Monday, June 18, 2007

Gee, You Think Maybe?

The fallout from the Department of Justice "Saturday Night Massacre" is now being felt in federal courtrooms as defendants now argue that prosecutions have been brought for solely for political reasons. You didn't need 20/20 vision to see this coming. From an article in today's Los Angeles Times:

Defense lawyers in a growing number of cases are raising questions about the motives of government lawyers who have brought charges against their clients. In court papers, they are citing the furor over the U.S. attorney dismissals as evidence that their cases may have been infected by politics. ...

Missouri lawyers have invoked the controversy in challenging last year's indictment of a company owned by a prominent Democrat, on suspicion of violating federal wage and hour laws. The indictment, which came two months after the owner announced that she was running for political office, was obtained by a Republican U.S. attorney who also has been criticized because he charged workers for a left-leaning political group on the eve of the 2006 midterm election.

Although US Attorneys are appointed by a sitting president, most of us had assumed that the DOJ was above politics when it came to enforcing federal laws. After the revelations in congressional hearings on just what the real priorities were for the Department of Justice under this administration, that assumption doesn't appear to have been valid. As a result, defense attorneys would be committing malpractice if they didn't raise the issue of the potential political reasons for the prosecution. And that's a shame for any number of reasons.

Perhaps the biggest impact will come in political corruption cases. Regardless of the political leanings (and/or donations) of the defendant, if the charges can be proved, that defendant deserves punishment. As Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), himself a former DOJ prosecutor, pointed out in the article, corruption cases are hard enough to prove up. Now, they may be impossible.

For those career prosecutors in the DOJ, the effect must be demoralizing, and the effects on the department will surely be long-term. In other words, another part of the government has been broken by this administration.

Heckuva job, George.



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