WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Justice Department unit has opened an internal inquiry into how government lawyers handled a controversial case of alleged voter intimidation by members of the New Black Panther Party on Election Day, sources told CNN.
The department did not announce the inquiry. The sources, who asked not to be identified, said the decision does not signal a formal investigation, but reflects responsiveness to lingering concerns.
The Obama Justice Department said in May it was dropping its complaint against three men in Philadelphia who identified themselves as belonging to the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
The complaint against the men, filed in January, alleged that on November 4, during the general election, Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were stationed at the entrance to a Philadelphia polling place wearing the uniform of their organization. The complaint, filed in federal court, said Shabazz brandished a "police style baton weapon."
Video of the incident drew heavy attention on Web sites.
On July 10, Republican lawmakers formally asked the Justice Department's inspector general to "investigate whether improper political considerations led the Justice Department to dismiss a voter intimidation case." In July the inspector general said he was referring the case to the Office of Professional Responsibility, which examines allegations against department attorneys. That office has now opened an inquiry.
"I am pleased that someone at the Justice Department is finally taking the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party case seriously," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who was among those who signed the letter requesting a probe.
"The Justice Department's decision to drop a case against political allies who allegedly intimated voters on Election Day 2008 reeks of political interference," he said.