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More Departures at Justice


It’s Friday, and that means more politicos scurrying for the life rafts on the main deck of the Titanic (a/k/a U.S. Department of Justice under Alberto Gonzales). Two interesting notices of disembarkation are given this morning and I am hearing that there may be more before the day is out.

Assistant AG for Civil Rights Resigns
By all accounts, Wan Kim, the current assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division is a low-key figure who has plowed ahead on the course charted by his more wildly partisan predecessor, Hans von Spakovsky. The Department has just announced his resignation. Here’s a take on the move from Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker:

Kim took the helm at the troubled Civil Rights Division in late 2005, just at the tail end of the stormiest period in the Division, when lawyers left the voting rights section, and other sections, in droves. Kim, like his predecessor, Alex Acosta, has never been anywhere near as controversial a figure as Division appointees Bradley Schlozman and Hans von Spakovsky, the two fingered by former Department lawyers as leading efforts to politicize the Division, the voting section in particular.

Nevertheless, the Division continued in the direction set by the prior Bush years under Kim’s direction, often pursuing causes favored by conservatives (such as religious discrimination and human trafficking) to the detriment of the Division’s traditional emphasis (such as protecting African-Americans from discrimination).

Kim follows a flurry of senior resignations in the past few months, including former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, his chief of staff Michael Elston, White House liaison Monica Goodling, chief of staff Kyle Sampson, Acting Associate Attorney General William Mercer, and Schlozman, who had moved to a spot in the office that oversees U.S. attorneys.

I discuss the Kim resignation and other DOJ matters in my interview this morning with DemocracyNow!’s Amy Goodman. The departure adds to the growing list of vacancies at the Justice Department and indeed the Civil Rights Division has been particularly hard hit. As the New York Times notes in its account of the departure this morning:

Mr. Kim’s departure creates another major vacancy in the department, which has lost several other top managers in recent months. The department has yet to announce nominees for the posts of deputy attorney general and associate attorney general, the No. 2 and 3 jobs at the department. Department spokesmen say the vacancies are not a surprise so late in a president’s second term.

U.S. Attorney—Scranton
The U.S. Attorney responsible for Central and Northeastern Pennsylvania, Thomas A. Marino, has announced his departure. In a story out this morning, Scranton’s Morning Call links Marino’s departure to “an investigation of Mount Airy Lodge owner Louis DeNaples.” When it became known that DeNaples had listed Marino as a reference on a casino license application, control over the investigation was moved to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Binghamton, New York.

Marino has not figured in a significant way in the probe into the political manipulation of U.S. attorneys, though a good deal of attention has focused on the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, Mary Beth Buchanan, who is under strong suspicion of conducting politically dictated prosecutions in a series of cases, as previously noted in this column. Buchanan has been linked to the overall scheme to substitute politically pliant attorneys for prosecutors who resisted efforts to politicize their office.

A New Honor for Attorney General Gonzales
And finally, we have a fine week-end send off for our friend the Attorney General. Via the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, we learn that Alberto Gonzales has just garnered a new honor. Well, “honor” may not really be the word for it. Two former federal prosecutors, Bob Bennett and Sheri Katz, have been giving out awards to the “ten worst prosecutors in the United States” and this year, they say, one prosecutor stood far out in front for the position. He really had no competition, they say. So here’s the citation:


Alberto Gonzales – The Attorney General (AG) of the United States, in Washington D.C., Alberto Gonzales, earns the first place on our list of ten worst prosecutors in the United States for being what many have called the worst AG in our nation’s history. His involvement in the firings of nine United States Attorneys and the politicization of the Justice Department form the basis for which he was selected as the worst prosecutor in the United States in 2007. When he testified in front of the U.S. Congress, he allegedly committed perjury by his false statements, inconsistent statements, and all of his “I don’t knows.” Members of his own Department of Justice and the Head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, have contradicted his testimony. Even Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee considers Gonzales to be a liar. Gonzales may be the target of a major investigation by a Special Prosecutor; he continues to be the subject of Congressional investigations, and should be investigated by the Integrity Office of the United States Department of Justice, and the State Bar of Texas Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel for his unethical actions while White House Counsel and Attorney General. Maybe Gonzales also earns this top spot by how United States Senator Charles Schumer sums up listening to the testimony of Gonzales under oath: “He tells the half-truth, the partial truth and anything but the truth.” Other than that, he has been a model government lawyer.

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