Jones asks president to appoint members to empty civil rights cold case board

Current Work | Fri, 06/12/2020 at 03:15 PM

(Alabama Political Reporter) – U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday asked President Donald Trump to appoint members to a board meant to review and make public civil rights cold case files. 

Jones and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, drafted the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018, which Trump signed into law January 2019, but since then the President has not appointed any board members. 

Congress later appropriated $1 million requested by the White House to implement the act, yet there’s been no work done, Jones said in a letter to the President. 

“When you signed the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018 on January 8, 2019, you helped this country take an important step towards finding truth and reconciliation for families and communities still struggling with the pain of unsolved civil rights crimes,” Jones wrote to the President. “As our country is once again grappling with important questions related to civil rights, I urge you to appoint the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board as expeditiously as possible and fulfill the promise of this important legislation.”

Jones prosecuted two of the former Klansmen responsible for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four black girls, and in 2007 he  testified to the House Judiciary Committee supporting the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act that set the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate civil rights cold cases.

Read the full letter below: 

June 12, 2020

 Dear President Trump,

When you signed the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018 (“the Act”) on January 8, 2019, you helped this country take an important step towards finding truth and reconciliation for families and communities still struggling with the pain of unsolved civil rights crimes. As you will recall, the Act requires government offices to submit files and records about civil rights cold cases to the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”). The legislation also establishes a Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board to facilitate the review, transmission to NARA, and public disclosure of the records related to these civil rights cold cases. The Act gives you the authority to appoint the members of the Review Board and provides that the appointments shall be made within 60 days of enactment. 

It is my understanding that the White House has received recommendations for the Review Board, as provided by the Act, but as of the date of this letter, no Board members have been appointed and no work has begun to fulfill the purposes of the Act. Although Congress appropriated $1 million in the FY20 budget for the work of the Board, we are nearing the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, and I am concerned that those funds will go unused if the Board is not put in place soon.

In your January 8, 2019 signing statement, you said, “the Administration considers civil rights cold cases to be a matter of public importance,” and you encouraged Congress to appropriate funds to implement the goals of the Act, which your statement fully supported. As our country is once again grappling with important questions related to civil rights, I urge you to appoint the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board as expeditiously as possible and fulfill the promise of this important legislation.

If I or my staff can be of any assistance in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Doug Jones

Cc: Senator Ted Cruz, original cosponsor of the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018

(Eddie Burkhalter, Alabama Political Reporter)