WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump’s national law enforcement commission has not satisfied its obligations to ensure the group is transparent and its membership is balanced, a federal judge in Washington ruled Thursday.
The 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act outlined requirements to ensure advisory committees have open and public meetings, be receptive to public comment and be made up of members with diverse viewpoints and opinions.
But the government’s commission on the “the vital subject of policing in America during this time of great turmoil over racial injustice and allegations of police misconduct,” U.S. District Judge John Bates wrote in his 45-page opinion, failed to meet those requirements.
The commission is entirely composed of current or former law enforcement, which is “precisely the type of imbalance that FACA sought to prevent,” Bates wrote.
“The Commission’s function is to improve policing, including relations between law enforcement and the communities they protect,” the judge added. “Yet the Commission does not include a single member who represents elements of those communities, rather than law enforcement.”
Siding with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which brought the challenge against Trump’s Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, Bates ordered the commission to halt its proceedings and hold back on releasing any work product until the requirements are satisfied.
Although Bates did not grant the Legal Defense Fund’s request to permanently enjoin the commission from conducting its work, he granted the plaintiff’s request for declaratory judgement that the commission is subject to FACA requirements and violated those requirements.
Bates was not persuaded by the government’s argument that the Legal Defense Fund failed to establish an injury for its imbalanced membership, charter and appointment of a federal officer claims.
The government also argued that the NAACP could not redress or satisfy its issues with the commission, as it has already met on numerous occasions and completed most of its work. While Bates wrote the commission must stop its investigation, the group has already submitted a draft report to Attorney General William Barr, who is restricted from releasing the full report.
Bates noted the commission was not required to submit a final report on national policing practices in the country until late October.
“Even if the Commission has, in fact, already done so, the Commission could exist for up to ninety days after that submission and might be extended by the President,” Bates wrote, referencing Trump’s executive order establishing the commission.
Barr appointed the commissioners when the group was first formed and, according to the judge, ignored a letter from the Legal Defense Fund urging it to add commissioners to make a balance of viewpoints.
This point, Bates wrote, is not disputed. The government made no attempt to prove or argue that the commission is fairly balanced; it only argued that the Federal Advisory Committee Act’s provision is “not justiciable.”
Bates wrote that Barr himself once stated the group needed to hear from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.
“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 wrote.
The Department of Justice did not respond for a request for comment, Thursday.
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