Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Selective Prosecution Hearing

What role has politics played in DOJ activity? The House Judiciary Subcommittees on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and Commercial and Administrative Law held a hearing today on "Allegations of Selective Prosecution: The Erosion of Public Confidence in Our Federal Justice System."  A key focus was on the extent that politics played in department decisions. For example, there was discussion of cases that were filed immediately prior to an election. 

Former Attorney General Thornburgh, a Republican, spoke to how local state matters were being prosecuted in the federal system because of broad statutes like mail fraud. He expressed opposition to overreaching.   He stated that the recent DOJ was 7 times more likely to prosecute Democrats then Republicans. And the witness following, Dennis C. Shields, provided statistics that supported the skewed prosecution statistics premised on political party.

J. Doug Jones, former US Attorney in Alabama, provided details of a prosecution in Alabama that was controlled by DOJ in D.C.  In this regard, former Governor Siegelman's case was mentioned several times.  Also noted was that 44 State Attorney Generals were questioning what happened in this case.

The testimony was  damaging to our justice system as it was clear that politics in DOJ was playing a factor in prosecutions.  The question will now be whether the next AG will restore confidence in the office and make certain that politics does not factor into the decision-making process.

A webcast of the hearing can be found here.

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