Friday, January 1, 2021

Former AG Richard Thornburgh RIP

The press is reporting the death of former Governor of Pa. and Attorney General Richard "Dick" Thornburgh (see here and here). Many will reflect on his handling of the Three Mile Island crisis.  Others will look at his time as Governor. 

But criminal defense attorneys will likely recall the Thornburgh Memo that called for prosecuting or pleading to the "most serious readily provable offense."  There were some exceptions in the guidance, and in some ways this posture can be traced back to AG Civiletti.  (See Alan Vinegrad, Justice Departments New Charging Plea Bargaining and Sentencing Policy, NYLJ explaining the differences and sameness in DOJ  AG Policies). Others may recall his memo that allowed prosecutors to contact defense counsel's clients without their permission.  The highly controversial memo questioned whether US Attorneys were subject to state ethics rules. (See Allen Samuelson & Robert Maxwell, State Ethics Rules Now Apply to Federal Prosecutors)  In the end, the ethics rules prevailed, with the passage of the McDade Amendment in 1998 that legislatively held that attorneys for the government would be subject to state ethics rules. (see here). 

Dick Thornburgh was also known for "shepherding the American with Disabilities Act"(here) When he dedicated the Eleazer courtroom on Stetson Law's campus he said, "[t]he Eleazer courtroom doesn’t simply accommodate wheelchair access, though that is monumental in its own right. It goes so much further. Its technology will enable people with various sensory impairments to participate fully in our judicial process." (see here

Finally, Thornburgh supported the importance of the Mueller Investigation and the need for this investigation. In an op-ed piece in USA Today he stated, "We must insist that the Department of Justice perform its duties vigorously and follow the evidence wherever it leads. Our democracy demands no less."  (see here).


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