Justice Department Lawyer Behind New Black Panther Case Resigns

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A Justice Department lawyer who was hired as part of a politicized process under the Bush administration, and who brought the controversial New Black Panther voter intimidation case, has resigned.

In a letter to DOJ Voting Rights chief Chris Herren, obtained by Main Justice, J. Christian Adams announced he’ll step down next month, citing the controversy over the New Black Panther case.

The case — which stemmed from an Election Day 2008 incident in which members of the New Black Panther party were videotaped brandishing night sticks at an inner-city Philadelphia polling place — was brought by Adams in the waning days of the Bush administration. It was dropped last May, with Obama DOJ officials saying the evidence was weak, and the incident isolated.

But the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, dominated by conservatives, has been probing that decision, and last year subpoenaed Adams to testify. DOJ said it doesn’t have to comply with the subpoena, and ordered Adams not to testify. But Adams countered that not doing so could expose him to the risk of jail time.

In his resignation letter, Adams said he has “incurred significant personal expense” from retaining lawyers to advise him on the subpoena question. He also refers to the “defendants” in the New Black Panther case as “increasingly belligerent” and invokes their “criminal character and violent tendencies.”

Adams was hired to the Civil Rights Division in 2005 by Bradley Schlozman, the Bush appointee who, as acting head of the division in 2006, was found to have violated rules against politicized hiring, then lied to Congress about it.

Adams is also a former volunteer with the right-wing National Republican Lawyers Association, which has criticized the Obama Justice Department for dropping the New Black Panther case.

And in 2004, as a Bush campaign poll watcher in Florida, Adams publicly criticized a black couple that refused to accept a provisional ballot, after election officials said they had no record of the couple’s change of address forms, Bloomberg reported. Voters had been warned not to accept provisional ballots, because of the risk that they could later be discounted.

Meanwhile, the USCCR’s probe of DOJ’s decision to drop the Panther case continues. Last week, it heard testimony from Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez.

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