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August 12, 2008

Mukasey admits law-breaking at DOJ, declines to prosecute saying bad press is punishment enough

AG Michael Mukasey admits that Justice Department officials broke the law when they stacked the federal criminal justice system with Republican hacks.

However, Mukasey told the American Bar Association that bad publicity was punishment enough for these malefactors:

I am well aware that some people have called on me and on the Department to take even more drastic steps than those I have described. For example, some commentators have suggested that we should criminally prosecute the people found in the reports to have committed misconduct. Where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we vigorously investigate it. And where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute. But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws.

That does not mean, as some people have suggested, that those officials who were found by the joint reports to have committed misconduct have suffered no consequences. Far from it. The officials most directly implicated in the misconduct left the Department to the accompaniment of substantial negative publicity. Their misconduct has now been laid bare by the Justice Department for all to see. As a general matter in such cases, where disciplinary referrals are appropriate, they are made. To put it in concrete terms, I doubt that anyone in this room would want to trade places with any of those people. [Emphasis added.]

Why isn't it a crime to violate civil service laws? If not, what good are they?

All but one of the officials cited in the reports for misconduct have already left the Justice Department, so they are no longer subject to any form of internal discipline. If these Republican operatives aren't prosecuted, they won't face any consequences at all, except maybe losing their law licenses if their respective bar associations are sufficiently disgusted with them.


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bad press. jesus. thanks for letting this guy through, dems!

Mukasey's remarks are completely disingenuous. It's no mystery that DOJ isn't going to mount a criminal prosecution against Goodling (say) for violating a *civil* statute. The issue is why DOJ isn't criminally prosecuting Goodling for her criminal violations.

Sorry, wrong link -- should've been this one.

Impeachment proceedings for Mukasey should begin immediately.

The subpoenas should be flying like snowflakes, and if they are ignored, those doing so should be arrested and jailed.


This cheeses me off in a big way. Talk about a double standard.

Most of the civil statutes have no criminal sanction. Most laws are not criminal laws, and for this I am grateful.

In the U.S., disciplinary systems vary by jurisdiction for attorneys. I mention this because a search of "Monica Goodling law license" on Google reveals a lot of misinformation on how such disciplinary matters are handled. Some are handled upon referral from a bar association, particularly in some jurisdictions where the Bar is a so-called "unified Bar' in which Bar Association membership is mandatory. Others have "voluntary Bar Associations" only, where one's license is not handled through an association (either in acquisition or in discipline).

In Maryland, for example, I am a member of the Maryland Bar and of the Maryland State Bar Association. To join the latter, I must be in good standing with the former, but the converse is not true. I pay dues to each separately (and currently have their invoices in my non-email box....) Maybe slightly more than 1/2 of Maryland lawyers are MSBA members. If I violate (or am suspected of violating) one or more of Maryland's Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct, the Attorney Grievance Commission through long-standing Bar Counsel Melvin Hirshman, Esq., will mail me some unpleasant correspondence, but the MSBA (or anyone else) won't know about it unless I get substantial public discipline by the Commission or the Court of Appeals.

I cannot seem to find out where Ms. Goodling is licensed. She is from PA and worked in Virginia for some period, but not necessarily in a capacity that would require her to be licensed there. She's not licensed in Maryland. The details on this sort of thing matter because a private Bar Association in a conservative state might be willing to "play friendly" to her, whereas a publicly-funded, publicly-managed disciplinary system such as Maryland's is fairly insulated from politics.

The big catch-all rule in many disciplinary systems is Rule 8.4(d) as modified from the American Bar Association Model Rules (which are not binding in themselves, except as adopted locally.): "Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice." In Maryland, failure to file income taxes is considered conduct prejudicial. It's hard for me to imagine how firing or declining to hire extremely qualified personnel in the prosecution of crimes including terrorism, based on their perceived sexual orientation, their admiration of the wrong Republican Cabinet member or their spouses' political affiliation, would not be severely prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Here's my THEORY of the case:

Mukasey is no one's fool. For him to make a public announcement that DOJ officials committed crimes is tantamount to a 'shot heard round the world.' All things being equal, he has given fodder and grist for democratic cannons and grinding mills for the entire time remaining in the political races in 2008.

Mukasey knows there will be hearings and movements and petitions to name the perpetrators, publicize the criminal deeds, and provoke disciplinary actions from the appropriate bar associations and competent judiciaries. These will happen whether he prosecutes or not.

Any indictments before the end of George "The Afraid" Bush's term of office would only serve to provide the names that go on the list of presidential pardons before January 20, 2009. Mukasey would only be spinning his wheels and wasting his time for the remainder of Dubya's sorry term as president.

Mukasey has handed a 'presumptive' Democratic administration and Congress all the information they need to reverse the AG's prosecutorial discretion, once they take office. Don't beat up on Mukasey at this juncture. However, if a Democratic administration and Congress fail to indict after January 20, 2009, then don't stop beating up on them until they indict or resign.

I'll say this and be very clear.

I work at a federal government agency. Any discussion of political favoritism or demonstration of favoritism based on political views is grounds for IMMEDIATE dismissal of tenured civil service employees. Period.

It is one of the few transgressions in Federal civil service that can get one dismissed immediately.

Except at the DOJ, I guess.

Sorry; I let my posting get ahead of me. To continue my post above:

Expressing political favoritism in a hire is grounds for dismissal of a tenured government employee. That employee will not necessarily be prosecuted - that is at the sole discretion of the US Attorney, if s/he is notified of the transgression.

I am not a lawyer...the next paragraph is conjecture based on what I've heard from civil servants lately....

However, if a pattern of political favoritism in hiring is shown by a group of people within a federal agency, it's almost certain that (at least in the Clinton days when government tried to be responsible) the group would be prosecuted for conspiracy to subvert civil service regulations. I would think this provision would be more strictly enforced at the DOJ, the cradle of justice and neutrality for our government.

It makes me sad how far our government has fallen.

Thanks Bruce and Doug B for helpful explication of some of the details relevant to this story.

Bruce, if Goodling's case were referred to the appropriate state bar or bar association, what's the range of sanctions that might be considered?

Marrying Mike Krempasky -- or really anyone from RedState -- really is punishment enough, though.

I do not fault Senators Lahey, Schummer, Feinstein, Specter, and Hatch for pushing through the nomination of Mukasey for USAG. Most of you know that in a different situation there would have been much more time and scrutiny devoted to a nominee for the highest law enforcement office in the country.

Lahey was explicit about the need for a real AG, immediately, and it was far greater than the need to hold the usual hearings. The management of the AG's office was in a shambles, to say nothing of the depths of moral and professional corruption. Career employees at Justice were as demoralized and marginalized as they could get. Gonzales was a professional disgrace who couldn't tell the truth, or remember enough of it, if anything at all. At the very least, the Senators felt it was more important to stall and then reverse the disintegration of the integrity of the AG's office, than to wait for the completion of a protracted hearing. In my personal opinion, it was the right thing to do.

We were all miffed and disappointed by the hesitant and overly parsed statements of Mukasey in committee hearings since his appointment. No less than Lahey, himself, expressed impatience and discouragement over some of Mukasey's responses. Yes, we thought we would get more out of him.

Mukasey's appointment was clearly an interim one of a respected jurist who could save a sinking and listing ship, plug the holes, right the vessel, and salvage most of her crew and cargo. After January 20, 2009, there will be an opportunity to refit, rotate and retrain the crew, and remission with new orders. If you don't see that, then the electorate that will (presumably) put the democrats into power should demand some democratic heads on a platter.

when I go on a spree talk dirty about me.
That will PUT me in my place.
Hit me with your best shots.

I'll split the loot with you.

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