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In Likely Parting Shot, Civil Rights Commission Approves Controversial Report On Justice Department Actions


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Fox News:

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights approved Friday its latest report on the Justice Department's handling of a controversial civil rights case, even though the report makes no findings related to the case or the larger question of whether the Justice Department enforces civil rights laws in an even-handed manner.

The move marked what is likely to be a parting shot for conservative members, who are expected to become the minority and lose control of the commission in December.

For more than a year the commission has been investigating why the Obama administration reversed course on a federal lawsuit against two members of the New Black Panther Party, who some say intimidated Pennsylvania voters on Election Day 2008. The Justice Department sent its Civil Rights Division chief to testify and provided thousands of pages of documents to the commission, but some members still accuse the Justice Department of "stonewalling" by withholding what they describe as "highly relevant" documents and information.

"We cannot in good faith come up with a comprehensive report," Republican commissioner Peter Kirsanow said during Friday's hearing before the vote. "I suspect that one of the reasons why we have not been getting this information is because ... in a couple of weeks the composition of this commission is going to change. At that point, there is a fairly good likelihood that this investigation would cease."

The commission's investigation expanded -- and heated up -- after two attorneys heavily involved in the initial filing of the case, including one still with the Justice Department, testified that it was all part of a "hostile" attitude by the Obama administration toward "race-neutral enforcement" of voting rights laws. The Justice Department has repeatedly denied such allegations, pointing to a case currently being prosecuted involving a black defendant who allegedly tried to disenfranchise white voters.

Nevertheless, the latest report approved Friday apparently draws heavily from allegations made by the two attorneys, with the report saying their testimony "provides a possible explanation" for the ultimate disposition of the New Black Panther party case and "may explain why the Department refuses to provide information that would allow the Commission to complete its job."

"They indicated that there is currently a conscious policy within the Department that voting rights laws should not be enforced in a race-neutral fashion," said a rough draft of the report obtained last month by the website TalkingPointsMemo. "The nature of these charges paints a picture of a Civil Rights Division at war with its core mission of guaranteeing equal protection of the laws for all Americans."
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President George W. Bush designated Gerald A. Reynolds to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on December 6, 2004. Mr. Reynolds serves as General Counsel – Eastern Division of American Water Works, Inc., an investor-owned water utility. Mr. Reynolds provides strategic advice to American Water executives and manages the day-to-day operations of the Eastern Division's law department.


Abigail Thernstrom is the vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She was a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York from 1993 to 2009, and a member of the Massachusetts state Board of Education for more than a decade until her third term ended in November 2006. She also serves on the board of advisors of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. She received her Ph.D. in 1975 from the Department of Government, Harvard University.


In 2007 she and her husband, Stephan Thernstrom (along with James Q. Wilson, Martin Feldstein, and John Bolton), were the recipients of a Bradley Foundation prize for Outstanding Intellectual Achievement.


Peter N. Kirsanow is a Member of the National Labor Relations Board, receiving a recess appointment from President George W. Bush on January 4, 2006. Prior to his appointment, he was a partner with the Cleveland, Ohio law firm of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, and Aronoff LLP in the Labor and Employment Practice Group. His practice focused on representing management in employment-related litigation as well as in contract negotiations, NLRB proceedings, EEO matters, and arbitration.


Mr. Kirsanow frequently testifies before and advises members of the U.S. Congress on various civil rights and labor related issues, appearing most recently before the Senate Judiciary Committee to support the nominations of Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court. Previously, he served as senior labor counsel of Leaseway Transportation Corp. and labor counsel for the city of Cleveland. He has extensive experience in public sector employment matters as well as in industries such as heavy manufacturing, trucking, health care, radio and television, and employee leasing.


Ashley Taylor was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by President George W. Bush on December 6, 2004. Mr. Taylor is a partner at Troutman Sanders LLP and served as the Deputy Attorney General for Virginia from 1998-2001.


Mr. Taylor focuses his practice in the areas of employment law, commercial litigation and matters involving governmental entities. He has represented public and private clients in a wide range of litigation and administrative matters at both the federal and state levels and before regulatory agencies. He is resident in the Richmond, Virginia office of Troutman Sanders LLP and is a member of the firm's Complex Commercial Litigation Practice Group and a secondary member of the Governmental Law Practice Groups. On October 1, 2004, he was elected as a member of Troutman Sanders' Executive Committee.





Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid appointed Arlan D. Melendez to the Commission in September 2005. Mr. Melendez is Chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, a Federally recognized Tribal Government representing 840 Paiute, Washoe, and Shoshone tribal members. As such, he oversees a Tribal Government employing approximately 300 people. Mr. Melendez was elected Chairman of the nine-member Tribal Council in 1991. He is the second American Indian to serve on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights.


Congress appointed San Francisco attorney Michael Yaki to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in February 2005. Mr. Yaki is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and past senior advisor to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.




Gail Heriot is a Professor of Law at the University of San Diego. Among her areas of expertise are civil rights, employment law, product liability, remedies and torts. Her work has appeared in legal journals like the Michigan Law Review, the Virginia Law Review and the Harvard Journal on Legislation. She also frequently writes for popular newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, the National Review, the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union Tribune. She is the editor and an author of a forthcoming anthology of essays entitled, "California Dreaming: Race, Gender, Proposition 209 and the Principle of Non-Discrimination."


Professor Heriot is a former civil rights counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary and a former Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at George Mason University Law School. She has also served on several boards and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Scholar.


Prior to entering academia, she practiced law at the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson and the Chicago law firm of Mayer, Brown, & Platt. She clerked for the Honorable Seymour F. Simon of the Illinois Supreme Court.


Todd Gaziano is a Senior Fellow in Legal Studies and the Director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, a non-partisan, research and education institution. At Heritage, Mr. Gaziano specializes in constitutional issues, Supreme Court developments, and judicial and legal reform. In this capacity, Mr. Gaziano works to promote equal protection for all Americans and the structural limits on government, he hosts public events and conferences on legal reform issues, and he directs the Center’s moot court program, which hosts practice arguments for the oral advocates arguing important Supreme Court cases.

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