Last year the Wall Street Journal featured the effort of Bob Bennett, a former federal prosecutor who now heads a litigation firm in Houston, to expose the nation’s ten worst prosecutors. This week Bennett is back with the “Ten Worst Prosecutors of 2008.” The list will have few surprises for regular readers of No Comment. Leading the list for the second year running is former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, the man who, doing the bidding of Karl Rove, introduced new standards of ineptitude, dishonesty and political corruption to the U.S. Department of Justice. The award comes just at the right moment, as word spreads in Washington that the man George W. Bush addresses with the mafioso moniker “Fredo” is the target of a special prosecutor appointed by his successor. Bennett gives us an update on what Gonzales has been up to since he left his desk at main Justice:
The former Attorney General now refers to himself as a “Dillusioned Republican” because of his testy relationship with George W. Bush, which he would like to distance himself from as much as possible. At the time of our second year, Alberto Gonzales has failed to interest any law firms in hiring him anywhere in the United States. Gonzales has had no full time job since his resignation. This is very abnormal as ex-U.S. Attorney Generals are typically highly sought after. He claims that his current “occupation” is an advisor to homeland security and border issues for a global consulting firm. Speaking engagements at major organizations and Universities is what he currently involves himself in the most. He is receiving as much money doing public speaking as he did when he was Attorney General of the U.S., which totaled around $191,000. He averages $30,000 per visit at Universities when asked to speak on campus, but he certainly earns that with the hecklers and protestors that show up.
The other federal prosecutors on the Bennett list are Alice Martin and Leura Canary, the U.S. attorneys in Birmingham and Montgomery, respectively, who take the fourth and fifth worst prosecutor slots, respectively. Martin and Canary, who remain the subject of multiple internal ethics probes in the Bush Justice Department, have a long track record of abusive political prosecutions. While Illinois and Alaska are suddenly gaining attention over their multifaceted political corruption probes and prosecutions, Alabama still charts a special place. I imagine even Canary and Martin would argue that their state has a culture of political corruption which puts it in the running for the honor of “most corrupt” among the fifty members of the union. But Alabama distinguishes itself by the special role played by federal prosecutors in the process. The real center of the state’s political corruption lies smack in the U.S. attorney’s offices. Martin and Canary have mastered the art of using their prosecutorial powers to advance the interests of their political party and political associates, as Bennett notes. And they have done so with a wink and a nod from the Bush Justice Department, which has systematically swept all complaints against them–notably led by their career employees–under the carpet. These awards are richly deserved.
Still, Bennett notes that Texas has more entries in the list than any other state, including Charles Sebesta (former Burleson County DA), Michael McDougal (former Montgomery County DA) and Chuck Rosenthal (former Harris County DA) in addition to “Fredo.”
Bennett also gives us an update on earlier hall of famers, including North Carolina’s Michael Nifong (who lost his law license and filed bankruptcy but still faces claims from the students he victimized on the Duke Lacrosse team).
Incidentally, still-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey manages an “honorable mention” in the list of worst prosecutors. “He has done nothing to repair any of the problems he has been faced with,” the Bennett firm writes.