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.
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