Civil Rights Cold Case Investigations Support Act of 2022

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 14, 2022
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, in 2019, President Trump signed the Civil Rights Cold Case Investigations Support Act into law after it passed with broad bipartisan support in Congress.

The act directed the National Archives and Records Administration to make a collection of previously sealed civil rights cold case records available for public scrutiny. It also required the National Archives to establish a process for Federal agencies to transmit cold case records--older records from about 1940 to 1979--to the National Archives.

To do this, an independent agency review board was established to review the National Archives' civil rights cold case records and evaluate which public record disclosures should be postponed.

The review board is also charged with investigating cold case records and requesting relevant documents held by government agencies and the courts be transferred to the National Archives. However, this board was not fully formed until this year, leaving the review board with less time than Congress intended before it terminates at the end of 2024.

The bill before us today, the Civil Rights Cold Case Investigations Support Act, will extend the review board's term until 2027. This extension will allow the board to increase the volume of cold case documents made available to the public. This will enable journalists, students, and others to lend their expertise to help investigate and resolve unsolved civil rights cold cases.

According to the Department of Justice, about 115 civil rights cases remain unsolved, and the older the cases become, the less likely they will ever be solved.

The 2019 law was necessary to establish a specific process for addressing cold case records instead of having citizens rely on the Freedom of Information Act to directly request individual records from law enforcement agencies. The Freedom of Information Act is a valuable Federal records transparency tool, but it is not designed for enabling efficient access to open criminal cases.

Every cold case that is solved as a result of this legislation will provide long-awaited answers to the surviving family members of the victims and bring about resolution to the local communities where these crimes occurred.

S. 3655 will ensure that the review board has the necessary time to complete its critical work.

Mr. Speaker, I thank Senators Ted Cruz and Jon Ossoff for moving this bipartisan legislation through the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I also thank the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Ranking Member James Comer for their support.

Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York.

Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York.

Mrs. WATSON COLEMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Black Americans who were assaulted, terrorized, and killed during the Jim Crow era.

Our Nation has a long and troubling history of failing to deliver justice for victims of racially motivated violence. One could draw a direct line from the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 to the killing of Trayvon Martin just 10 years ago. In neither case were the killers convicted.

Willie James Howard, Lamar Smith, and Reverend George W. Lee are but a few of the countless Black Americans who were killed for the crime of existing while Black in the Jim Crow South. In not one of these cases was a single perpetrator brought to justice.

I am proud of the students from Hightstown, New Jersey, in my district, who took time to write the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act with my friend, Congressman Bobby Rush. I am now calling on this Chamber to pass the Civil Rights Cold Case Investigation Support Act, which will extend authorization of that legislation.

By passing this bipartisan bill, we can begin to heal the wounds of our past and demonstrate that racist violence has no place in America.


Mr. KELLER. Mr. Speaker, this bipartisan bill continues to make information regarding cold cases available to the public. The American people deserve transparency from their Federal Government. I encourage my colleagues to support this bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.

Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York. Mr. Speaker, I urge passage of S. 3655, and I yield back the balance of my time.