Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Justice Dept. Finds No Malfeasance In Black Panther Voter Intimidation Case

Ethics investigators in the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility have concluded their probe into the controversial New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case without finding any misconduct, they said in a letter to lawmakers obtained by NPR.

The letter by counsel Robin C. Ashton to members of the House Judiciary Committee reports that "department attorneys did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately."

Toward the end of his presidency, George W. Bush sued members of the New Black Panther Party for allegedly threatening voters in a polling station. When Obama came into office, his civil rights division decided to back away, enraging some conservatives and making the case a staple on television.

But investigators found no evidence that political considerations came into play in the decision to dismiss three defendants from the case early in the Obama administration or to bring the case in the first place by the Bush administration, the letter said. Rather, the legal teams and their supervisors appear to have differed in their "good faith, reasonable assessments of the facts," Ashton wrote.

The letter confirms a report on today's Morning Edition that said the ethics investigation had turned up no sign of malfeasance.

The episode of alleged voter intimidation at a Philadelphia polling station in November 2008 became a cause célèbre on Fox News and conservative magazines. But the Obama Justice Department consistently denied that political influence or race played a role in the decision to withdraw the case against three of the defendants.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.