Monday, July 24, 2006
Do prosecutors need a Gideon-like decision to assist them in obtaining more funding for government prosecutions? Or has DOJ mismanaged money resulting in a shortfall?
Irrespective of why the money to prosecute is low, it is certain that two representatives Henry Waxman and John Conyors Jr. have had enough of the situation. In a letter dated July 24, 2006 to AG Alberto Gonzales, asking for some answers, they state in part:
" We are writing to express our concern that U.S. Attorney offices across the nation are suffering from staffing shortages and lack of funds. The consequences appear to be severe. According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys, the lack of staff and resources force federal prosecutors to forego prosecutions in some important cases and to reach plea bargains in others. In some offices, there are shortages of even basic office supplies, like binder clips and envelopes."
But the letter also notes that:
"According to budget information from the Department of Justice, appropriations for the U.S. Attorneys account have increased from $1.349 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $1.588 billion in fiscal 2006. This is an increase of 15%, representing an increase in real dollars even after inflation is taken into account. The disparity between increased funding for U.S. Attorneys overall and drastic shortages in staff and supplies in individual offices raises questions about Justice Department management."
And what about all the money obtained from forfeitures, especially the enormous amounts paid in the recent white collar crime prosecutions? You mean it doesn't go to them? (See Washington Post here)
So how do we handle this - a special prosecutor to investigate possible fraud and abuse at DOJ? a deferred prosecution agreement with DOJ requiring them to waive the attorney-client privilege so that someone can go after individuals in the "company"? does DOJ have an "effective" corporate compliance program? perhaps Congress needs to step in to investigate this situation? The bottom line is that when U.S. Attorneys force "indigent defendants to pay for access to potentially exculpatory evidence," this is unacceptable.
Letter - Download usao_ltr_final.pdf