Court Coverage Probed: News Round-up

Andrew KreigThe Washington Post's Oct. 17 print edition vividly displayed a major newspaper's conflicting roles in interpreting news from a bottom-up reader perspective (the ostensible mission) and the alternative, more lucrative model: Apologist for entrenched powers. Let's explore this inherent conflict as we launch today our bimonthly news round-up in a new format.

The Post adopted the laudable role of "inquiring reporter" in a local section front-page story entitled, Delays of Evidence Scrutinized. Reporter Keith Alexander examined how "a prosecutor’s mistake in failing to reveal key information about government witnesses and what they knew" imprisoned a 17-year-old murder suspect for six years. The reporter tied the prosecution "mistake" to a more systemic abuse that our Justice Integrity Project has probed also: "Defense lawyers have long complained that some prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office hamper their investigations by withholding evidence or keeping it until the last minute."

In the same edition, the paper's Supreme Court correspondent, Robert Barnes, reported a new Gallup poll and other evidence showing a rapid decline in public respect for the court. In Enjoying basic loyalty, despite dip in popularity, he wrote, "Gallup has announced that only 46 percent of Americans approve of the institution, a drop of 5 percentage points in the past year and 15 points in the past two years." But Barnes devoted nearly half of his space to James Gibson, a political scientist who downplayed the significance of the public's criticism.

Also on Oct. 17, the Post editorial, Fair sentencing in the Abramoff case, aptly decried abuse by federal prosecutors seeking a prison term of 17 to 22 years for Washington lobbyist Kevin Ring, a lobbying associate of Jack Abramoff. A jury convicted Ring on corruption charges last year. Ring's more culpable co-defendants, Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty but received far shorter terms. The Post editorial stresses the unfairness of trying to punish a defendant so much for pursuing the right to trial. Our Project similarly criticizes prosecutors and judges. We exposed, for example, an extreme example in the four-year prison term for Republican former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, as indicated below. Still, any longtime reader of the Post's influential editorial page knows that its unfairness-meter can be selective when it comes to the judicial system. Thus, the plight of a mistreated lobbyist is one that leaders of the Washington Village can readily appreciate, especially after scapegoats have paid the price.

Casino JackWith that introduction, we invite your reaction to a new format exemplified by this column. It provides a common theme for excerpts below on notable reports by others on legal reform issues. Most of these excerpts come from independent media whose financial incentives tend to be more reader-focused than those of corporations dependent on corporate affiliates for income. The Post's own quarterly financial reports, by contrast, show that it usually receives about 4 percent of its income from reader-generated newspaper circulation. The reports show that about 62 percent of Post revenue comes from its Kaplan education subsidiary, which draws on a host of government-enabled income opportunities -- and necessarily fears changes in government regulation, including law enforcement.

As coming attractions here, pay close attention to Abramoff's new book coming out early next month. I hear that the former lobbyist is not done trying to make amends now that he has completed his prison term. As foreshadowed by the movie Casino Jack earlier this year, he'll try to show that he was a small part of a larger Washington system that deserves much more scrutiny.

More immediately, we provide below an excerpt of Post coverage of a federal corruption trial of former Maryland state senate leader Ulysses Currie. The Democrat is on trial for receiving consulting income from a company with business before the state. Our Project will soon play a lead role in showing similar conflicts in the benefits that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife have long been receiving from their well-wishers.


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New Allegations Against Clarence Thomas

AlterNet OpEd News, Were U.S. Elections Sold to Corporations So Clarence Thomas Could Reward His Friends? Adele M. Stan, Oct. 30, 2011.
The ethical problems posed by Thomas' involvement in the Citizens United case hardly mark the end of questionable behavior by Thomas and his wife, Ginni.When Clarence Thomas took his seat before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, things were not looking good for him. Anita Hill, a former employee of Thomas' at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, came forward with explosive allegations of sexual harassment.

OpEd News, Justice Breyer Reviews Court History, Skimps On Thomas Dispute, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 29, 2011. The Supreme Court fulfills its vital role in preserving democracy by earning public confidence, as Justice Stephen Breyer told a packed hall last week in Washington, DC. But his lecture and book, Making Our Democracy Work, glossed over current controversies, such as the "Virginia and Clarence Thomas Bought by Billionaires" ad shown above, which was released this week by the progressive group Protect Our Elections.

Justice Integrity Project, Breyer Reviews History, Skimps on Thomas Disputes, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 28, 2011.
The Supreme Court fulfills its vital role in preserving democracy by earning public confidence, as Justice Stephen Breyer told a packed hall last week in Washington, DC. But his lecture and book, Making Our Democracy Work, glossed over current controversies, such as the "Virginia and Clarence Thomas Bought by Billionaires" ad shown above, which was released this week by the progressive group Protect Our Elections.

News From Underground, Clarence Thomas—perjurer, tax cheat, fanatic, party operative—has GOT TO GO, declares Judge Lillian McEwen (his former lover), Andrew Kreig Interview of Lillian McEwen,Edited by Mark Crispin Miller, Oct. 26, 2011.

Justice Integrity Project, ‘Burr’ Author Stewart Debunks Treason Claims, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 27, 2011. David O. Stewart, a noted historian and legal scholar, joins the Oct. 27 edition of the MTL Washington Update radio series Oct. 27 to discuss his latest book, American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America, which was released this week. Join him, my co-host Scott Draughon and me with your questions on the live show, available worldwide on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) network founded by Draughon. Click here to listen live or later by archive. For questions and comments, call (866) 685-7469 or email here

OpEd News, Thomas Must Resign, Says Former Judge, Lover, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 26, 2011.

Clarence and Virginia Thomas...Bought by Billionaires
Protect our Elections.org: Clarence and Virginia Thomas: Bought By Billionaires, Oct. 25, 2011.
Virginia, Harlan, Clarence and David have been having a good laugh at our expense. How much longer will we let this go on? America’s citizens have had it with people in power who violate the law. That includes Clarence Thomas who has used his position as a Supreme Court Justice to flout the law and enrich himself, his wife and their cronies through corrupt backroom deals with billionaires Harlan Crow, and Charles and David Koch

Abramoff Provides DC View In Book
Huffington Post, Jack Abramoff Takes Shots At Enemies And Protects Friends In New Book, Nov. 1, 2011. Jack Abramoff doesn't name names in his new book. He does, however, take a few shots at people he  felt did him wrong. In "Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist," Abramoff frankly admits that he engaged in a massive, ongoing campaign of de facto bribery, where quid pro quo deals with members of Congress were the rule, not the exception.

Huffington Post, Jack Abramoff, In New Book, Decries Endemic Corruption In Washington, Oct. 28, 2011.Former superlobbyist and ex-con Jack Abramoff describes himself in his forthcoming book as a creature of a corrupted system. "I wasn't the only villain in Washington," he writes in the book set for release on Nov. 1. Abramoff cops to the de facto bribery of public officials -- but writes that such conduct is "the way the system works." The book, "Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist," was published by WND Books -- a division of the "birther" website WorldNetDaily.com. The Huffington Post received an advance copy.

Gitmo Forever?
Harpers No Comment, Gitmo Forever, Scott Horton, Oct. 28, 2011. In today’s New York Times, Charlie Savage tells us that Republicans are continuing to tie the Obama Administration’s hands in dealing with terrorism suspects: Republican senators are pushing to include a provision in a 2012 military authorization bill that would require [Al] Qaeda suspects accused of plotting attacks and who are not American citizens to be held in military custody — even people arrested in the United States. The White House opposes such a blanket rule. In a short piece at the National Interest, senior counterterrorism analyst Paul Pillar explains why this approach is wrongheaded.

New Book on Waste in Iraq Prompts State Department Retaliation
Wayne Madsen Report, State Dept. employee punished for writing the truth about fraud, waste, and abuse, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 27, 2011 (Subscription only). The U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimates that up to $60 billion was wasted in fraud, waste, and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the Commission has decided the American taxpayers cannot see the details of this fraud against them for twenty years, since the Commission has decided to seal its records until 2031. The reason they gave is the possibility of embarrassment. Embarrassing State Department and other U.S. officials over the fraud and waste in Iraq was obviously the reason why the State Department has revoked the security clearance and suspended employment of twenty-three year veteran Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren. Van Buren was subject to intense retaliation by the State Department over the publication of his book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.

Alabama Bingo Trial Resumes With New Prosecution Team
Legal Schnauzer, What About the Motives of Prosecutors In the Alabama Bingo Trial? Roger Shuler, Oct.27, 2011. A federal judge last week correctly pointed out the impure motives of Republican legislators who served as witnesses in the Alabama bingo trial. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson also had a point when he stated in a new order that a prominent defendant had financial incentives to commit acts of bribery.  But Thompson ignored the most important question: What about the motives of federal prosecutors who launched a clearly flawed case in the first place?  We do have some interesting news on that front. The Montgomery Advertiser reports that local prosecutors Louis Franklin and Steve Feaga have been removed from the bingo-trial team. That means the case will be handled totally by Washington, D.C.-types on the second go-around. That, however, does not address the big question about the prosecutors--and Thompson did not address it in last week's order either. (See the full order below.)

Questions on Government Privacy Intrusions
Washington Post, How the Patriot Act stripped me of my free-speech rights, Nicholas Merrill, Oct. 25, 2011. Sometime in 2012, I will begin the ninth year of my life under an FBI gag order, which began when I received what is known as a national security letter at the small Internet service provider I owned. On that day in 2004 (the exact date is redacted from court papers, so I can’t reveal it), an FBI agent came to my office and handed me a letter. It demanded that I turn over information about one of my clients and forbade me from telling “any person” that the government had approached me.

Washington Post, FBI Heads to court more often to obtain data on personal Internet usage, Ellen Nakashima, Oct. 26, 2011. The FBI is increasingly going to court to get personal e-mail and Internet usage information as service providers balk at disclosing customer data without a judge's orders.

Immunity and Impunity in Elite America
How the Legal System Was Deep-Sixed and Occupy Wall Street Swept the Land, Glenn Greenwald.  New book published on Oct. 25, 2011. As intense protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street continue to grow, it is worth asking: Why now? It is now clearly understood that, rather than apply the law equally to all, Wall Street tycoons have engaged in egregious criminality -- acts which destroyed the economic security of millions of people around the world -- without experiencing the slightest legal repercussions. Today, it is glaringly obvious to a wide range of Americans that the wealth of the top 1% is the byproduct not of risk-taking entrepreneurship, but of corrupted control of our legal and political systems.... In lieu of the rule of law -- the equal application of rules to everyone -- what we have now is a two-tiered justice system in which the powerful are immunized while the powerless are punished with increasing mercilessness. As a guarantor of outcomes, the law has, by now, been so completely perverted that it is an incomparably potent weapon for entrenching inequality further, controlling the powerless, and ensuring corrupted outcomes.

Salon, Book release: With Liberty and Justice for Some, Glenn Greenwald, Oct. 25, 2011. I’m genuinely excited today to announce the release of my new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. As of this morning, it is available in bookstores as well as for shipping online. The book focuses on what I began realizing several years ago is the crucial theme tying together most of the topics I write about: America’s two-tiered justice system – specifically, the way political and financial elites are now vested with virtually absolute immunity from the rule of law even when they are caught committing egregious crimes, while ordinary Americans are subjected to the world’s largest and one of its harshest and most merciless penal states even for trivial offenses. As a result, law has been completely perverted from what it was intended to be – the guarantor of an equal playing field which would legitimize outcome inequalities – into its precise antithesis: a weapon used by the most powerful to protect their ill-gotten gains, strengthen their unearned prerogatives, and ensure ever-expanding opportunity inequality. Truthout, Glenn Greenwald Interview: Why Is the Elite Class Protected Under America's Justice System? Mark Karlin, Oct. 25, 2011.

Transparency
OpEd News, Obama Admin Seeks Permission To Lie In Response To Freedom Of Information Requests -- Even To The Courts, Jerry Policoff, Oct. 25, 2011. One of the President Obama's first promises after becoming President of the United States was a commitment to usher in a new era of unprecedented government transparency.  Instead the Obama administration has exhibited what may be an unprecedented obsession with government secrecy including blocking numerous law suits by invoking the doctrine of "State Secrets." The administration has even come up with an interpretation of the Patriot Act which many in Congress who have seen it claim is overly broad and bestows more power on the Executive Branch than was intended by Congress when they passed it.

Thomas Defender Extols Scrapping Supreme Court Precedents
Clarence Thomas
Wall Street Journal, Twenty Years of Justice Thomas, John Yoo, Oct. 22, 2011. In his first two decades on the bench, Justice Thomas has established himself as the original Constitution's greatest defender against elite efforts at social engineering. His stances for limited government and individual freedom make him the left's lightning rod and the tea party's intellectual godfather. And he is only halfway through the 40 years he may sit on the high court.

Justice Thomas's two decades on the bench show the simple power of ideas over the pettiness of our politics. Media and academic elites have spent the last 20 years trying to marginalize him by drawing a portrait of a man stung by his confirmation, angry at his rejection by the civil rights community, and a blind follower of fellow conservatives. But Justice Thomas has broken through this partisan fog to convince the court to adopt many of his positions, and to become a beacon to the grass-roots movement to restrain government spending and reduce the size of the welfare state.

Clarence Thomas set the table for the tea party by making originalism fashionable again. Many appointees to the court enjoy its role as arbiter of society's most divisive questions—race, abortion, religion, gay rights and national security—and show little desire to control their own power. Antonin Scalia, at best, thinks interpreting the Constitution based on its original meaning is "the lesser evil," as he wrote in a 1989 law journal article, because it prevents judges from pursuing their own personal policies. Justice Thomas, however, thinks that the meaning of the Constitution held at its ratification binds the United States as a political community, and that decades of precedent must be scraped off the original Constitution like barnacles on a ship's hull (Emphasis added).

'Madoff' of Political Accounting Allegedly Bilked California Democrats
Reuters, Fraud case leaves California Democrats scrambling, Mary Slosson, Oct. 22, 2011. Stunning accusations that a top California Democratic campaign treasurer looted the war chests of her big-name clients have left candidates across the state scrambling to raise more money as election season looms. Kinde Durkee, who controlled the funds of roughly 400 candidates and groups, ranging from Senator Dianne Feinstein to local Democratic youth clubs, was arrested in September and charged with fraud. While the extent of the losses isn't yet clear, the coffers of dozens of Democratic politicians have been frozen, prompting the crippled campaigns to ask the California Fair Political Practices Commission to permit further donations from contributors who have already given the maximum. 

Durkee, the 58-year-old daughter of a Hollywood pastor, is accused of co-mingling money in the roughly 400 accounts she controlled at the bank, making it unclear to whom any recovered money actually belongs. The bank reported $2.5 million in Durkee-controlled accounts, according to court documents, far less than the at least $9.8 million that her clients had raised, according to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. Durkee has been called the "Bernie Madoff of campaign finance treasurers" by one former client, Representative Susan Davis of San Diego. She admitted to using campaign funds for her own personal expenses, according to court documents

Education Industry, the News Media and Huge Student Debt
Justice Integrity Project, Education Privatization Distorts News Coverage, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 25, 2011. The Washington Post's reluctance to cover many important stories involving legal reform is an important obstacle for those engaged in such work. So we excerpt below two revealing columns illustrating how the paper's leading revenue source -- profits from the education industry -- creates perverse financial incentives for what most readers would assume to be the paper's goal, selling newspapers to serev reader interest.

Education Management Corp. was already a swiftly growing player in the lucrative world of for-profit higher education, with annual revenues topping $1 billion, but it had its sights set on industry domination. So, five years ago, the Pittsburgh company's executives agreed to sell its portfolio of more than 70 colleges to a trio of investment partnerships for $3.4 billion, securing the needed capital for an aggressive national expansion.
One of the new partners brought an outsized reputation for market savvy, deep pockets and a relentless pursuit of profits -- the Wall Street goliath, Goldman Sachs.

Salon, The $1 Trillion Student Loan Rip-Off: How an Entire Generation Was Tricked into Taking on Crushing Debt That Just Enriches Banks, Alex Pareene, Oct. 20, 2011. USA Today says that at some point this year, student loan debt will exceed $1 trillion, surpassing even credit card debt. Felix Salmon says the number is closer to $550 billion. Either way total student loan debt is rising as other debts have tailed off. Delinquency has increased, too, since the height of the financial crisis. It’s a huge mess. Thanks to the horrific 2005 bankruptcy bill, one of the most nakedly venal modern examples of Congress serving the interests of the rentiers and creditors over the vast majority, debtors cannot discharge student loans through bankruptcy. The government is shielded from the risk, and creditors are licensed to collect by almost any means they deem necessary, giving no one in charge any real incentive (beyond basic human decency) to fix the situation. In other words, this is unprecedentedly awful for an entire generation of young people just entering adulthood.

The impossibility of escaping student loan debt is why an industry sprang upto foist useless, overpriced degrees on vulnerable people. It’s a scam, but a profitable one, and respectable enough for major establishment players to feel comfortable making a killing on it. Like, for instance, Kaplan University, a chain of for-profit colleges built on winning free government student aid money and attracting suckers to borrow small fortunes.
The crooks are shameless. Here’s my favorite entry:

If I could do one thing, it would be to ensure the future of for-profit education companies, which this administration seems bent on eliminating. The Washington Post Company has struggled hard to be a good and decent company, but our for-profit education division is under fire by the administration, as are other for-profit education companies like Apollo and Strayer. (Full disclosure: I and my family have an ownership interest in WPO.) The majority of students in for-profit education companies are minorities, which makes you wonder how shutting down these companies will help achieve the president’s goal of having more college graduates in the U.S.

This wisdom comes from Lally Weymouth, “Senior Associate Editor” at the Washington Post and also part owner of the Washington Post Co., owner of for-profit college company Kaplan, the exploitative education corporation that subsidizes the money-losing newspaper. Lally’s idea for solving America’s “fiscal crisis” is to allow her to continue enriching herself by burying already poor people in paralyzing debt. But, of course, she’s only doing it to help those poor creatures who otherwise couldn’t attend schools! If she happens to make a killing doing so, then the market is working its magic, I guess. This is the same argument used by exploitative payday lenders — loan sharks in ghettos — to justify predatory lending habits targeted at impoverished and vulnerable communities. Only it’s coming from one of the most respectable members of Washington’s elite, and not the proprietor of a check-cashing joint.

Feds Clear New Jersey Senator in Bush DOJ Raid
Associated Press/Hudson News, U.S. prosecutor closes Sen. Menendez probe; senator says he's vindicated; Gov. Christie, who began the 2006 investigation, stands by decision, Oct. 26, 2011. Gov. Chris Christie says he stands by the timing of a 2006 probe into U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's relationship with a nonprofit agency, an investigation that began while Christie was serving as the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

Star-Ledger, Feds tell Sen. Menendez 2006 probe now closed, subpoena had come in heat of election, Mark Mueller, Oct. 23, 2011. The federal subpoena delivered to a Hudson County nonprofit agency five years ago amounted to a political bombshell, signaling the start of a corruption probe into U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez just as he entered the final stretch of a fierce re-election fight. Menendez’s opponent, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., and other Republicans used the investigation like a cudgel, hammering at the incumbent’s integrity. Democrats accused Chris Christie, then U.S. attorney, of orchestrating a smear campaign to boost his party’s chances. While Menendez went on to win the 2006 election, riding a wave of voter anger over the war in Iraq, the status of the investigation remained an open question. Now that question is answered. In a letter sent to Menendez’s lawyer, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania said the case has been quietly closed. "After review and consideration of the matter transferred to me, I have decided to close the file," U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger wrote in the Oct. 5 letter, co-signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard P. Barrett. A law enforcement official with knowledge of the case said the probe was transferred to the Philadelphia office in 2009, when defense lawyer Paul Fishman was appointed U.S. attorney for New Jersey.

PolitickerNJ, No regret from Christie on dead-end Menendez investigation, Timothy J. Carroll, Oct. 25, 2011. Asked whether he stood by the timing of an ultimately fruitless federal probe into U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in his capacity as U.S. Attorney, the governor wasted few words in his own support. Asked today whether the criticism about his handling of the dead-end Menendez investigation was appropriate, Christie replied in one word: “No.”

Justice Integrity Project, N.J. Defendant Slams Gov. Christie, Obama DOJ, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 22, 2011. A former New Jersey assemblyman defending himself on corruption charges filed on Oct. 18 a wide-ranging brief alleging selective prosecution in the 2009 case that helped propel Chris Christie to his state's governor's mansion. Louis Manzo, left, requested also that courts vacate his most recent charges as vindictive or help enable a special prosecutor.

Analysis of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq
Salon / Unclaimed Territory, About that Iraq withdrawal, Glenn Greenwald, Oct. 21, 2011. President Obama announced today that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year, and this announcement is being seized upon exactly the way you would predict: by the Right to argue that Obama is a weak, appeasing Chamberlain and by Democrats to hail his greatness for keeping his promise and (yet again) Ending the War. It’s obviously a good thing that these troops are leaving Iraq, but let’s note three clear facts before either of these absurd narratives ossify:

First, the troop withdrawal is required by an agreement which George W. Bush negotiated and entered into with Iraq and which was ratified by the Iraqi Parliament prior to Obama’s inauguration. Second, the Obama administration has been working for months to persuade, pressure and cajole Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain in that country beyond the deadline. Third, there will still be a very substantial presence in that country, including what McClatchy called a “small army” under the control of the State Department. They will remain indefinitely, and that includes a large number of private contractors.

Forbes Columnist Compares Ukrainian Political Trial To U.S. Law
Forbes, The Ukraine is more Western than you think, Harvey A. Silverglate and Daniel Schwartz, Oct. 21, 2011. On Oct. 11 Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister and would be President of Ukraine, was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Politicians, analysts, and reporters from Moscow, Russia, to Moscow, Missouri, have condemned her trial as an unjust farce. New York Times reporter Ellen Barry summed up many “western” views of the trial when she wrote that it would “lead Ukraine west, toward Europe, or into a tight symbiosis with the country’s Soviet-era masters in Moscow.” The consensus, of course, was that the guilty verdict has done the latter. We argue that, while perhaps isolating the Ukraine politically, the trial itself demonstrates some striking similarities between our legal system and Ukraine’s. To convict Tymoshenko, politically-minded prosecutors cleverly utilized vague parts of the Ukrainian code of laws that were never designed to police her alleged behavior. As regular readers of my columns already know, the utilization of vague laws to convict the innocent is as American as apple pie. 

OWS Presents First Amendment Challlenges for U.S. Mayors
Huffington Post, Occupying the First Amendment, Bruce Ackerman and Yochai Benkler,. Oct. 21, 2011. Whatever else it accomplishes, Occupy Wall Street is revealing distortions in our current understanding of the First Amendment. In recent decisions, the Supreme Court has protected Wall Street's constitutional right to pour millions into political campaigns. But as presently construed, the First Amendment isn't an obstacle when it comes to silencing the Occupiers.

Does New U.S. Drone Killing in Yeman Test Legal Limits Under International and U.S. Law?
Salon / Unclaimed Territory, The killing of Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Glenn Greenwald, Oct. 20, 2011. Two weeks after the U.S. killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki with a drone strike in Yemen — far from any battlefield and with no due process — it did the same to his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, ending the teenager’s life on Friday along with his 17-year-old cousin and seven other people. News reports, based on government sources, originally claimed that Awlaki’s son was 21 years old and an Al Qaeda fighter (needless to say, as Terrorist often means: “anyone killed by the U.S.”), but a birth certificate published by the Washington Post proved that he was born only 16 years ago in Denver

Project's Clarence Thomas Column Widely Republished on Web
OpEd News, Judging the Judge: Citizens Must Unite After 20 Years of Clarence Thomas, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 19, 2011. The Clarence Thomas era on the court began 20 years ago with a fraud upon the public at his White House "swearing in" and has expanded into ongoing infamy.

DOJ Antitrust Attorneys Claim Civc Harm in Obama Relocation Plans

Washington Post, Justice Department lawyers irked by plans to close offices, Ed O'Keefe, Oct. 19, 2011. Dozens of career antitrust lawyers at the Justice Department are likely to quit if the department goes through with plans to close four regional offices, according to several of the attorneys. Officials this month announced plans to close four regional offices of the department’s antitrust division, and to move 94 attorneys and support staff members. But career antitrust lawyers affected by the plans said they were caught off guard, and they think the plans will result in de facto layoffs as colleagues decide to quit because they are unable or unwilling to move to another city.

Ted Stevens Prosecutors Seek To Void Contempt Finding
National Law Journal, D.C. Circuit grapples with contempt dispute in Ted Stevens case, Mike Scarcella, Oct. 17, 2011. The lawyers representing two attorneys in the botched public corruption case against late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) Monday asked an appeals court in Washington to vacate a judge's order holding the prosecutors in contempt. The prosecutors, William Welch II, formerly the head of the U.S. Justice Department's public integrity section, and Brenda Morris, were held in contempt in February 2009 in Washington federal district court. At the time, the trial judge, Emmet Sullivan, didn't say whether his order was civil or criminal, and he said he would tackle any appropriate sanctions down the road. Last year, Sullivan issued a ruling in which he characterized his decision as a civil contempt finding. The judge didn't issue sanctions. No jail. No fine. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is now wading into the dispute. Although it's tough to predict how cases will turn out, the prosecutors face an uphill battle.

C-SPAN Provides Video of Conference on Clarence Thomas 1991 Hearings
C-SPAN, Anita Hill 20 Years Later, Oct. 15, 2011  (Video). An all-day conference titled "Sex, Power and Speaking Truth: Anita Hill 20 Years Later" was on the Hunter campus in New York Cit. Anita Hill, the woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Senate confirmation hearings in 1991, was keynote speaker. Hill is now a professor at Brandeis University. Among two dozen other speakers were Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist; Gloria Steinem, author and co-founder of Ms. Magazine; New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, and Hunter Provost Vita Rabinowitz.

Motel Owner Never Indicted But Threatened With Forfeiture
Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Feds, Libertarians Tussle over Skeevy Motel, Joe Palazzolo, Oct, 18, 2011. Equitable sharing, as law enforcement buffs know, has spiked in the past decade. It is the process whereby state and local authorities assist the feds in asset-forfeiture cases and get a cut of the proceeds — as much as 80%. Last year, payments nationwide topped $500 million, up 75% from a decade earlier. In these lean times, state and local police departments welcome the extra scratch. Many asset forfeitures are tied to convictions, but the federal government can try to seize properties stained by crime even if owners face no charges. That includes the $57-a-night Motel Caswell in Tewsbury, Mass. — a magnet for hard-luck cases, police patrol cars and the occasional drug deal.

Federal Judge Thwarts Conservative Document Search on Kagan Conflicts in Health Care Litigation
BLT, Blog of the Legal Times, Judge Finds in Favor of DOJ in Suit Regarding Kagan's Role in Health Care Litigation, Marcia Coyle, Oct. 14, 2011. A federal judge on Oct. 13 rejected requests by two conservative organizations for additional documents relating to involvement that former Solicitor General Elena Kagan may have had in litigation over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In Media Research Center v. U.S. Department of Justice and Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted summary judgment in favor of the Justice Department. Media Research Center and Judicial Watch, in separate actions, had challenged the adequacy of the department’s search of its files in response to their Freedom of Information Act requests. The department had produced a number of documents, redacted others under FOIA exemptions, and withheld others after deciding they were not “agency records” subject to FOIA. Editor’s Note: The judge is a Democrat, elevated to the federal bench in 20002 after nomination by President Clinton. She was a partner during the late 1980s at the Washington firm Williams & Connolly. This is the only private firm where Kagan practiced, which was as an associate, also in the late 1980s.

Post Reports Prosecution 'Mistakes' In Withholding Evidence
Washington Post, Delays of Evidence Scrutinized, Keith L. Alexander, Oct. 17, 2011. Defense lawyers have long complained that some prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office hamper their investigations by withholding evidence or keeping it until the last minute. Prosecutors say such complaints are tactics to try to delay trials. At 17, Dwight Grandson should have been finishing up his studies at Mount Vernon High School. Instead, he went to prison for murder. Last year, after nearly six years behind bars, Grandson was granted a new trial. This month, a second D.C. Superior Court jury decided Grandson, 24, was not guilty.  Grandson’s reprieve resulted from a prosecutor’s mistake in failing to reveal key information about government witnesses and what they knew.

Supreme Court's Public Approval Drops
Washington Post, Enjoying basic loyalty, despite dip in popularity, Robert Barnes, Oct. 17, 2011. Gallup has announced that only 46 percent of Americans approve of the institution, a drop of 5 percentage points in the past year and 15 points in the past two years. “The same forces that have caused Americans to lose trust in the presidency and Congress appear to be affecting the way Americans view the Supreme Court,” Gallup said in a report accompanying the poll. “In addition to the public’s lower level of trust in the judicial branch of the federal government today than in recent years, the Supreme Court’s approval ratings — like those of Congress and the president — are in the lower range historically.”  Newt Gingrich says the Supreme Court is so far off base that its decisions would be practically non grata in his White House. “I would instruct the national security official in a Gingrich administration to ignore the Supreme Court on issues of national security,” he told the conservatives gathering at the Values Voters Summit.  At the opposite end of the political spectrum, the liberal Alliance for Justice last week excoriated the “Corporate Court” for its decisions upholding big business’ increasing use of arbitration to settle disputes with consumers.

How Much Extra Prison Time Is Fair For Defendants Who Seek Trial?
Washington Post, Fair sentencing in the Abramoff case, Editorial Board, Oct. 17, 2011. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in 2006 to fraud and bribery charges as the leader of a scheme in which he ripped off Native American clients, plied public officials with all-expenses-paid luxury trips and pocketed tens of millions of dollars for himself. Mr. Abramoff, who agreed to pay millions in restitution, was sentenced to four years in prison. Michael Scanlon, Mr. Abramoff’s right-hand man, and Robert Ney, a onetime Republican congressman implicated in the scandal, also entered guilty pleas. Mr. Scanlon was sentenced to 20 months, Mr. Ney to 30 months. So what, according to the Justice Department, is the appropriate sentencing range for Kevin A. Ring, a lobbying associate of Mr. Abramoff who was convicted last year but never accused of personally benefiting from the scheme? A term of 17 to 22 years. One reason for the astronomical sentence, according to the government: Mr. Ring was the only lobbyist who went to trial instead of pleading guilty and cooperating with the United States.

Seeing Is Believing in Kerik Case
Bernard and Hala KerikJustice Integrity Project, Court Slams Kerik Appeal….But Seeing Is Believing, Andrew Kreig, April 5, 2011. A New York federal appeals court last week rejected former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik’s claims of unfairness when his judge sentenced him to four years in prison for tax and related charges. But I was an eye-witness to the unfairness to Kerik during his sentencing in New York on Feb. 18, 2010. Kerik, a career law enforcer much-honored for valor as a city police detective, has described himself as petrified during the proceedings for fear of what the judge was doing. Kerik is portrayed immediately afterward at right with his wife, Hala, in a photo by Maxine Suselles.

Influence Peddling Trial in Maryland
Washington Post, Defense to present case in Currie bribery trial, John Wagner, Oct. 17, 2011. Several high-ranking Maryland government officials have testified in federal court in recent weeks that they had no idea that Sen. Ulysses Currie was being paid by a grocery chain that stood to benefit from his high-level intervention. Yet, some of the same witnesses suggested that the efforts of the once-powerful Prince George’s Democrat had little, if any, influence on the outcome of proposed development deals, traffic light requests and other projects supported by Shoppers Food Warehouse.

More Murdoch Scandal in United States?
CNN, Exclusive: Videos detail News America tactics against competitors, Scott Zamost, Todd Schwarzschild and Drew Griffin, Oct. 14, 2011. The far-reaching News of the World phone-hacking scandal that toppled the 168-year-old British newspaper this summer led to the resignation of Britain's top police official and threatened Rupert Murdoch's global media empire continues to raise questions about the business practices of parent company News Corp. The UK phone-hacking scandal raises questions about business practices of News Corp. U.S.-based subsidiary, drawing attention with allegations of corporate espionage. A Floorgraphics lawsuit alleged "illegal, anti-competitive, and unfair business practices." News America Marketing moves sought to put Floorgraphics out of business, the suit alleges.

Bush-Obama Prosecution of John Edwards Questioned
John EdwardsLegal Schnauzer, Alabama Is Not the Only State Where Obama Has Helped Persecute Members of His Own Party, Roger Shuler, Oct. 14, 2011. As a resident of Alabama, I've been operating under the assumption that ours is the only state where the Obama Justice Department has shown utter ineptitude on the appointment of U.S. attorneys. But I was wrong  about that. But it turns out that Obama let a similar situation fester in North Carolina, a state that he won in 2008. The target in North Carolina is former presidential candidate John Edwards. And the embedded Bushie was George Holding, who stayed on as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina until July 8 of this year. Holding announced his resignation roughly one week after an indictment was issued against Edwards. How convenient.