Justice Department Robs Peter to Pay Paul

Today's mismanagment news from the Justice Department comes courtesy of the Washington Post's Dan Eggen, who writes about how a half dozen sitting U.S. Attorneys are serving double duty in the nation's capitol often at the expense of their work back home. Here is his lead graph: "A half-dozen sitting U.S. attorneys also serve as aides to the increasingly beleaguered Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or are assigned other Washington postings, performing tasks that take them away from regular duties in their districts for months or even years at a time, according to officials and department records."

In Montana, Eggen writes, the situation is so bad that the chief federal judge there called for the removal of William W. Mercer, the U.S. Attorney for the state but also acting Associate Attorney General. Mercer's been spending his time in Washington, and not Billings, and it's apparently (and not surprisingly) affecting the work of the Billings office. Now it is not unheard of for sitting U.S. Attorneys to get "bumped up" to Washington to help out in a pinch. Federal prosecutors often jump at the chance to pad their resume-- for example, Michael J. Sullivan, the U.S. Attorney in Boston, is currently acting as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a move that surely will enhance his career. But it should never happen at the expense of the U.S. Attorney's primary job-- representing his or her jurisdiction by investigating crime and prosecuting cases. That's now what is happening around the country and its neither right nor good.

Eggen's story is particularly relevant now because of the charge leveled against David Iglesias, the former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico. Iglesias was criticized by the folks who eventually fired him, remember, for being "an absentee landlord" because he had to take time away from his day job to serve in the Navy reserve training soldiers. The message is: if you leave your post as U.S. Attorney to help prop up the flailing cronies at the Justice Department in Washington you are merely doing your job-- good for you!-- but if you leave your post to honor your commitment to our armed forces you are jacking around and deserve to be fired.

When I read stuff like this I think of the people who have taken the time to reach out to me lately to tell me how bad morale is among federal prosecutors all over the country and how badly the current leadership in Washington has affected the work done by U.S. Attorneys from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Even if you happen to love the Bush administration and its hacks at the Justice Department you ought to be concerned, even alarmed, by this trend.

By Andrew Cohen |  April 10, 2007; 8:16 AM ET agag
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Someone has been tracking mud all over the DOJ. Ashcroft got some on his shoes and muddied some halls. Gonzales stepped in some and started a new trail. Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson, etc. all started new trails of mud.

But who brought it in the first place? My guess is that if everything is traced back, it will be Karl Rove's feet that brought the first mud into the department.

Posted by: Nellie | April 10, 2007 09:39 AM

Little Al has never stopped acting like a personal counselor to the President. He must have fallen asleep when he was administered his oath of office and didn't hear that he was supposed to represent all of the American peolple, rather than just the White House.

Politicization of the Justice Dept. is just the continuation of the effort of this administration, whether it be FEMA, General Services Administration, or the "recess appointments."

Now that Monica Goodling has resigned her post, I wonder if she'll be subpoenaed by Congress, so that she can repeatedly "take the Fifth" to questions. How about those real "professionals" who have left Justice because of the pressure from "political appointees?"

It will take more than a new administration to weed out all the incompetent people who have been handed positions of authority just because of their "loyalty."

Posted by: pacman | April 10, 2007 11:32 AM

And don't forget - Mercer was the guy who told two of the fired USAs they were being let go so that other Repubs could get a shot at a USA position to help build their resumes...

This, while he was sitting on the Montana USA job and refusing to give it up even though he's been in DC full time!

Pretty amazing.... I wonder if his interest in hanging on to the Montana seat is so he can keep a lid on the investigation into the Conrad Burns/ Abramoff mess? It sure doesn't look like that inquiry is going anywhere fast....

Posted by: Jeremy | April 10, 2007 11:56 AM

These are interesting details in your commentary, illustrating how professional authority is increasingly dysfunctional in American society.

It doesn't end with lawyers. Add to it, doctors, teachers, investment advisors, engineers, and ministers.

Professions usually involve apprenticeships, whereby principles, practices, and tradecode, are developed as actual working knowledge for the individual under cultivation and close supervision.

Somehow, perhaps a combination of technology, things in a rush, greed, along with some other forms of social compromise and timidity, the result is that professions are broadly much more suspect now than in years past. Lawyers are no special exception, they just figure into a larger social landscape of smart people with decaying character while in positions of significant influence nonetheless. You can start to figure out why some would rather take their case to a Mullah rather than a court.

Posted by: On the plantation | April 10, 2007 01:02 PM

Gonzales will be history soon, but PAUL MCNULTY better be history too. And while they are cleaning house, please, can someone explain why Chertoff's protege, ALICE FISHER, is still in the job, astonishingly, as the Assistant AG for Criminal? Was this someone's idea of a joke? Her ONLY qualification is that Chertoff is her mentor, which is why she's in her job in the first place (and of course, Chertoff is certainly not known for his stellar hiring practices!)

The only thing Alice Fisher knows about criminal law is what she is told by others in her on the job training. It is absolutely scandalous that a lawyer who has NEVER tried a case, let alone been a prosecutor, should be at the helm of some of the nation's biggest, most complex criminal prosecutions-absolutely scandalous.

And Paul McNulty? I'm going to ask again-why is this REPREHENSIBLE man who has NO prosecutorial experience whatsoever (please-don't tell me he was US Atty. for EDVA-he came from the Hill) who would LIE to Congress, as he did recently, CONCEAL information, as he did recently, and then, blame this 33 year old aide for providing him with "inaccurate" information??? PLEASE! The buck stops with you, McNulty, not your 33 year old aide-what you did shows exactly what kind of integrity you really have-which is exactly zero. Reprehensible is too kind a word for you.

I thought I would never in a million years be saying this: but I actually AGREE with Newt Gingrich-sweep house at DOJ, and get this triumvirate of hapless, deceitful, no-knowing-about-what-they-are-doing ideologues OUT OF THERE!!

Posted by: spaceexplorer | April 10, 2007 07:12 PM

Not everything is controlled by The Fredo bandito. I warned you in 2003. Who would burglarize a letter from a U.S. Attorney?

Posted by: Admin | April 10, 2007 07:12 PM

"You can start to figure out why some would rather take their case to a Mullah rather than a court."

Interesting observations, Plantation-amusing, but maybe not so far from the truth!

Posted by: spaceexplorer | April 10, 2007 07:16 PM

Bush is doing for the Republicans what Maggie Thatcher did for the Conservatives in Britain i.e. make them unelectable!

Posted by: Bill MacLeod | April 11, 2007 12:08 AM

Make your plane reservation back to Texas, Gonzo, you are belly up at DOJ. Another Republican travesty courtesy of Deadeye Dick, Mr. Flight Suit, Turd Blossom, and all of the other incompentent draft-dodgers who have run this country into the ground over the past six years.

Posted by: mikeasr | April 11, 2007 12:08 AM

Robbing Peter to pay Paul only results in making Peter sore, and as everyone knows - you cannot do business with a sore Peter.

Posted by: FloydVA | April 11, 2007 12:46 PM

As this article points out, Bill Mercer is the "acting" Associate Attorney General. What it fails to point out is that Mercer has been waiting for a very long time for confirmation by the Senate. If and when the Senate confirms his appointment, he will no doubt resign his U.S. Attorney post in Montana.

Posted by: Montanan | April 12, 2007 07:01 PM

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