In my opinion, the most important (and alarming) part of the story is where the authority to do this derives from: The USA Patriot Act. How exactly does giving Bush the power to replace inconvenient prosecutors protect us from terror? Oh, wait, it doesn't. It just protects him and his cronies from prosecution. Talk about politicizing terror.
The Bush administration's controversial firing of eight US attorneys sets up a major clash between the White House and the new Congress, as Democrats step up efforts to rein in new presidential powers.
I'm still trying to figure out why Giuliani remains as popular with the GOP as he appears to be. To my reality-based eyes, his life has an awful lot of red flags in it to consider him electable by the red states. And as we all know, reality has a liberal bias. And as Ben Smith at The Politico has discovered, so does Guiliani, at least when it comes to nominating judges. Those pesky facts keep getting in the way of posturing yourself as a real conservative, don't they, Rudy?
When Rudy Giuliani faces Republicans concerned about his support of gay rights and legal abortion, he reassures them that he is a conservative on the decisions that matter most.
"I would want judges who are strict constructionists because I am," he told South Carolina Republicans last month. "Those are the kinds of justices I would appoint -- Scalia, Alito and Roberts."
[..](But a) Politico review of the 75 judges Giuliani appointed to three of New York state's lower courts found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 8 to 1. One of his appointments was an officer of the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Judges. Another ruled that the state law banning liquor sales on Sundays was unconstitutional because it was insufficiently secular.
A third, an abortion-rights supporter, later made it to the federal bench in part because New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a liberal Democrat, said he liked her ideology.
Cumulatively, Giuilani's record was enough to win applause from people like Kelli Conlin, the head of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the state's leading abortion-rights group. "They were decent, moderate people," she said.
After all the uproar over Senator Menendez's vote a few months ago for the unconstitutional Military Commissions Act which eliminated habeas corpus and legalized torture, it appears he's had a change of heart. That vote was taken under immense pressure during the campaign, and he's now doing the responsible thing and cleaning up the mess he helped make. According to an announcement from the campaign, Menendez and Senator Chris Dodd will introduce legislation to correct the "flawed Military Commissions Act":
WASHINGTON - TOMORROW, Tuesday, February 12, 2007, U.S. Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will hold a press conference to discuss the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act which will restore habeus corpus rights, ban torture and uphold the Geneva Conventions. The senators, both members of the Foreign Relations Committee, will discuss the need for these protections in the fight against terrorism.
After illegally spying on Americans without the required warrants for several years, the Bush administration is claiming a sudden change of heart.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently announced that the administration's domestic-spying program will stop bypassing judicial oversight. Instead, it will submit domestic surveillance to review by a federal intelligence court, as required by law.
But before anyone celebrates the "good news" of an attorney general saying he will stop breaking the law, Congress must confront the administration's record of illegal spying and ensure that surveillance is truly back within the rule of law.
This is a big challenge because the administration spent the last six years undermining the traditional tools Congress uses to supervise intelligence by ignoring the law, stalling court oversight and declaring that warrantless spying would continue.
For Congress, that means there is little point in passing another law to restate rules that the administration is openly defying. Public hearings would also be ineffective for reforming or exposing the classified program. So what can the new Congress do?
The only way to bring spying back under the rule of law is for Congress to strengthen the branch of government that makes the law work: the courts.Read on...
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is transforming the ranks of the nation's top federal prosecutors by firing some and appointing conservative loyalists from the Bush administration's inner circle who critics say are unlikely to buck Washington.
The newly appointed U.S. attorneys all have impressive legal credentials, but most of them have few, if any, ties to the communities they've been appointed to serve, and some have had little experience as prosecutors.
For background on the U.S. Attorney scandal - it's not generally acknowledged to be a scandal, but it should be - see old Mahablog posts U.S. Attorneys: It's the Replacing, Stupid and The Purge. In a nutshell, the White House is using a provision inserted into the Patriot Act last year to fire U.S. attorneys and replace them without (constitutionally mandated) Senate approval.
During a floor speech on the topic moments ago, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the White House has told her it was replacing from five to 10 Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys with its own interim appointees.
(h/t Flint for video)
We know of seven who have left during the last couple of months, many under unusual circumstances. Read the list here.
The rumors that (U.S. Attorney Carol Lam) has been asked to resign were met disbelief and dropped jaws by legal community members with ties to federal court.
"I was in a state of shock," said Peter Nunez, who served as the U.S. attorney in charge of the San Diego offices from 1982 to 1988. "It's just like nothing I've ever seen before in 35-plus years. To be asked to resign and to be publicly humiliated by leaking this to the press is beyond any bounds of decency and behavior. It shocks me. It really is outrageous."
It was an obscure provision in the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act, and it didn't take them very long to use it. The president signed it into law in March of last year -- by June, they were already moving to replace unwanted prosecutors.
Former Arkansas USA Bud Cummins told the Wall Street Journal that "a top Justice official asked for his resignation in June, saying the White House wanted to give another person the opportunity to serve." Cummins was finally forced out in December, replaced with Timothy Griffin, formerly the research director of the Republican National Committee.
Now that we have a Democratic majority in the Senate, I hope that this doesn't get swept under the carpet. The Republicans have been gunning for the judicial branch for years and on the face of it, this really doesn't look good.
More than 130 deans of American law schools have signed a letter deploring a Pentagon official's statement criticizing major law firms for representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The law deans wrote that they were "appalled" by an interview last week in which the Pentagon's point man on detainee affairs, Charles Stimson, said corporations should be disturbed by the law firms' pro bono work for detainees and might want to reconsider sending business to the firms involved.
...said Senator-elect Ken Salazar, Democrat from Colorado, on "Face the Nation" Sunday, in response to Bill Frist's comments on getting rid of the filibuster rule.
The lines are being drawn and the wagons are circling on this issue. Harry Reid vowed earlier today to "tie the Senate in knots" if they try to change the law. It reminds me of a time when republicans blocked over sixty of Bill Clinton's judicial nominations without a vote, but hey.. the Dems only blocked ten of Bush's nominees out of over 200. Let's change two hundred years of legislation.
In the everlasting battle between those on the far left and the far right to find something to complain about, the latest would seem to be Kenneth Feinberg.
The left side of the argument goes like this: Feinberg's contract is with BP; therefore, he will not act in the best interest of claimants.
The right side of the argument goes like this: OMG!!!! Feinberg's doing the "Obama shakedown"!!!! There is no point in arguing with irrational people who think this is a real argument. These folks should really just talk to those who saw any and all settlement of their losses in Alaska after the Exxon-Valdez spill evaporate in the name of tort reform. That's more or less all I have to say about the Republicans' and affiliated groups' arguments. Irrationality begets insanity after awhile. They're there.
At least the left-hand side is based on something other than base idiocy. It could be argued under some circumstances that the contract arrangement might suggest bias, or pressure to put the company's agenda ahead of those who suffered losses. I disagree, but it is at least based on some form of rational thought.
NOLA.com has more details on the relationship between Feinberg, BP, and the escrow fund:
Willis said BP presented a list of suggested names to the president to fill the position. Feinberg said he will operate as a private, independent agent on contract with BP. His pay and the costs of the new facility will be provided by BP directly and will not come out of the $20 billion claims fund, he said. If either the president or BP is dissatisfied with his performance he will walk away, he said.
Point number one: Not one penny of the escrow fund will be used to cover the administrative costs for Feinberg and his staff.
BP should be financing the position because there is no other good choice, Feinberg said. Neither the government nor the victims of the spill should have to contribute money to pay for the administration of the claims program, he said.
Point number two: BP, and ONLY BP, is responsible for costs, damages and claims arising out of this disaster. Therefore, it makes sense for BP to contract with Feinberg, a third-party (and in 2008 was the government adviser overseeing bonuses to executives of banks receiving TARP funds) rather than the government.
Point number three: Louisiana tort law is different from every other state's. It is renowned for its complexity and difference from the other 49 states. Before claims can be administered, standards have to be set that comply not only with Louisiana tort law, but also Mississippi law, and possibly Florida and Texas laws, too.
With that in mind, it's worth looking at Feinberg's past history with regard to claims adjudication.
Mediated Product Liability Settlements
These cases were dragging in the courts for years. Victims had received nothing at all when Feinberg became involved.
$2.5 billion settlement of class-action lawsuit for the Dalkon Shield class-action lawsuit
Agent Orange class action lawsuit on behalf of veterans
9-11 Victims' Compensation Fund
Arbiter of compensation caps on bank executives whose banks still owe TARP funds.