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Critics contend Assistant Attorney General Loretta King guided more by racial politics than the law

Posted By Caroline May On 12:44 AM 03/21/2011 In Blog - Caroline May | 86 Comments

Attorney General Eric Holder may be the face of the Justice Department, but behind the scenes, a little-known assistant attorney general named Loretta King (no relation to Martin Luther King, Jr.) has been the driving force behind the DOJ’s recent, most questionable racially motivated decisions.

Neck-deep in the more divisive civil rights cases of the past several years — most notably the New Black Panther voter intimidation case and the recent Dayton, Ohio police department’s testing standards issue — the Obama appointed assistant attorney general has many wondering whether her guide is the law or racial politics.

“Some of the most outlandish policies of the Holder Justice Department over the last two years flow directly from Loretta King’s worldview,” J. Christian Adams, who worked with King while serving as a voting rights attorney at the Justice Department, told The Daily Caller.

According to Adams, race-based decision making has been a consistent staple of King’s actions and resume.

In testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the New Black Panther case, former DOJ Voting Rights Section chief Christopher Coates explained that King ordered him to stop asking trial attorney applicants whether they would have a problem dealing with cases involving white victims.

“In the spring of 2009, Ms. King, who had by then been appointed Acting AAG [assistant attorney general] for Civil Rights by the Obama Administration, called me to her office and specifically instructed me that I was not to ask any other applicants whether they would be willing to, in effect, race-neutrally enforce the VRA [Voting Rights Act],” he testified. “Ms. King took offense that I was asking such a question of job applicants and directed me not to ask it because she does not support equal enforcement of the provisions of the VRA.”

Coates’ question was the centerpiece of the much publicized New Black Panther voter intimidation case, which centered around an incident in which members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a Philadelphia voting precinct dressed in militia style garb, one wielding a nightstick, and shouting racial epithets at the potential white voters during the 2008 presidential election.

According to testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, King, in consultation with Steve Rosenbaum, chief of DOJ’s Housing and Civil Enforcement section, was the attorney who ordered the dismissal of the case.

In light of the controversy, which caused the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to launch an investigation into the process, the DOJ issued a statement denying any racial basis for their decision to dismiss the case.

“The department makes enforcement decisions based on the merits, not the race, gender or ethnicity of any party involved,” said a DOJ spokesman. “We are committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of both the civil and criminal provisions of the federal laws that prohibit voter intimidation.”

Civil Rights Commissioner Todd Gaziano, however, was not only horrified by the decision to dismiss the case, but by what the investigation actually turned up.

“The bigger issue was the testimony we uncovered while we were trying to investigate — that there is a pervasive atmosphere of hostility to race-neutral enforcement and that Loretta King led the effort,” Gaziano told TheDC. “The most important thing was testimony from four witnesses…that there is a racial double standard to the enforcement and that Loretta King shared and directed it as acting head. That is what the evidence suggests. And no one in the Justice Department has denied the specific facts or specific allegations. All we have are denials of the conclusion.”

In 2009, King was one of the lead attorneys who went after Georgia’s voter verification program, which was instituted to ensure those voting were actually U.S. citizens. The DOJ argued that the process was discriminatory. Georgia was ultimately able to continue the program, but not before Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel issued a scathing rebuttal of the DOJ’s efforts.

“The decision by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to deny preclearance of Georgia’s already implemented citizenship verification process shows a shocking disregard for the integrity of our elections,” Handel wrote. “DOJ has thrown open the door for activist organizations such as ACORN to register non-citizens to vote in Georgia’s elections, and the state has no ability to verify an applicant’s citizenship status or whether the individual even exists…Clearly, politics took priority over common sense and good public policy.”

In North Carolina, King was the lead attorney in a case which halted the city of Kinston’s decision not to list candidates’ party affiliations. In a letter to the city, King expressed her distaste for the measure, saying it would harm minorities’ ability to be elected.

“Removing the partisan cue in municipal elections will, in all likelihood, eliminate the single factor that allows black candidates to be elected to office,” she wrote. “In Kinston elections, voters base their choice more on the race of a candidate than his or her political affiliation, and without either the appeal to party loyalty or the ability to vote a straight ticket, the limited support from white voters for a black Democratic candidate will diminish even more. And given that the city’s electorate is overwhelmingly Democratic, while the motivating factor for this change may be partisan, the effect will be strictly racial.”

In New York, King is currently the lead attorney in an effort to disregard low test scores to allow more minority candidates to become firefighters. The effort, as some have pointed out, disregards the 2009 New Haven firefighter case, Ricci v. DeStefano. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that objective test results could not be thrown out merely to meet a desired racial outcome.

The Washington Times reported in January that King had written a memo to the attending judge in the aforementioned New York firefighter test score case recommending strategies for equity.

“[She pitched] four proposals to require ‘representative’ or ‘proportional’ quotas. Ms. King glosses over the professional challenges of firefighting to focus on whether minorities feel ‘stigmatized’ or if black firefighters could further their ‘sense of fairness in their place of employment’ if surrounded by more workers of their own race,” the Times reported.

Last week, reports came out of Dayton, Ohio that the DOJ, led by King, is compelling the Dayton Police Department to lower their test standards to make the equivalent of an “F” a passing grade. The reasoning behind this: the DOJ believes that not enough African Americans are passing the test.

“Through our agreement with Dayton, we will limit the exclusionary effect of the city’s test while enabling the city to meet its urgent hiring needs and identify qualified candidates through individualized interviews,” DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa explained in an e-mail to TheDC. “The city’s hiring process doesn’t stop at the test; they will have the opportunity to interview all applicants from the broadened pool who also pass a background check.”

The Dayton ABC affiliate reports that even the Dayton chapter of the NAACP believes this goes too far.

“The NAACP does not support individuals failing a test and then having the opportunity to be gainfully employed,” said Dayton NAACP President Derrick Foward. “If you lower the score for any group of people, you’re not getting the best qualified people for the job.”

According to some who know her, King simply won’t allow even Supreme Court decisions to get in the way of her pushing race-based policies.

“I know [King]. I worked with her, and look, she is somebody who believes in racial quotas and she is not going to allow a Supreme Court decision, like Ricci, prevent her from what she wants to do,” said Hans Von Spakovsky, former counsel to the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, explaining why King has continued to push forward with cases like Dayton.

King declined to comment to TheDC.

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