Misconduct Findings Against U.S. Judges Kept Secret

By Andrew Kreig

Concerned citizens seeking honest judges now have further evidence they face a secretive, self-protective system that hinders effective oversight. The Washington Post reported Dec. 24 that complaints of judicial ethics go to a special panel that generally refuses to comment.  More specifically, the Post said: “The current chair of the Codes of Conduct committee, Judge Mary Margaret McKeown [at left] of the 9th Circuit in San Diego, said in response to questions that the panel 'does not reveal any information related to an ethics inquiry or opinion unless required by law or where the inquirer has consented or waived confidentiality.'"

The Justice Integrity Project has reported extensive abuses by federal judges. In 2003, for example, an attorney in a civil lawsuit seeking the recusal of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of the Middle District of Alabama filed papers in court alleging that the judge had attempted to defraud Alabama's pension system of $330,000, and therefore should be recused from future cases, and then indicted and impeached. Those papers -- a 39-page affidavit and nearly 140 pages of supporting exhibits -- are mysteriously missing from the court system's public docket even though the attorney delivered multiple copies to the court and such oversight officials as the entire U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as court administrators and the U.S. Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.  There's been no reported action on a corruption investigation by any of the authorities to whom they were sent, with the attorney saying no one ever bothered to contact him to ask a single question about the evidence. The judge went on to be promoted to chief judge, to preside over many politically charged cases and to become enriched by Bush-era federal contracts for Doss Aviation, Inc., a closely held company the judge controlled at the same time he was helping the Bush administration convict former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and businessman Richard Scrushy on corruption charges.  The Huffington Post published our report, Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows….$300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company. Doss services include Air Force refueling and pilot training.

The judge, who declines to provide his photo, is portrayed at right above in photo taken by Phil Fleming in a portrait session that Fleming says the judge requested minutes after the jury's guilty verdict in June, 2006.  The Republican judge sentenced them each to seven years in prison in what has since become a notorious human rights disgrace because of multiple violations of normal procedures, albeit some rubber-stamped by other courts. Aside from the impact on the defendants, their families and colleagues, the prosecution of Alabama's leading Democrat has helped destroy the two-party system in the state and has undermined the credibility of the Obama Justice Department and the federal judiciary nationwide.  Further, sources have informed us that the prosecution was designed to help pave the way for the politically well-connected in Alabama and overseas to profit if the Department of Defense awards some $40 billion in Air Force contracts to North American EADS to manufacture the next generation of Air Force refueling tankers. EADS, headquartered in Europe and promoted by national leaders there, has promised to build an assembly plant in Alabama if it and its consortium win the military contract, which is one of its most important, disputed and scandal-plagued in the nation's recent history.

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Strange Twists in 'Casino Jack' Prosecutions Aired

By Andrew Kreig / JIP Director's Blog

As the movie Casino Jack debuts, a former client of  Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff described on MTL Washington Update radio Dec. 23 why the movie starring Kevin Spacey, at left, accurately portrays Abramoff's good qualities. Isidro Garza, Jr., the former Kickapoo Tribal Council representative with significant responsibilities at the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, the only legalized gambling facility in Texas, revealed for the first time why he has remained friendly with the notorious lobbyist through the years. Garza maintains that Abramoff, recently released from prison and a halfway house after corruption convictions, has taken more than his share of blame and has a great promise for making a positive contribution to society. Garza believes he was himself a victim of a political prosecution on corruption charges after he ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for a Texas-Mexico border congressional seat then held by Republican Henry Bonilla. Garza and his son, among others, were convicted on corruption charges and served some two years in prison. A federal appeals court vacated all their convictions, and remanded their case back to the federal trial court. They are free on bond after being granted a new trial.

"Jack did so much work without charging us," Garza says. "He worked very hard to use his contacts in Washington to help the Kickapoo Tribe get the casino off the ground, and he did a lot of good." Garza gave the New York Times the first photo of Abramoff at the White House at a meeting with President Bush and a Kickapoo leader at a time when White House officials denied knowing Abramoff. The denial was even though Abramoff's former secretary, Susan Ralston, had moved on to become the secretary of White House advisor Karl Rove. The latter is visible at the far right of the White House photo at right, separated from President Bush by Abramoff's client, with Abramoff visible over the President's left shoulder.  Casino Jack, which describes itself as as a dramatized version of events based on a true story, is a powerful tale of pervasive corruption in Washington.

Access the radio show nationwide on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) network Live! or by archive later. MTL Co-host and Network founder Scott Draughon and I began the show we've done together for four years with an insider commentary on little-reported Washington news. Among the week's topics (summarized below) was news about politically motivated federal prosecutions during the Bush era and continued under Obama.  

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Dec. 22 News Round-Up: FCC Net Neutrality Vote Analyzed

Decision-making at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may seem an unlikely venue for a discussion pertaining to free speech because every commissioner would uphold such rights in theory. But historic issues of freedom of communications are arising in the "net neutrality" proceeding, which resulted in a 3-2 party-line vote Dec. 21 pushed by Chairman Julius Genachowski, left. The compromise regulatory approach fell short of President Obama's campaign rhetoric from potential content restrictions and price-gouging by Internet companies.  But it still antagonized Republicans who dissented.

Bruce Gottlieb, general counsel of the non-partisan National Journal, published an expert view of how the commission functions in this and similarly important proceedings. He is a former FCC chief counsel, among other posts. For current official views, click here for the statements of Genachowski and the two most senior commissioners, Democrat Michael Copps, at right, and Republican Robert McDowell, at left below.

National Journal, Ex-Regulator’s View: FCC Will Pass Net Neutrality, Bruce Gottlieb, Dec. 20, 2010. [Julius] Genachowski has proposed specific “net neutrality” rules that would govern how residential broadband providers may—and may not—prioritize particular Internet traffic. However, his fellow Democrats believe that his proposal doesn’t go far enough, and they are threatening to walk away with nothing rather than accept what’s on the table.  Other news included developments in transportation security, WikiLeaks and the ongoing conflicts at the Washington Post regarding its income stream from its Kaplan education services subsidiary, which generates 62% of the paper's income compared to just 4% from newspaper circulation.

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Dec. 21: FCC Issues Controversial ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules

By Andrew Kreig / JIP Director's Blog

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Dec. 21 approved by a 3-2 party line vote a compromise proposal on net neutrality rules. The new provisions impose on telecom and cable broadband operators transparency, anti-blocking and anti-discrimination provisions while giving internet service providers flexibility to exercise “reasonable” network management, including higher costs for some services. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski won a majority with the help of two Democrats who wanted stronger consumer protections. Both FCC Republicans opposed the rules, predicting they would be overturned in court as going beyond the commission’s powers delegated by Congress.

Civil rights and Internet freedom groups complained that the commission’s compromise does not adequately protect users against content restrictions and price-gouging. Providers tended to complain that the rules are over-regulatory. The rules are expected to be a bonanza for relevant DC lobbyists and other advocates as they are hired to impact the interpretation of such terms as “reasonable.”

Click for the statements of Democratic Chairman Julius Genachowski and the two senior members of the Commission, Democrat Michael Copps and Republican Robert McDowell.  The Justice Integrity Project attended the vote, and plans to publish our analysis tomorrow.

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Dec. 20 News: More On Big Brother Surveillance of Citizens

Editor's Note: Below is a selection of significant blogs and news articles on legal reform and related political, security and media dimensions. The articles contain a sample of news, with the full article viewable by clicking the link.

Salon/Unclaimed Territory, The Government's one-way mirror, Glenn Greenwald, Dec. 20, 2010. In The Washington Post today, Dana Priest and William Arkin continue their "Top Secret America" series by describing how America's vast and growing Surveillance State now encompasses state and local law enforcement agencies, collecting and storing always-growing amounts of information about even the most innocuous activities undertaken by citizens suspected of no wrongdoing.
Huffington Post, The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time, Sen. Al Franken (right), Dec. 20, 2010. The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission has the power to issue regulations that protect net neutrality. The bad news is that draft regulations written by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski don't do that at all. They're worse than nothing.


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Rove Suspect In Swedish-U.S. WikiLeaks Prosecution


Karl Rove's help for Sweden as it assists the Obama administration's prosecution against WikiLeaks could be the latest example of the adage, "Politics makes strange bedfellows."

Rove has advised Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, right, for the past two years after resigning as Bush White House political advisor in mid-2007. Rove's resignation followed the scandalous Bush mid-term political purge of nine of the nation's 93 powerful U.S. attorneys.

These days, Sweden and the United States are apparently undertaking a political prosecution as audacious and important as those by the notorious "loyal Bushies" earlier this decade against U.S. Democrats. The U.S. prosecution of WikiLeaks, if successful, could criminalize many kinds of investigative news reporting about government affairs, not just the WikiLeaks disclosures that are embarrassing Sweden as well as the Bush and Obama administrations. Authorities in both countries are setting the stage with pre-indictment sex and spy smears against WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange, plus an Interpol manhunt.

“This all has Karl’s signature,” a reliable political source told me a week and a half ago in encouraging our Justice Integrity Project to investigate Rove’s Swedish connection.  “He must be very happy.  He’s right back in the middle of it.  He’s making himself valuable to his new friends, seeing the U.S. government doing just what he’d like ─ and screwing his opponents big-time.”

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