Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have requested a hearing to investigate alleged racial bias within the Department of Justice, according to a letter sent Friday to committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
The request came in relation to a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party that was prosecuted in January 2009 as a civil action, then dismissed for two of the three defendants the following May. An injunction was issued for the last defendant.
House Judiciary Republicans also moved for further investigation on Thursday, urging President Obama in a letter to direct Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor for the case.
Holder and the DOJ’s Civil Rights division have become targets of criticism on the right for their handling of the case, which arose in November 2008 after two NBPP members were photographed dressed in paramilitary uniforms standing in front of a Philadelphia polling place. One of the two was holding a nightstick.
In Friday’s letter, the Republican senators quoted former DOJ prosecutor J. Christian Adams, who in testifying before the Commission on Civil Rights on July 6 said that political appointees within DOJ had overruled the consensus of department attorneys that prosecution should continue against the NBPP.
“If these alarming allegations are true, the Civil Rights Division is actively engaged in widespread politicization and possible corruption,” the letter read.
An investigation by the Commission on Civil Rights has been under way since fall 2009, although the Republicans' letter to Leahy accuses the DOJ of obstructing a probe by “refusing to honor the subpoena” for Christopher Coates, the former DOJ employee who was head of the Voting Rights section.
“It is imperative that you [Leahy] schedule a hearing immediately so we can determine the validity of these claims and whether DOJ, as Mr. Adams testified, ‘abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens,’ ” it concluded.
The Judiciary committee Republicans are Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).