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April 13, 2009

Pondering the fall-out from the Stevens debacle

Today's Legal Times has this piece, headlined "Attorney General Weathers Stevens Fallout -- for Now," which takes early stock of the early aftermath of the latest ugliness in the Justice Department. Here is how it starts:

For the Justice Department, it was a week that might have echoed the toughest days of the Bush era.

First, the department got a very public, and perhaps unprecedented, spanking from a federal judge for mishandling the corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.  U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan targeted six top prosecutors in a criminal contempt investigation for failing to turn over evidence to the defense.  He also took strong aim at the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which had been investigating the prosecutors, and wondered aloud whether the office was up to the job of policing Justice.

That was Tuesday.  On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. replaced the longtime head of the OPR with a veteran prosecutor.  The department insists the switch had been in the works for some time and was unrelated to Sullivan's remarks.  But the day after the move, Holder was being touted in The Washington Post for launching an era of reform at Justice.

In fact, the thing that may have made last week quite different from the Bush years was the public response by, and the political reaction to, Holder and the DOJ.  On Tuesday, just after his department was pummeled in court, he appeared on the "CBS Evening News" with Katie Couric and said that he was "obviously troubled by the findings that -- and the statements that -- Judge Sullivan has made.  But we'll cooperate fully with the investigation that has been ordered."

Holder also faced a fairly mild response from Capitol Hill.  It helped that Congress was in recess. But even strong critics of the OPR stayed fairly silent.  During the scandal over the U.S. Attorney firings, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., pushed a bill that would have beefed up public scrutiny of internal misconduct cases.  Last week, in the wake of the Stevens debacle, a spokeswoman said Lieberman has no plans to reintroduce the legislation.

Whether Holder will stay so lucky remains to be seen.

April 13, 2009 at 09:07 AM | Permalink

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Comments

This is a story about violations of the Rules of Conduct, of Evidence, and of Criminal Procedure.

There is another rule. It requires that lawyers report violations of the above to proper licensing authorities, or the non-reporting lawyers.

Question. If a newspaper law firm subscription list of 100,000 licensed lawyers reading the story can be compiled, have all the lawyer readers violated the Rule of Conduct requiring the reporting if the list of lawyer subscribers were sent to the Disciplinary Counsel?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 14, 2009 10:26:28 AM

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