Dec. 14: Obama, Senate Fail To Confirm Judges

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.

 Huffington Post, Obama's Judges Blocked At Historic Rate, Ryan Grim, Dec. 14, 2010.
As the first congressional session of Obama's presidency draws to a close, what began as a slow process of confirmation has ballooned into a full-blown judicial crisis. The Senate has overseen the slowest pace of judicial staffing in at least a generation, with a paltry 39.8 percent of Obama's judges having been confirmed, according to numbers compiled by Senate Democrats. Of the 103 district and circuit court nominees, only 41 have been confirmed. By this time in George W. Bush's presidency, the Senate had confirmed 76 percent of his nominees. President Clinton was working at a rate of 89 percent at this point in his tenure.
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Dec. 13 News: USA Today Continues Revelations on DOJ

By Andrew Kreig / JIP Director's Blog

USA Today continued last week with its important investigative series about how the Justice Department poorly monitors misconduct by its personnel. Meanwhile, significant developments occurred in the New Jersey and Connecticut cases that our Justice Integrity Project has probed. Listed below are links to this and other articles of recent days, with excerpts.

USA Today, Misconduct at the Justice Department, Kevin McCoy and Brad Heath, USA TODAY, Dec. 11, 2010. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kent unexpectedly found himself in the legal cross hairs in 2003…."The so-called ethics police violated the same rules they falsely accused me of violating," says Kent, now 66 and retired. "They created false evidence and hid exonerating evidence. How can that system be trusted?"  The case spotlights questions about the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Justice Department watchdog agency that can save or ruin a federal prosecutor's career as it enforces legal and ethics rules.  For full USA Today series begun on Sept. 23, 2010, see Index
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Jesse Ventura Takes BP Gulf Oil Questions To National TV

By Andrew Kreig

TruTV host Jesse Ventura has been raising important and rarely answered questions recently on his show. On Dec. 10, for example, the former Minnesota governor, Navy SEAL and professional wrestler explored on Conspiracy Theory, "Gulf Oil Disaster Planned?"

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Dec. 10 News: Feds Rarely Lose Jobs Over Misconduct

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.

ABA/USA Today, Federal Prosecutors Rarely Lose Their Jobs, Despite Misconduct Findings,Debra Cassens Weiss, Dec. 9, 2010

Justice Department investigations of prosecutor misconduct rarely result in serious sanctions for wrongdoing, according to a newspaper investigation. “Prosecutors have little reason to fear losing their jobs, even if they violate laws or constitutional safeguards designed to ensure the justice system is fair,” USA Today reports. Most violations result in reprimands, suspensions or agreements that allow lawyers to leave their jobs “with their reputations intact and their records unblemished,” the newspaper says.

The U.S. Justice Department refused USA Today’s request for a list of disciplinary actions taken against prosecutors, so the newspaper sifted through a decade of annual reports that summarize some of the cases investigated. The documents revealed just one termination. A Department of Justice lawyer was fired because she had been unlicensed for more than five years after she was suspended for failing to comply with legal education requirements, according to the 2009 report. The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility had recommended the firing of four other lawyers, but they either resigned or retired. According to the reports, OPR has investigated 756 complaints from 2000 to 2009 and found misconduct in 196 cases. Justice officials say they can’t release investigation details because of privacy laws.


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Dec. 9 Radio Update: WikiLeaks, Israeli Justice

Joe Lauria, the Wall Street Journal's United Nations correspondent, says most of his fellow UN correspondents are delighted with the revelations from secret U.S. documents released by Wikileaks and its partners from its recent stash of 250,000

secret papers. Speaking on the weekly Washington Update public affairs show that I co-host with Scott Draughon, Lauria, left, said the leaks tend to confirm U.S. intelligence-gathering of a kind that are suspected of all major nations, but are hard to prove. Especially interesting, he said, was disclosure that the State Department has sought DNA and other personal information about diplomats from many nations for unknown purposes.

Another guest on the show was Craig Corrie, the father of Mideast peace proponent Rachel Corrie, right, an Evergreen State College student who was killed at age 23 in Palestine on March 16, 2003 trying to prevent the demolition of the home of a Palestinian family. 

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New Articles Highlight Washington Post Conflicts

The Washington Post published two articles about its Kaplan subsidiary on Dec. 7 that illustrate themes we addressed in our blog the same day, which we entitled, "The Washington Post's Hidden Agenda?" Our colum addressed the inherent conflict when the Kaplan subsidiary provides 62% of the Post's revenue, with some methods allegedly so deceptive they are being aggressively investigated by state and federal authorities and other methods government funded or otherwise controversial. A newspaper's watchdog function on behalf of its readers, who contribute 4% of the Post's revenue via circulation and some 15% via advertising, is inevitably compromised when the lion's share of revenue is from another source.
In a related matter, the prominent Democratic lawyer and political commentator Lanny Davis founded a firm that represents the for-profit education industry, of which Kaplan is a prominent part. The news media, including the Post, frequently quote Davis regarding his views, which tend to espouse similar policies as the Post's editorial page. Melanie Sloan, longtime executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Reponsibility in Ethics in Washington (CREW), has joined the Davis firm. She and CREW wrote a letter to Congress last summer suggesting that critics of the for-profit education sector were overzealous. Her letter followed a political column by Davis in a Capitol Hill newspaper making similar points. She and Davis say they came to independent conclusions, and decided only afterward to work together.
The new Post articles are excerpted below, with the full stories available by clicking the links:
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