportedly made a remark she was afraid the Panthers would “bomb the place,” or something to that effect.

    Adams showed up unannounced at the Counts’ inner-city Philadelphia home at 8 p.m. on the Saturday before Christmas. But the Counts denied they’d seen the Black Panthers, denied they had been scared, and denied having been called a “race traitor.”

  14. Secrecy is a cult mentality. It was in the government when Obama drove up to the White House, and will be there after he leaves in 4 more years.

    Glad the courts are allowing some of the layers of the onion to be peeled back to face the light of day.

  15. As Captain Renault would say, “I’m shocked to find” a politician acting in a hypocritical, myopic fashion.

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