Washington, DC – A federal judge ordered President Donald Trump’s commission studying law enforcement issues in the nation to halt activity on Thursday because no civil rights leaders had been included on the panel.
U.S. District Judge John Bates, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled that the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice broke the Federal Advisory Committee Act when it stacked the review panel with former and active-duty law enforcement officials, The Washington Times reported.
The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requires government commissions to get input from “fairly balanced” viewpoints.
Bates said in his 45-page ruling that it was a problem that none of the commission members were representing the opposite side of the issue, The Washington Times reported.
“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience, examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” the judge opined.
Bates’ ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund (LDF) earlier in the year, The Washington Times reported.
The NAACP’s lawsuit named both the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and Attorney General William Barra as defendants.
Bates ruled that the plaintiff had suffered injury because its voice was denied access to the panel, The Washington Times reported.
“Because Attorney General Barr appointed the Commissioners at the same time as establishing the Commission, and only selected from those with law enforcement backgrounds, it does not appear that LDF and its representatives had an opportunity to formally apply for Commission membership,” he wrote.
The judge ordered both parties to submit briefs with recommendations on giving the commission a “fairly balanced” membership, according to The Washington Times.
There are currently no defense attorneys, civil rights organizations, or academics seated anywhere on the commission.
“The Court is hard pressed to think of a starker example of non-compliance with FACA’s fair balance requirement than a commission charged with examining broad issues of policing in today’s America that is composed entirely of past and present law enforcement officials,” Bates wrote in his ruling, according to Politico.
“The Commission includes no members from civil rights groups like LDF. Nor does it include any criminal defense attorney, academic, civic leader, or representative of a community organization or social service organization,” he pointed out.
“Instead, all eighteen Commissioners are current or former law enforcement,” the judge added. “This is precisely the type of imbalance that FACA sought to prevent.”
The Presidential law enforcement commission was launched in January as a follow up to an executive order that established its creation in October of 2019.
The panel was tasked with studying mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, and other issues impacting crime reduction efforts by the law enforcement community, The Washington Times reported.
DoJ said at the time the commission was created that it would study “modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of the American people to reduce crime.”
All 18 commissioners appointed to the group were former or current law enforcement officials, The Washington Times reported.
The commission has 15 working groups, too, but the membership of those panels is mostly police and prosecutors.
Bates said that the policing panel’s work violated federal open meeting laws, Reuters reported.
The commission’s final report had been slated for delivery to Barr in October, but the judge put the kibosh on those plans until the makeup of the commission is remedied, according to Politico.