A federal judge ruled on October 1 that the Trump administration cannot release a report created by the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said in his ruling that the commission, which was ostensibly convened to study policing in America, “lacked the diversity necessary to address issues plaguing policing,” according to CBS News.
Bates ruled in favor of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), which filed a lawsuit in April against both the policing commission and Attorney General William Barr for their involvement. LDF argued that the commission, which is solely made up of current and former law enforcement officials, was in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). FACA requires “fairly balanced” membership on advisory committees, but LDF argued that the government stood in the way of the group joining the Commission and didn’t even allow it to formally apply for membership.
According to CBS:
None of the 18 commissioners appointed to “study a broad range of issues regarding law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” and then make recommendations to the president through the report, have any background in “criminal defense, civil rights or community organization,” Bates noted in his decision.
The judge also referred to the commission’s proceedings as “far from transparent” in his 45-page opinion. He continued:
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.
Bates concluded that the government did not satisfy the obligations of “forming and conducting a commission in 2020 to examine the sensitive and important issues affecting American law enforcement and the communities they serve.” The court thereby ordered that “Commission proceedings be halted—and no work product released—until the requirements of FACA are satisfied.”
Shortly after Judge Bates announced his decision, Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director-counsel, released a statement. “Any federal committee designed to make recommendations about law enforcement must include representation from people and communities impacted by police violence, civil rights organizations, the criminal defense bar and other stakeholders,” she said.
Miriam Krinsky, founder and executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, spoke to NPR about Judge Bates’s ruling and called it “a victory for all those who are working towards building a more fair and just criminal legal system—one grounded in racial equity and that promotes community safety and well-being.”
“Sadly, at a time when trust in law enforcement is at an all-time low,” she contined, “this commission represents nothing more than a sham proceeding designed to further a political agenda.”