Four Congressional Republican leaders have charged that the U.S. Justice Department brokered an “unprecedented” deal with Minnesota’s capital city last year, agreeing not to join two housing-related lawsuits against St. Paul as long as the city pulled out of a U.S. Supreme Court case.
The city was lobbied by former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO and many others over the court case, worried that a legal victory would gut protections for minorities in the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights legislation, TwinCities.com reports.
In a letter on Monday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and House Oversight Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-NC, questioned the Justice Department’s role in St. Paul’s decision.
The GOP leaders charged that Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez, over the objections of staff lawyers, "enticed the city to drop its lawsuit that Mr. Perez did not want decided by the Supreme Court," TwinCities.com reports.
"One of the features of this quid pro quo, distinguishing it from a standard settlement or plea deal, was that it obstructed rather than furthered the ends of justice," they wrote.
They're asking four attorneys from Holder's office to submit to interviews by Friday. They include former U.S. attorney for Minnesota, B. Todd Jones, who is now the acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The others are Perez, Tony West and Chad Blumenfield.
The Justice Department has yet to respond in writing to the request.
In the lawsuit, Magner vs. Gallagher, a dozen St. Paul landlords argued that the city's extensive efforts to inspect and condemn their properties — "code to the max" philosophy — decreased the amount of affordable housing available to minorities, a violation of, or "disparate impact" under, the federal Fair Housing Act.
The city argued otherwise, and many civil rights advocates worried that the city would have won the argument, inadvertently creating huge exceptions to the act and other civil rights legislation, TwinCities.com reports.
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