The Corner

Civil Rights Division Lawyers Slapped With Sanctions

For the last nine months, the Justice Department has been stonewalling requests for more information about its dismissal of the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther party. The department has denied requests for information about the case from newspapers and members of Congress, and is refusing to comply with subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

But that’s not the only case where the Justice Department has been reluctant to show its work. This week, a federal district court in Kansas imposed sanctions on the same Civil Rights Division (CRD) officials who spiked the Panthers case, Loretta King and Steve Rosenbaum, for their refusals to provide information in another case. Breaking the president’s promise to have the most transparent administration in history, Rosenbaum and King’s concealment of information will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars.

I previously wrote about a sanction of $587,000 in attorneys’ fees imposed against the department and King in Johnson v. Miller, a redistricting case that went all the way to the Supreme Court during the Clinton administration. In this latest case, U.S. v. Sturdevant, the Housing Section of the CRD filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas claiming discrimination. The Housing Section is headed by Rosenbaum, and the CRD was headed by King during the relevant time in this case.

The U.S. Magistrate Judge, David Waxse, a former legal counsel for the ACLU in Kansas and western Missouri, is not exactly a conservative in ideology or temperament. Yet he has awarded sanctions against the individual Housing Section attorneys handling the case, because Rosenbaum and his cadre of lawyers would not answer interrogatories from the defendants requesting information.

What is clear from reading the order is that, as usual, the CRD made broad accusations of discriminatory conduct when it filed its complaint, but when it was asked to provide specific examples or actual evidence of such discrimination, it failed to do so. Lawyers for both sides have until January 20 to determine the amount of the award to be made to the defendants. While the CRD lawyers “shall be solely responsible for paying the monetary sanctions,” there is no doubt the department will reimburse them, so the American taxpayer will end up footing the bill for Rosenbaum’s outrageous behavior and his failure to properly supervise the lawyers who work for him. That particular sanction is also very unusual — I have never seen a sanction order directed at individual lawyers that specifically says their employer is not responsible for paying the costs.

Just a reminder: During the Clinton administration, the CRD was sanctioned in eleven different cases for over $4.1 million for filing frivolous and unwarranted discrimination claims. During the Bush administration, when liberals claim there was politicization going on in the division, I am not aware of a single such sanction. Looks like the Obama administration is all set to follow the Clinton’s administration’s example — not quite what one would expect from the supposed “revitalization” of the division that Holder claims it is undergoing.

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