Christopher Coates is a U.S. Justice Department official and former ACLU lawyer. He stepped down as Voting Section chief in December 2009 and transferred to the U.S. Attorney's office in South Carolina. He was involved in a prominent case over voter intimidation that was later dropped, and was not permitted by the department to testify before U.S. Civil Rights Commission Hearing investigating issues related to the case (as of June 23, 2010).
In January 2010 Coates said, "America is increasingly a multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural society. For such a diverse group of people to be able to live and function together in a democratic society, there have to be certain common standards that we are bound by and that protect us all. ... For the Department of Justice to enforce the Voting Rights Act only to protect members of certain minority groups breaches the fundamental guarantee of equal protection. ..."
J. Christian Adams has said that Coates, who he worked with on a voter intimidation case involving the New Black Panther Party, was transferred after a confrontation with acting head of the Civil Rights Division Steve Rosenbaum. Adams claims that officials in Barack Obama's administration oppose race-neutral enforcement of the law. In December 2009 the United States Civil Rights Commission issued a subpoena for Coates' testimony on the matter; however, the Department of Justice ordered him not to comply.
On 24 September 2010, Coates defied the DOJ and testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, citing the Whistleblower Protection Act. Coates largely supported Adams' earlier testimony, describing "the atmosphere that existed and continues to exist in the CRD and in the Voting Section against the fair enforcement of certain Federal voting laws", and to statements by several VRS staff attorneys and executives showing hostility towards enforcing voting laws on a race-neutral basis. For example, "a Voting Section career attorney informed me that he was opposed to bringing voting rights cases against African American defendants, such as in the Ike Brown case, until we reached the day when the socio-economic status of blacks in Mississippi was the same as the socio-economic status of whites living there."
- http://pajamasmedia.com/files/2010/09/christopher_coates_testimony_9-24-10.pdf p.1
- Jerry Markon and Krissah Thompson (September 25, 2010). "Justice lawyer alleges bias at agency". Washington Post. p. A1.
- Markon, Jerry; Thompson, Krissah (25 September 2010). "Bias led to 'gutting' of New Black Panthers case, Justice official says". The Washington Post.
- http://pajamasmedia.com/files/2010/09/christopher_coates_testimony_9-24-10.pdf p. 1-2
- http://pajamasmedia.com/files/2010/09/christopher_coates_testimony_9-24-10.pdf p. 5