I previously reported for National Review Online on the memorable going-away speech by Christopher Coates, the former career head of the Voting Section in the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, who had been relieved of his post and “transferred” to South Carolina by the division’s new political leadership. Coates’s frankness and willingness to call out those who had criticized him for trying to enforce the Voting Rights Act in a race-neutral manner surprised and shocked the other career lawyers in the section, particularly since such evenhandedness runs directly contrary to the unofficial enforcement directives issued by the Obama political appointees who currently run the division.
Last Thursday, there was another going-away party in the Voting Section, this time for Christian Adams, the second Obama-administration casualty of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. Adams was one of the lead career lawyers who worked on that case, as well as an earlier case in Noxubee County, Miss., that infuriated the radical civil-rights establishment and their ideological soulmates who occupy nearly every nook and cranny in the section.
The latter case, U.S. v. Ike Brown, was the lawsuit that DOJ won against local Mississippi election officials and the head of the county Democratic Party for engaging in blatant discrimination against whites voters (and black voters who supported white candidates). Brown was the local equivalent of Boss Tweed, and his own Tammany Hall–style organization ran the county until the Voting Section team led by Coates and Adams put a stop to it.
Adams recently submitted a letter of resignation expressing his disgust over “the events surrounding the dismissal” of the voter-intimidation lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party, including the testimony by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Perez avoided answering any substantive questions in his testimony and refused to respond when he was asked why the Justice Department would not appoint a special counsel to enforce the commission’s subpoena for witness testimony and documents about the politically motivated dismissal of the New Black Panther Party case.
At last week’s party for Adams, both the current section chief and the deputy chief praised Adams for his extraordinary productivity and consistently hard work. One of the other career lawyers also read an e-mail sent by Chris Coates. Below is the essence of what that e-mail said, from a source (not the brave career lawyer who read it). Keep in mind that many of the most militant partisans (who masquerade as career civil servant attorneys) were in the Voting Section conference room, people like Bob Berman, Brian Heffernan, Bert Russ, Autumn Payne, and Judith Reed. I am told that it was quite a spectacle. Here are Coates’s words provided to me by a source at the division:
I’m sorry I can’t be with Christian and all of you on this occasion, but I did want to send an email to be read at Christian’s going away party.
Shortly after Christian came to the Voting Section in the spring of 2005, we learned that we had a lot in common — a love of football, NASCAR, and similar views on a number of issues. The first time that Christian and I worked together was in the case of United States v. Ike Brown. He quickly demonstrated to me that he had an excellent grasp of motion practice and an uncanny ability to discover evidence that was helpful to the United States in that case. One of the big discoveries he made was the fact that Brown had been interviewed on audio tape by a person who had written a book about a landfill controversy in Noxubee County. In those interviews Brown had made racially discriminatory statements against whites that were recorded. Christian found these audio tapes in the library at the University of Mississippi and, to say the least, they were quite helpful in showing Ike Brown’s racial animus and intent and we were able to use this evidence to impeach Brown during his cross examination. In addition, Christian put on and cross examined at least a third of the witnesses in the case and took the lead in developing our strategies during the remedial phase.
I did voting cases from 1976 through 2009 and there is no more important case that I was privileged to play a part in than U.S. v. Brown. Some of my fondest memories as a practicing attorney are of being in trial or at deposition with Christian and the other attorneys on the case working to get ready for the next day of trial or deposition. The legal victory in this case would not have been possible had it not been for Christian’s work. As I told the Front Office one time when they asked me how Christian was doing in the Section, “Thank you, thank you for sending me someone who would enthusiastically help me develop and try the Brown case.”
Christian also made significant contributions in two vote dilution cases brought on behalf of African American voters in Georgetown County, South Carolina and in Lake Park, Florida. In Georgetown, a school board that had jurisdiction over a majority black student population and was elected from a county with a 38% African American population, was composed of nine white school board members. The vote dilution suit that Christian took the lead in created nine single member voting districts, three of which are majority black. In the first elections under the district voting plan, three black persons were elected to the school board. In Lake Park, the suit resulted in a consent decree that abolished the at-large method of election. Hopefully, that situation will improve in the next set of elections there.
Christian was also instrumental in working on some important UOCAVA [the federal statute protecting overseas military and civilian voters] cases that arose out of the 2008 elections that achieved important results.
There is more good work, notably Christian’s great work in the New Black Panther Party case, but I will stop right here and let others talk about that case and other work.
Finally, I want to say that Christian is a very accomplished lawyer both in the court room and in his writing skills, but the same can be said for many who have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work in the Voting Section. As importantly, if not more importantly, he is blessed with the courage to take the correct position, as he sees it, whether or not his taking of that the position will further his own professional advancement. And for that trait alone, I will always consider him my friend.
Christian, my wife and I were blessed to have had the opportunity to have gotten to know your family and I hope we can continue our relationship for many years to come. Always know that you are blessed to have a loving wife and two loving children. Good luck in your new endeavors wherever they take you.
So another one of the few real professionals is gone from the Civil Rights Division, driven out by the politics that motivate so many of the enforcement decisions being made there under the new administration. This unfortunate trend is not just the division’s loss, but the publics as well. Judges, lawyers, and state and local officials should realize that when they are faced with claims asserted by the Civil Rights Division in the future, they have every reason to doubt the credibility and validity of the allegations. All too often, the claims may be the byproduct of the bias, leftist ideology, and hard-core partisanship that drive so many of the lawyers and support staff who work there.
During the Bush years, there were at least some checks and a partial balance on this out-of-control bureaucracy. However, this is no longer the case. One by one, the new administration is methodically forcing out anyone who dares to disagree with its radical agenda. One can only hope that, eventually, the public will take note of these excesses and help throw these rascals out.