Archive: July 2007

Bench Goes Bye-Bye for a Few Days

If it's okay with y'all, the Bench Conference is going on hiatus for a few days. If major legal news breaks out, I'll find a way to break back into my Movetable Type platform and weigh in. In the meantime...

By Andrew Cohen | July 31, 2007; 7:47 AM ET | Comments (22)

The Death Chamber Gets Darker Still

Yet another judge in yet another state turns a critical eye on failings in death penalty procedures even as legislators try to shield from the public the details about executions.

By Andrew Cohen | July 30, 2007; 9:25 AM ET | Comments (10)

Gonzo Vox Pop, Part II: His Defenders

Yesterday online critics of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales got their moment in the spotlight (such as it is) here at the Bench Conference. Today his supporters get their turn. Nestled in among the hundreds of anti-AG comments are folks who were willing to spend at least a few seconds at their keyboards to chime in on behalf of Gonzales -- or at least against his detractors. There were three main themes to these pro-Gonzo comments. First, I was a biased hack out to "get" the attorney general on behalf of a zealous liberal media. Second, the Clinton-Reno team was far worse than the current partnership of Bush and Gonzales. And third, since the U.S. attorney scandal is none of Congress's business, the AG is right to stick to his story no matter how unpersuasive it appears to be. Of course, none of these arguments posits that Gonzales is a...

By Andrew Cohen | July 26, 2007; 12:21 PM ET | Comments (20)

Gonzo Vox Pop

If so many people are so angry with and frustrated by Alberto R. Gonzales, why isn't more being done to get rid of him?

By Andrew Cohen | July 26, 2007; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (19)

Gonzo on the Hill: A Comedic Tragedy

Forget about the politicization of the Justice Department. Forget about the falling morale there. Forget about the rise in violent crime in some of our biggest cities. Forget about the events leading up to the U.S. Attorney scandal and the way he has handled the prosecutor purge since. Forget about the Department's role in allowing warrantless domestic surveillance. Forget about the contorted and contradictory accounts he's offered before in his own defense. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales deserves to be fired for his testimony Tuesday alone; for morphing into Jon Lovitz's famous "pathological liar" character (or maybe just one of the Marx Brothers) as he tried to dodge and duck responsibility before the Senate Judiciary Committee not just for his shameful leadership at Justice but also his shameless role in visiting an ailing John Ashcroft in the hospital to try to strong-arm him into renewing the warrantless surviellance program. Can...

By Andrew Cohen | July 24, 2007; 11:53 AM ET | Comments (519)

Don't Go Away Mad, John -- Just Go Away

The architect of one dangerous Bush administration policy after another -- torture, warrantless domestic surveillance -- now is defending the White House's dubious assertion of executive privilege in the U.S. attorney scandal. John Yoo, who never dreamed of a presidential power he wasn't willing to turn into an overbearing and arguably illegal policy, writes in today's Wall Street Journal that Republicans should rally around President Bush and help him stave off congressional Democrats' attempts to make former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director Sara Taylor answer under oath relevant questions about the prosecutor purge....

By Andrew Cohen | July 23, 2007; 8:43 AM ET | Comments (37)

Plame Judge: 'Outing' Just Part of the Job

None of us should be surprised that a federal trial judge Thursday tossed out a civil lawsuit brought against current and former Bush administration officials by Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, Joseph Wilson, the man whose op-ed column about yellowcake in Africa started us all down this merry road to ruin. The law is set up precisely to quickly and efficiently take down these sorts of claims and causes; to provide in extraordinary breadth and depth legal immunity to public officials, even sleazy ones; and to make it as difficult as possible for people like the Wilsons, or people like you and me, to successfully challenge in court bad acts and bad actors of our government. Even the unhappy couple, the plaintiffs, can't be surprised that they lost-- and surely they figure they won't prevail on appeal. But what did surprise me, and what ought to surprise you, is...

By Andrew Cohen | July 19, 2007; 3:52 PM ET | Comments (30)

Smoke the Salmon, Hold the Shame

A little smoked salmon, a few bacon-wrapped scallops, and absolutely no sense of shame or irony from the leaders at the Justice Department.

By Andrew Cohen | July 18, 2007; 7:56 AM ET | Comments (32)

Jose Padilla at the Half

The feds on Friday rested their less-than-overwhelming case in the terror support and conspiracy trial of Jose Padilla and his two co-defendants.

By Andrew Cohen | July 16, 2007; 8:09 AM ET | Comments (23)

Wanted: Adult Supervision of the Legal War on Terror

If you truly want to understand how (and here I've reluctantly hewed to Post policy on the use of cuss words) messed up the Bush administration's response has been to the legal war on terrorism, then take some time this weekend to read Georgetown University Law Professor (and occasional detainee attorney) David Cole's powerful essay in the current edition of the New York Review of Books. At my request, and at Cole's urging, the good folks there have graciously made it available online. Print it out and take it to the beach. Or pour yourself an iced tea and check it out. A guy who should have been a detainee -- the foreign-born Zacarias Moussaoui -- was instead made the focus of a show trial which prosecutors won only because the defendant begged to be convicted. A guy who should have been a criminal defendant from the get-go -- Jose...

By Andrew Cohen | July 13, 2007; 8:40 AM ET | Comments (81)

Taylor to Miers to Chance

So much for former White House political director Sara Taylor taking a stand for the truth. So much for her choosing to be courageous and honorable instead of just another self-serving weasel the Bush administration trots up to Capitol Hill to say nothing about nobody involved in the U.S. attorney scandal. And so much for former White House counsel Harriet Miers ever again seeing the light of day. Taylor's brief (and for the most part meaningless) attempts at candor before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday helped doom any chance of seeing Miers skulk behind an overinflated notion of "executive privilege" asserted by her longtime patron, President Bush. Turns out Miers isn't even going to bother to perform before the House Judiciary Committee the same kabuki dance that Taylor did for the Senate committee. The once-upon-a-time Supreme Court nominiee is going to pretend instead that the White House's "request" that she...

By Andrew Cohen | July 11, 2007; 8:53 PM ET | Comments (47)

Hey, Sara Taylor: Be a Hero Today

This is it, former White House political director Sara Taylor: Your moment is here. Your chance, too. You say you are a dedicated public servant who wants what is best for this country? That you are devoted to the rule of law? That you put country ahead of party? Then stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning and ignore President Bush's attempt to muzzle your testimony under the guise of executive privilege. Tell him "thanks but no thanks" -- tell your lawyers to back off -- and simply give the senators the full and complete truth as you know it about the U.S. attorney scandal. The law will support you. And if the law doesn't, history will. Sure, it will infuriate your former bosses and colleagues at the White House. It will rankle conservatives everywhere. But you are smart enough to understand that you now owe less to them...

By Andrew Cohen | July 11, 2007; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (99)

The Scorched-Earth Subpoena Strategy

The decision by White House officials to take an extreme position on executive privilege -- we won't even offer to Congress the log of privileged communications, never mind the actual substance of those communications -- is simply and clearly designed to delay a court fight on the merits of the dispute. It could take months to resolve the matter of the log before the fight is ripe for a substantive ruling. Thus we have the spectacle of veteran White House lawyers acting like first-year litigation associates told by their senior partners and clients to scorch the earth in order to delay a case. It's not hard to understand why the White House doesn't want to turn over the contents of the emails or allow its personnel, current or former, to testify. The Bush administration has been obsessive to the point of criminal in protecting and expanding the power and authority...

By Andrew Cohen | July 9, 2007; 3:32 PM ET | Comments (40)

Another Justice Attorney Bashes Gonzo

I don't know John S. Koppel from a hole in the ground. But the Justice Department attorney Sunday offered precisely the sort of in-house denunciation of Alberto R. Gonzales that ought to shake President George W. Bush out of his pouty stupor so he can finally fire one of the worst Attorneys General in history. "I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time," Koppel's op-ed piece begins. You get the idea where it ends. Koppel's courageous criticism of his current bosses-- clearly not a loyal Bushie, you wonder why he hasn't been fired-- cuts directly at one of Gonzales' most glaring and unquestionable failures at Justice; his inability to protect both the independence of the Department and the professional reputation and morale of the good men and women who work there. Men like Koppel. What else does the...

By Andrew Cohen | July 9, 2007; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (22)

And Justice For Some

The hypocrisy inherent in President George W. Bush's decision Monday to commute the 30-month prison sentence for former White House official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby doesn't just reside in the fact that the current Justice Department-- President Bush's Justice Department-- has gleefully pursued similar or even longer sentences for other, less-connected felons who have committed obstruction of justice and/or perjury. It is even more pronounced when you compare the President's expressed concern for Libby's "excessive" punishment with the utter lack of concern for "excessive" punishment the President displayed when he was Governor of Texas, Alberto R. Gonzales was his right-hand man, and the two rubber-stamped "no" on clemency requests with an appalling lack of regard for the facts and circumstances of the cases presented to them. Back in Texas, in 1997, when the men in the dock were not the President's buddies or political wingmen, there was no "careful weighing"...

By Andrew Cohen | July 4, 2007; 5:19 PM ET | Comments (147)

Libby, the President and a 1,000-Year-Old Song

President Bush's decision to commute the 30-month prison sentence for former White House official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby does not generate or beggar intense legal analysis. Like a pardon, a president's decision to commute punishment may have legal consequences -- in this case, Lucky Libby won't have to set foot in prison while he fights his convictions on appeal -- but at bottom it's a purely political maneuver pushed along by motivations and calculi that are beyond my pay grade. It's the president's call to make, and no one can do anything about it once it's made. So, ultimately, you will have to judge whether you agree with President Bush's assessment that the interests of fairness and justice have been served by allowing this convicted felon, Libby, the sort of leniency that eluded Martha Stewart and hundreds of other folks who have been convicted of obstructing justice and committing perjury...

By Andrew Cohen | July 3, 2007; 10:09 AM ET | Comments (56)

Get Your Own Bench

Hello and good morning. Just a quick note to let you know that absent any extraodinary breaking legal news the Bench Conference will be on hiatus for a few days. Check back later this week or this weekend for new posts and please have a safe and happy holiday week....

By Andrew Cohen | July 2, 2007; 9:11 AM ET | Comments (18)


© 2007 The Washington Post Company