Sunday, April 15, 2007
In a piece in the Washington Post, Scott Turow provides his take on the appropriate role of a U.S. Attorney. He mentions how U.S. Attorneys back in his day in the office resented the DOJ approvals needed in RICO cases.
Today U.S. Attorneys need main justice's approval in a lot more than just RICO cases. For example, it is needed when an attorney is indicted and when the matter relates to international affairs.
Having oversight by the central office is good. When a rogue or inexperienced prosecutor extends the lines with creative prosecutions, there needs to be one central office that provides guidance. Moreover, central coordination can provide consistency in the various offices. It would be a shame to have consistency in sentencing if the underlying charging process varies.
The problem is not with having autonomy in U.S. Attorneys' Offices. The problem is whether those within any office, whether it be in Washington, D.C. or elsewhere are separate from the political process. The political process may place them in their position, but once there - a prosecutor needs to be a "minister of justice."