The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has begun an official inquiry into the dismissal in May of a civil complaint against the New Black Panther Party and two of its members who disrupted a Philadelphia polling place during the November general elections, the Washington Times reported.
The inquiry is disclosed in an Aug. 28 letter to Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee who first raised questions about the dismissal in May and asked unsuccessfully that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. make available the head of the department's Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division for a closed-door briefing on the decision.
In the letter, Mary Patrice Brown, acting OPR counsel, told the veteran congressman from Texas that the office had "initiated an inquiry into the matter" and that it would "contact you with the results of our inquiry once it is completed." A copy of the letter was obtained by The Washington Times.
"I am pleased that someone at the Justice Department is finally taking the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party case seriously," Smith said Wednesday. "The Justice Department's decision to drop a case against political allies who allegedly intimidated voters on Election Day 2008 reeks of political interference."
Smith said the department's refusal to provide Congress with an explanation for the dismissal "only further raises concerns that political favoritism played a role in this case."