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Mr. Smith said he was “pleased” to hear that Mr. Fine’s office was looking into the matter. He said recent allegations of politicization within the Justice Department had raised “serious concerns.”

“In order to preserve equality under the law, we must ensure that the Justice Department enforces the law without prejudice. I look forward to seeing the results of Inspector General Fine’s review of this matter,” he said in a statement.

The OPR probe of the New Black Panther Party case began in August 2009 and has never been made public.

The order giving jurisdiction to OPR to investigate the actions of attorneys in the exercise of their legal authority — up to and including the attorney general — was first issued by Attorney General Janet Reno during the Bill Clinton administration. The order was reissued by Attorney General John Ashcroft during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Because the order was later codified by Congress, it requires congressional action to change.

The civil complaint was filed in January accusing the New Black Panther Party and two of its members of intimidating voters with racial insults, slurs and a nightstick. A third party member was accused of directing and endorsing their behavior. The incident was captured on videotape and gained national attention after it was shown on YouTube.com.

The charges were dismissed against the party, its chairman, Malik Zulu Shabazz, and Jerry Jackson, a Philadelphia party member. Justice later sought an injunction against Minister King Samir Shabazz, who carried the nightstick, barring him from displaying weapons at polling places until 2012.

“OPR is investigating the department’s handling of the New Black Panther Party case and has been doing so for more than a year,” Mr. Fine said in his most recent letter. “In response to my most recent request, OPR officials have informed us that they are near the end of their investigation and are beginning to draft their report of investigation.”

Mr. Fine noted that his reluctance to investigate the New Black Panther Party case was not motivated by any hesitancy to investigate the department’s senior political leadership. He said the long record of his office demonstrates its willingness to pursue investigations, audits, inspections and reviews throughout the department regardless of the potential reaction by or impact on the department’s leadership.

He said he thinks his office has the authority to conduct what he described as “the broader program review” regarding the civil rights division’s enforcement of voting rights laws — concerns raised by Mr. Lamar and Mr. Wolf.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler has noted that as a general policy, the department does not comment on personnel matters, but she said she could confirm that Mr. Coates had begun an 18-month detail with the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina, beginning in January.

Ms. Schmaler also said the decision to move Mr. Coates to a new position within the department had nothing to do with the New Black Panther Party case but was the result of conversations Mr. Coates initiated with officials within the civil rights division earlier this year.

She also dismissed Mr. Adams‘ accusations as a “good faith disagreement” with ulterior motives.

“It is not uncommon for attorneys within the department to have good faith disagreements about the appropriate course of action in a particular case, although it is regrettable when a former department attorney distorts the facts and makes baseless allegations to promote his or her agenda,” she said in a statement.