Sunday, May 31, 2009

Justice Dept. Politicizing Justice?

Remember the hue and cry when the Bush administration fired about nine percent of the U.S. attorneys (who are, after all, political rather than civil service employees)--that the Justice Department had been politicized and all that. Is the Obama administration engaged in politicization efforts at Justice? Well, you be "the judge."

Exhibit A: voter intimidation:
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.
The incident - which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube - had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.
Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as "the most blatant form of voter intimidation" that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.
More here.

Exhibit B: partisan prosecution:
The lawyers representing a controversial Arizona sheriff who is under investigation for his treatment of Latino residents accused officials in the Justice and Homeland Security departments yesterday of political motivations in pursuing probes against their client.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio and his office, which have drawn widespread attention for an unorthodox approach to crime and punishment, are the focus of three federal investigations into whether they violated federal rules or civil rights laws in pursuing illegal immigrants...
Yesterday, Arpaio's attorneys wrote to Obama administration officials, questioning whether investigators followed ethics rules in launching the probes this year.
Robert N. Driscoll, a District-based lawyer for Maricopa County who served as a civil rights official at the Justice Department early in the George W. Bush era, said he was seeking "assurances that political rivalries and score settling played no role in the investigations."
Separately, in what is commonly referred as a Friday "document dump (in an attempt avoid scrutiny from the media "watchdogs" who have already skipped town early for their summer homes), it looks like the Obama administration has backtracked on allowing 17 Uigher detainees to come to the U.S.:
The Obama administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court Friday to reject a request for a hearing from 17 Chinese Muslims currently being held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, arguing they have no right to come to America despite a district judge's orders last Fall that they immediately be brought to the U.S. and released.
"Petitioners are free to return to their home country, but they understandably do not wish to do so, because they fear inhumane treatment there," reads the filing, signed by US Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Assistant Attorney General Tony West, and other Justice Department officials. "Petitioners are also free to go to any other country that is willing to accept them."
Many European countries are waiting for the US to accept the Uighurs before they agree to accept any more detainees from Guantanamo, but there is strong resistance from Congress, which recently voted to keep any detainees out of the US -- even out of US prisons.

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