Below is a section of the IG report on the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, amply confirming longstanding allegations by Christian Adams, Chris Coates, Hans von Spakovsky, and others that the division is full of people who are openly hostile to the very notion that civil rights laws merit race-neutral enforcement. The section is chilling.
B. Treatment of Members of the Noxubee Case Team (2006-07)
As discussed in detail in Chapter Three, in 2006 the Voting Section filed a complaint under Sections 2 and 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act against the Noxubee County (Mississippi) Democratic Election Committee and its chairman, Ike Brown. The Noxubee case was developed and litigated by thenSpecial Litigation Counsel Christopher Coates along with two trial attorneys and an intern. This was the Department’s first lawsuit under Section 2 of the VRA against Black defendants alleging denial or abridgment of the rights of White voters on account of race. Numerous witnesses told us that there was widespread opposition to the Noxubee case among the Voting Section career staff because it was being brought against Black defendants on behalf of White voters. We found that as a result of their hostility to the Noxubee case, some career staff harassed a Black Voting Section intern who volunteered to travel to Mississippi to assist the trial team, and mocked Coates for his work on the case.
The intern told the OIG that two career Voting Section employees made disparaging comments directly to him about his involvement in the trial. In particular, the intern recalled being questioned directly and indirectly about why he participated in this trial and told the OIG that Voting Section personnel made comments like: “You know why they asked you to go down there,” “They used you as a token,” and “People are saying, ‘Why did you go down there?’” According to a memorandum drafted by Section management summarizing the incidents, the intern told a Section manager that the Voting Section employees informed him that someone who was attending the trial was reporting his activities and, therefore, the employees knew exactly where he was sitting in the courtroom and what he did at the trial.
Section Chief Tanner subsequently announced that files on one of the drives would be locked to prevent employees from accessing such documents without permission. It appears that the decision to lock the computer files most likely resulted from the discovery of what the team member had done. However, we were unable to question Tanner regarding this matter because he refused to be interviewed by the OIG.
The intern stated that those employees also told him about disparaging comments by other career CRT career employees who questioned why he would work on the case and insinuated that he was assigned to the matter because he was Black and that he had been used as a “token.” The intern told the OIG that he understood that those employees included Pat Tellson, an attorney in the Voting Section, and Ellen Sydney, an attorney in a different CRT section who used to work in the Voting Section.95 The intern stated that he understood from one or more Voting Section employees that Sydney had stated words to the effect that: “They only wanted you down there because you are a black face. How would it look for four white men down there prosecuting all these black people? They wanted you down there to show that it is not white against black. They used you because you were black and they needed a black face.” The intern said that similar comments were directed at his mother, who was employed in a different component of the Division. For instance, the intern stated that one of the Voting Section employees approached his mother and said something to the effect that: “They got [the intern] down there working on this case on behalf of white voters. Why did you let them go down there?”96 According to the intern, he perceived a broader “whisper campaign” in the office about his participation in the Noxubee case after returning from the trial, and he told us that this campaign continued for roughly one year.
The intern told the OIG that the remarks angered and insulted him by suggesting that he was duped into working on the matter. He stated the assertion that he was being used by the Noxubee team was incorrect, noting that he requested to work on the case numerous times. He said the comments affected his ability to do his job because they made him feel ostracized in the office. He said that as a result he kept to himself and stayed in his cubicle to avoid questions about the case. The intern stated that, although he never felt like he was a “token” while working on the case, those statements made him feel as though his participation in the case was wrong.
Sydney denied to the OIG that she made disparaging comments about the intern and his involvement in the Noxubee trial, but stated that she witnessed comments of that nature, including that Tellson had called the intern something to the effect of a “turncoat” in front of his mother. Tellson told the OIG that she believed the intern was being used in the Noxubee matter so that “they could have a black face at counsel table,” but did not recall making comments about the intern’s involvement in the trial. Tellson stated, however, that she told the intern’s mother that it was “just wrong” that the
95 Pat Tellson and Ellen Sydney are pseudonyms.
96 Likewise, Sydney e-mailed an article concerning the Noxubee trial to the intern’s mother, with the statement: “Your federal tax dollars at work….” The intern’s mother forwarded the e-mail, along with Sydney’s comment, to her son shortly after he returned from the trial.
122intern was sent to the trial because she did not believe interns were permitted to travel like that and because the intern was working on a project for her and it would stall while he was at the trial. She stated further that she believed the intern understood that CRT personnel “felt some opprobrium” about his work on the Noxubee matter.
We found that shortly after returning from the trial in early 2007, the intern grew so upset about the incessant comments that he reported them to Voting Section management, who in turn reported the incidents to the CRT Division leadership. The intern’s mother also raised concerns about the matter with Loretta King, then a career DAAG in CRT Division leadership.
CRT management then investigated the incidents, including interviewing the intern and his mother. Christopher Coates, then a Deputy Chief, interviewed the intern and wrote up a lengthy e-mail detailing his allegations. Loretta King also interviewed the intern. King told us she told the intern that “he was a valued employee in the division, that I was very proud of him, that the work he was doing was important to the division, and he should not let people get him down.” She told the OIG that she asked him whether he wanted her to take any action but that the intern told her: “No, I have it under control you know, everything is fine. Don’t worry about it.”
King also interviewed the intern’s mother about the incident and, according to King’s contemporaneous memorandum of the interview, the intern’s mother said that Sydney made statements to her to the effect that the reason her son was working on Noxubee was that the trial team “need[ed] a black face” at their reverse-discrimination trial. The mother also told King that two career non-attorneys later made similar statements to her. The mother told King that she declined to file a formal complaint about these incidents at the time the comments were made because she thought the people were just “being nosy.” In an e-mail about the incidents to the attorney’s supervisor, however, King described the conduct as “quite egregious.” We found that the Division leadership orally reprimanded Sydney for making inappropriate comments to the intern’s mother, as well as additional inappropriate but unrelated statements to other CRT personnel. According to Division records, Voting Section management orally counseled the two career Voting Section employees for making comments to the intern. We found no evidence that Tellson was disciplined. The OIG also uncovered e-mails in which current and former Voting Section attorneys criticized and mocked Coates’s work on the Noxubee case. For instance, in an e-mail sent to four former Voting Section attorneys after the Noxubee complaint had been filed but before the trial began, Sydney referred to Coates as a “klansman.” Likewise, a non-attorney employee in the Voting Section wrote in an e-mail to a Section attorney: “[P]ersonally i think that the 123architects of the [Voting Rights Act] and those who fought and died for it are rolling over in their graves with that perversion of the act … im sorry, but [White people] are NOT covered for a reason.” During the course of the Noxubee trial, a group of current and former Section attorneys exchanged emails that celebrated perceived setbacks for the Department’s case and appeared to express hope that Coates and the Department would lose theNoxubee trial.
97 We found as a result of our e-mail review that after theNoxubee case concluded, current and former Section attorneys who were opposed to the case continued to make derisive comments about Coates and his prosecution of the matter.98 We found no evidence that Division leadership or Coates were made aware of these particular messages at the time, although Coates has on numerous occasions stated that he was the subject of overt hostility in the Section because of his role in the Noxubee case.
Note that, for pursuing a slam-dunk case overwhelmingly validated by the courts, much-decorated civil rights attorney Coates is described be a colleague as a “klansman.” And another employee wrote (utterly wrongly, against the explicit text of the laws) that “[White people] are NOT covered for a reason.” This is truly sickening stuff.