The news that Christopher Coates, former chief of the Justice Department’s Voting Section, is set to testify Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is crucial to the panel’s investigation of allegations that the Obama administration has not enforced the nation’s civil rights laws in a race-neutral manner.
The testimony by Coates, a career government lawyer, is expected to shed light on whether DOJ:
Why might Coates be a compelling, and therefore damaging, witness?
• Discriminated against white voters in dismissing the voter-intimidation case against two members of the New Black Panther Party and the party itself that arose from incidents at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008.
• Had a general policy or practice in its Civil Rights Division of not enforcing voting laws when the subjects of complaints were racial minorities.
• Had a racially motivated policy of not enforcing Section 8 of the National Voting Rights Act, which requires states to remove ineligible voters from the voter rolls.
Coates is in a position to confirm key facts in that narrative. One of the most experienced voting rights lawyers in the country, he was a staff attorney for many years for the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Coates received the Thurgood Marshall Decade Award in 1991 from the Georgia NAACP, as well as the Environmental Justice Award in 1994 from the Georgia Environmental Organization.
Major props to a man of character who seems willing to risk his career to do the right thing in pursuit of the truth:
Coates is risking his job and career at the Justice Department to do the right thing, which is itself a terrible injustice. We only can hope that his superiors at DOJ will realize that whistleblower laws exist to protect patriots such as Chris Coates. Let’s also hope that other career lawyers will realize it isn’t worth risking their reputation to follow illegal or unethical orders.
Stand by for fireworks at tomorrow's hearing.