Grassroots Public Interest Groups Seek Court Permission to Intervene to Defend Florida Clean-up Efforts: ‘…not only are the State of Florida’s list maintenance activities valid, proper, and timely, but… they are also required under federal law.’
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has filed a Motion for Intervention with its client True the Vote to defend the State of Florida’s efforts to clean up voter registration lists against an Obama administration lawsuit (The United States of America v. State of Florida and Ken Detzner (No. 4:12-cv-285)).
Florida initiated a systematic effort to remove ineligible voters from its voter registration lists after Judicial Watch filed a letter of inquiry with Florida election officials on February 6, 2012.
Judicial Watch alerted the State of Florida that failure to maintain clean voter registration lists violates Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). In response to Florida’s efforts to comply with the NVRA, the Obama administration filed a lawsuit on June 12, 2012, asking a federal court to enjoin the state from continuing its purge of illegal voters.
According to Judicial Watch’s motion, filed jointly with Judicial Watch client True the Vote on June 26, 2012, with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division:
[Judicial Watch and True the Vote] seek to enter this lawsuit in order to demonstrate that, not only are the State of Florida’s list maintenance activities valid, proper, and timely, but that they also are required under federal law. Intervention will ensure that the organizational interests of Proposed Intervener True the Vote and the rights and interest of the members of Proposed Intervener Judicial Watch, Inc. are adequately protected and preserved.
As reported by The Associated Press, the State of Florida ordered the removal of 53,000 dead voters from its lists while identifying an additional 2,700 non-citizens registered to vote. Press reports suggest the number of non-citizen voters in the state could be as high as 180,000.
Judicial Watch’s actions in Florida are part of its 2012 Election Integrity Project. According to a comprehensive Judicial Watch investigation, in addition to Florida and Indiana, a number of other states also appear to have problems with inaccurate voter registration lists, including: Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama, and California. Judicial Watch has put election officials on notice in these states that they must maintain accurate voter registration lists consistent with Section 8 of the NVRA or face litigation to enforce the federal law.
On June 11, 2012, Judicial Watch (along with co-plaintiff True the Vote) filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Indiana for failure to comply with voter list maintenance provisions of the NVRA. J. Christian Adams, a former civil rights attorney with the Department of Justice, is of counsel to the groups on these legal actions. The groups are also represented in Florida by the firm, Radey, Thomas, Yon & Clark.
“The Obama Justice Department is evidently hostile to the idea of clean and fair elections,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is shameful that the Justice Department is now in court trying to stop Florida from fulfilling its legal obligation to remove non-citizen, ineligible voters from the voting rolls. We look forward to defending the voting rights of our supporters, the rule of law, and election integrity from an unprecedented attack from this politicized Justice Department.”
“According to polls, most Americans agree that Florida should be making efforts to ensure people who are not eligible to vote are kept off of the voter registration rolls. Not only is this common sense, it is what the law requires. It’s disappointing that the Justice Department is more interested in taking extreme legal positions than protecting the integrity of the 2012 elections,” said True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht.
A recent report by non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) published in February 2012 indicates that approximately 24 million active voter registrations in states across the country – or one out of every eight registrations – are either no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.
Previous Documents Contradict Sworn Testimony by Obama Official that Political Appointees Were Not Involved in Decision to Drop Voter Intimidation Lawsuit
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305
Although an injunction remains in place in the New Black Panther Party case…the filing of the motion for voluntary dismissal largely marked the end of the litigation. As such, the documents prepared subsequent to that event were not prepared in contemplation of litigation and are thus outside the scope of the work-product privilege.
Because the case had essentially ended on May 15, 2009, Judge Walton found that “it is difficult to see how” the 24 documents created after May 15, 2009, “were prepared or obtained because of the prospect of litigation, which is the testing question the Court must answer in evaluating the DOJ’s work-product claim.” Although Judge Walton found that the DOJ improperly withheld the 24 documents under the attorney work product doctrine, Judge Walton concluded that the documents were properly withheld under the deliberative process privilege, an entirely discretionary claim of exemption.Yet, Judge Walton also found that the DOJ failed to satisfy its burden of showing that the 24 documents may be withheld in their entirety. Under the deliberative process privilege, the DOJ may only withhold information that is “predecisional and deliberative.” Judge Walton explained:
As it stands now, the description of the DOJ’s segregation efforts is too general for the Court, and the plaintiff, to evaluate whether any factual material in these documents is ‘inextricably intertwined’ with the deliberative material and would thus permit the DOJ to withhold the documents in their entirety.
Therefore, Judge Walton provided the DOJ a second chance to satisfy its burden by submitting “a renewed motion for summary judgment accompanied by a declaration or other documentation that solely addresses the segregability issue.” If the DOJ fails to “provide adequate detail regarding why these documents cannot be segregated, the DOJ will be required to disclose the non-exempt portions to the plaintiff.”DOJ’s renewed motion for summary judgment is due September 30, 2011. Judge Walton hopes to rule by February 3, 2012.According to a Justice Department document previously produced to Judicial Watch, top political appointees at the DOJ were involved in the decision to dismiss its voting rights case against the New Black Panther Party, including Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, the third highest ranking official at the Obama Justice Department. Attorney General Eric Holder also received “an update on a planned course of action in the NBPP” from Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King, dated May 12, 2009, just three days before the case was dismissed, according to a Vaughn index uncovered by Judicial Watch. A Vaughn index describes documents being withheld from disclosure under FOIA and the basis for the withholdings.Previous documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, which include descriptions of internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision.“The Obama Justice Department is going to extraordinary lengths to make sure no more details emerge regarding the Black Panther scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We already know the Obama administration’s claim that political appointees were not involved in this decision is patently false. And now Justice Department officials continue to fight tooth and nail to stonewall the release of additional information. What else do they have to hide? This new court ruling means we may pry loose some additional information on this voter intimidation scandal.”
White House Emails Detail anti Fox Bias inside Obama White House: “I’m putting some dead fish in the fox cubby — just cause” “[FNC Anchor] Bret Baier…is a lunatic”
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305
Local Immigration Officials Given Wide Latitude to Dismiss Illegal Immigration Deportation Cases, Including For Those Involving Violent Crimes
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305
- Email from Gary Goldman, Chief Counsel for Houston ICE to Riah Ramlogan, ICE’s Director of Field Operations, August 6, 2010:
I was uncertain whether to write you this short note but I am comfortable in doing so.In brief, I will push every policy that was disseminated to the Chief Counsels to my staff…effectively and quickly. I understand the responsibilities of my position and I take great pride in my work. I will…ensure each attorney is fully knowledgeable and compliant with policies regarding courtroom expectations, written work, humanitarian cases, reporting requirements, etc.
(Ramlogan’s response to Goldman’s efforts, August 10, 2010: “Outstanding, Gary.”)
- Memo from Goldman to all attorneys, Office of Chief Counsel, August 12, 2010 (ultimately rescinded per the instruction of ICE headquarters):
Beginning immediately on all duty files and court files every attorney must determine whether the case may be amenable to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion pursuant to guidelines outlined in the June 30, 2010 Assistant Secretary John Morton memorandum…If the crime is remote in time and the alien has a substantial number of equities, all factors will be weighed to determine if an exercise of PD [prosecutorial discretion] is appropriate.
- Memo from Goldman to all attorneys, Office of Chief Counsel, August 16, 2010 (ultimately rescinded per the instruction of ICE headquarters):
ICE Senior Leadership does not want their attorneys to merely fill a seat in immigration court and blindly prosecute every case handed to them. The current administration wants attorneys of greater sophistication, independence and complexity in decision making…
Moreover, despite the claims of immigration officials, ICE attorneys sought to block deportation proceeding for illegal aliens with violent crime offenses. A spreadsheet obtained by Judicial Watch lists the specific violent crimes that immigration officials were prepared to overlook. They include: sexual assault, solicitation of murder, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, and kidnapping, as well as numerous drug charges.Following the press coverage of the memo, which resulted in widespread outrage, immigration officials sought to contain the damage by narrowing the scope of the policy change:
- An email from Raphael Choi, Chief Counsel for Arlington ICE to Gary Goldman, August 18, 2010:
…in-house I’m way behind. We continue to review cases piecemeal. The problem is every time I’m about to wield a blunt instrument to our docket, some case shows up in the press that gives me pause. I think its given Riah pause too.
- Letter from Ramlogan to Goldman on the day the Houston Chronicle exposed the new policy on deportations, August 25, 2010:
I am concerned that your interpretation of the memorandum, although well-intentioned, could create a gap in basic immigration enforcement. Your approach that our attorneys should only litigate cases within the agency’s highest priorities is not an accurate interpretation of the Assistant Secretary’s guidance and is not consistent with agency policy…please immediately rescind your memoranda.
(Note: Ramlogan had been provided a copy of Goldman’s memo on August 10, 2010 but provided no comment until the day the Houston Chronicle story was published.)
On June 17, 2011, John Morton sent another memo to all field officers, special agents and to the chief counsel further defining the term “prosecutorial discretion.” “In basic terms, prosecutorial discretion is the authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide to what degree to enforce the law against a particular individual,” Morton writes. Critics point out that this is precisely the type of “selective enforcement” the DHS has denied fostering with its new deportation policy.“These documents show that the Obama administration is implementing ‘stealth amnesty,’ which is an end-run around the rule of law and Congress.” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama administration doesn’t seem to care about its constitutional responsibility to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ by pushing the selective enforcement of immigration laws. And they are thumbing their noses at Congress and the American people by stonewalling information requests and lying to cover up their stealth amnesty scheme. Congress should initiate a full investigation to get to the truth of the matter. The lawlessness must stop.”
Grant Recipient, Affordable Housing Centers of America, Criticized in 2010 Inspector General Report for Misappropriating Federal Funds
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305
Obama Administration Reportedly Implementing Policies that Grant Legal Status to Illegal Aliens without Approval of Congress
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305
- Any and all records of, and/or records concerning, Department of Homeland Security briefings regarding a systematic review of pending immigration cases against suspected illegal immigrants in Houston, Texas.
- Any and all records of general guidelines issued to Department of Homeland Security attorneys, allowing dismissal of pending immigration cases.
- Any and all records detailing the determination and implementation of a systematic review of pending immigration cases against suspected illegal immigrants in Houston, Texas.
- Any and all correspondence with non-governmental organizations…concerning the process for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to give consideration of possible dismissal of pending immigration cases.
DHS acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests. However, to date, the agency has failed to provide responsive documents. DHS has not indicated when a response will be forthcoming. In both cases, DHS has failed to respond in the statutory allotted timeframe precipitating Judicial Watch’s lawsuits. (Reporting by The Associated Press suggests that DHS political appointees have improperly delayed FOIA requests on politically sensitive topics.)The Obama administration has been heavily criticized for their alleged plan to bypass Congress and enact “stealth amnesty.” In June 2010, the press uncovered a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service “draft” memo that outlined ways to grant legalization to illegal aliens without going through Congress.The August 24, 2010, edition of The Houston Chronicle reported the government had already put one such plan into action: “The Department of Homeland Security is systematically reviewing thousands of pending immigration cases and moving to dismiss those filed against suspected illegal immigrants who have no serious criminal records…Culling the immigration court system dockets of noncriminals started in earnest in Houston about a month ago and has stunned local immigration attorneys, who have reported coming to court anticipating clients’ deportations only to learn that the government was dismissing the cases.”Despite evidence to the contrary, Obama claimed on Monday, March 28, 2011, that he does not have a plan in place to suspend deportations. “There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president,” Obama said.“President Obama may deny he has a plan to suspend deportations but the experience of immigration attorneys in Houston suggests otherwise. That’s why it’s critical that Homeland Security follows the open records FOIA law and turns over these records. The American people need to know if the Obama administration has decided to flout our immigration laws and enact stealth amnesty for illegal aliens who are unlawfully here in the United States. The stonewalling by the ‘transparent’ Obama administration suggests it has something to hide,” stated Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305
- When: Tuesday, March 15, 201110:15 AM ET
- Where: Dirksen Senate Office BuildingRoom 226
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing is entitled “The Freedom of Information Act: Crowd-Sourcing Government Oversight.” Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is Chairman of the Committee, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) is the Ranking Minority Member. To view the House Government Reform and Oversight proceedings Thursday live online click here: http://oversight.house.gov/
- When: Thursday, March 17, 20119:30 AM ET
- Where: Rayburn House BuildingRoom 2154
The hearings are being held as part of Sunshine Week 2011 — March 13-19. Sunshine Week is a national initiative by the news media, nonprofits and other organizations interested in promoting government transparency.