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Tag: Justice Department

Washington Post Editorial: Prison Rape: Justice Dept. Still Has Long Way to Go to End It

By The Washington Post
Editorial

WASHINGTON — THE LATE SEN. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) did not agree on much. So it was remarkable when they joined to champion the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

Enacted in 2003, the landmark law was meant to address the scourge of sexual abuse behind bars that for too long had been accepted as an unavoidable byproduct of incarceration. It is not. Incidences of sexual abuse represent egregious lapses in institutional order and security. They are inhumane and inexcusable violations that scar tens of thousands of adult and juvenile inmates each year, often complicating their ability to reintegrate into society.

Last week, the Justice Department took an important, long-overdue but still inadequate step toward fulfilling PREA’s promise. In releasing draft regulations to implement the landmark legislation, the department closely tracked many of the recommendations of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, the congressionally created panel that spent some six years studying the problem.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Atty. Gen. Holder Issues Hiring Freeze for Justice Dept.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. has issued a memo calling for a temporary hiring freeze for all Justice Department employees at least until spring, saying the federal government is “facing unprecedented budget challenges”, ABC News reported.

“I anticipate revisiting the Department’s hiring and staff situation in the spring, once we know our likely full-year funding level,” Holder wrote in the Jan. 21 memo, according to ABC’s Jason Ryan. The Justice Department includes prosecutors, support staff and agents from the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service.

Holder said he hoped the steps would “allow us to avoid more severe future measures, such as staff furloughs.”

“While we do not yet know what actions will be taken to fund the Justice Department for the remainder of the fiscal year (FY) which ends September 30, 2011, there is a realistic prospect that the Department will have to operate for the entire fiscal year at last year’s levels,” the memo continued. “This presents significant budget challenges as the cost of our operations and staffing is considerably higher this year.”

“The Justice Department’s budget request for the current fiscal year included a 5.4 percent funding increase, with over 2,800 employees being added to department’s workforce.

“This week, I issued a memorandum to all Component Heads outlining the financial measures that we need to take to ensure the Department can operate through FY 2011 within our budget. Given the Department’s vast size and broad responsibilities, the financial restrictions that I announced will be difficult but given our funding constraints are required.

“One of the measures that I announced was a temporary freeze on hiring. I also directed that components curtail non-personnel spending unless it is necessary for essential operations.”

Read memo

Justice Dept. Honors Robert Kennedy’s 50th Anniversary of Swearing in as Atty. Gen.

doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — On Friday, the Justice Department took pause to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s Swearing-in as  Attorney General in a building named after him.

With Kennedy’s widow Ethel and daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in attendance, along with some other notables,  Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. delivered remarks.

“To Mrs. Kennedy and the Kennedy family, to our distinguished guests, to my colleagues, and to those who have served and supported our nation’s Department of Justice – it is my pleasure, and my great honor, to welcome you to the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building,” Holder said.

“Today, we come together to celebrate the achievements and enduring contributions of our nation’s 64th Attorney General – a man whose legacy continues to guide us, whose memory continues to touch us, and whose example continues to inspire us.”

Atty. Gen. Kennedy with staff/doj photo

“For me, it is a tremendous privilege to be joined by so many former Department leaders who have made this a truly historic reunion. With us, we have former Attorneys General, and a cadre of Assistant Attorneys General, First Assistants, Administrative Aides, line attorneys, and support staff who worked alongside Attorney General Kennedy – in the Criminal Division, the Lands Division, the Antitrust Division, the Tax Division, the Civil Rights Division, and the Attorney General’s Office, among other components.

“I can still remember sitting in the basement of my childhood home in Queens, watching – on our little black-and-white television – the inauguration of a young, charismatic new President. That was January 20th, 1961 – half a century ago. I was in the fourth grade. And I can still recall my mother’s enthusiasm, my father’s pride, and my own sense and certainty that something exciting – something important – was happening.

“The following day was marked by another historical moment, when Attorney General Robert Kennedy was sworn in and – after Justice Department guards initially turned him away for lack of an ID card – was finally shown to his office on the 5th floor of this building.

“That was January 21st, 1961.

doj photo

“Attorney General Kennedy championed the cause of the least among us – and made our nation more just, more fair, and more humane.

“The lessons of his life inspired my own decision, after finishing law school, to come to work in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division – just as Robert Kennedy did shortly after he graduated from law school.”

To see more photos click here.

To read text of Holder’s speech click here.

Az. U.S. Atty. Plans to Try Shooting Case in State

Jared Loughner/pima county sheriff photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke says he wants the prosecution of mass-shooter Jared Loughner to remain in the state.

“For good reason, federal law dictates these offenses be tried in this district,” a Burke spokesman said in a written statement, according to the Arizona Republic “We are moving forward and confident in this course.”

His statement was backed by a Justice Department spokesman in Washington, which contradicted a Washington Post report citing an unnamed federal source as saying it was just a matter of time before it was moved out of state.

U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke

All the federal judges in Arizona recused themselves of the case since Chief U.S. District Judge John Roll was among the six murdered earlier this month.

Loughner is accused of killing six people and wounding 13 including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose appears to improving.

Loughner’s shooting and apparent mental instability have set off a fresh debate over gun control.

Justice Dept. Fights Back Against Attempts to Muzzle Holder and Others in Portland Terrorism Case

Eric Holder/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department is fighting back attempts by defense attorneys to muzzle Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. and other government workers when it comes to pre-trial comments in the terrorism case involving a teen who tried to detonate a bomb in Portland during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in December. It ended up being an FBI sting.

Holder publicly defended the sting and subsequently the defense for Mohamed Osman Mohamud filed a motion to try and prevent pretrial comments, alleging that remarks could taint the case.

Responding to that motion, Portland Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ethan Knight and Jeffrey Sweet filed a brief Monday, saying:

“It is clear that the Attorney General’s remarks struck a proper balance between defendant’s due process rights and the need to inform the public on law enforcement actions.

“The need to inform the public was especially true with respect to sting operations, which although not new have garnered a lot of publicity in the context of this case and others like it.

“Based on the statements described above, defendant now seeks an Order from this Court prohibiting the Attorney General from making “inappropriate pretrial comments.” Defendant’s argument is predicated on the assumption that the Attorney General’s comments were, in fact, somehow inappropriate. They were not.

“As the chief law enforcement official for the United States government, it is entirely appropriate for the Attorney General to address issues of public concern in pending federal cases.”

Moreover, defendant has cited no precedent for the type of order he seeks, and we have found none.”

Read Government Filing

Column: Defense Attorney Says Some Fed Prosecutors Need to be Fired and Indicted for Their Acts

James Burdick is a former Wayne County prosecutor in Detroit and is a criminal defense attorney who also practices health care discipline and is a reinstatement expert at the firm of Burdick Law, P.C. in Bloomfield Hills, Mi. He has also appeared regularly on Larry King Live, Court TV, Geraldo, Good Morning America and other national shows.

James Burdick

By James Burdick

I was reading a recent USA Today article cited in ticklethewire.com, which found 201 cases since 1997 in which courts concluded that federal prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules. In some of  those instances, cases were tossed or sentences were reduced.

It’s good to see those facts unearthed. Still, someone needs to ask the Justice Department: How many of the ASUAs (assistant U.S. Attorneys) who got caught doing these things were fired? (I’m sure only a fraction of offensive behavior was ever discovered, just as few ever get caught pulling off their first bank robbery.)

The other pressing question for the Justice Department is: How many were indicted as they should have been for obstruction or related charges? Answer: Few, if any.

Example: In a drug case I tried in the Western District of Michigan in Grand Rapids, the U.S. Attorney ADMITTED to the Court that the trial AUSA and case agent had withheld “potentially exculpatory evidence.”

In May of 2009, the government filed a motion that said: “A preliminary inquiry had indicated that the Government was in possession of information which may have corroborated the claim of this defendant that he presented at trial, that he himself provided the information which led to his arrest and this indictment. In the interest of justice…..the government will thereafter move to dismiss the indictment…Furthermore, an investigation of Defendant’s allegations has been initiated.”  (Read document)

The case was dismissed against that defendant as a result, but the AUSA is still prosecuting cases and the promised “internal investigation” has resulted in nothing at all (no public disclosure) or has concluded that the AUSA could stay, continue to prosecute, and not get indicted.

What do you think would have happened to a defense attorney who acted that way? He/she would have lost their license, been prosecuted for sure, and landed in prison.

People don’t want to believe that some guardians of justice in this Country can be as corrupt as the criminals they pursue. There’s a reason why prosecutors often joke: “Anyone can convict the guilty; it takes real work to convict the innocent.”

It would be funny if it weren’t so scary.

President Obama Uses Recess Appointment to Install #2 Justice Dept. Official

James Cole/law firm

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Following months of frustration and opposition from Republicans, President Obama last week used a recess appointment to install James Cole to the number two spot at the Justice Department. On Monday, he was sworn in.

The post, deputy attorney general, has been vacant since February. Cole, 58, is a partner at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP since 1995. Republicans have raised concerns about his views on terrorism and his legal work representing the highly problematic American International Group.

Cole began working for the Justice Department in 1979 as part of Attorney General’s Honors Program and served there for 13 years. First he was a trial attorney in the Criminal Division and later he served as the Deputy Chief of the Division’s Public Integrity Section.

He entered private practice in 1992.

“I am pleased to welcome Jim back to the Department of Justice,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said Monday.  “He will be critical in our work to keep the American people safe, ensure the fairness and integrity of our financial markets, and restore the traditional missions of the Department.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Cole’s nomination in July.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Convictions Overturned and Sentences Reduced Because of Fed Prosecutorial Misconduct, USA Today Report Says

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –A USA Today investigation shows that federal prosecutorial misconduct has not only put innocent people in prison, but also set guilty people free, sometimes  by shortening their sentences and allowing them to commit crimes again when they should have been behind bars.

The USA TODAY investigation found 201 cases since 1997 in which federal judges found that prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules.

“Each was so serious that judges overturned convictions, threw out charges or rebuked the prosecutors,” wrote USA Today reporters Brad Heath and Kevin McCoy. “And although the violations tainted no more than a small fraction of the tens of thousands of cases filed in federal courts each year, legal specialists who reviewed the newspaper’s work said misconduct is not always uncovered, so the true extent of the problem might never be known.”

To read full story click here.

Justice Department Response as printed in USA Today:

“Once again, USA TODAY misleads readers by providing a statistically inaccurate representation of the hard work done by federal prosecutors daily in courtrooms across the country by cherry-picking a handful of examples dating back to the 1990s and confusing cases where attorneys made mistakes with cases where actual prosecutorial misconduct was involved.

“An internal review conducted by the department last year found prosecutorial misconduct in a small fraction of the 90,000 cases brought annually. When mistakes occur, the department corrects them as quickly and transparently as possible.

“Attorney General (Eric) Holder has made a priority of preventing mistakes before they occur, instituting a comprehensive training curriculum for all federal prosecutors, and mandating annual discovery training. The Justice Department has taken unprecedented steps to ensure prosecutors, agents and paralegals have the necessary training and resources to properly fulfill their discovery and ethics obligations.”