Thursday, May 24, 2007

George Bush Now Has a Monica Problem

"In Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department, Democrats and liberals who were denied civil service jobs were said to have a "Monica Problem." After yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Justice Department has a Monica Problem of its own."

Above quote is from "Monica's Own Monica Problem" by Dana Milbank, published in The Washington Post on May 24, 2007.

Millbank continues:

The source of the metastasizing Monica Problem (not to be confused with the previous president's Monica Problem) is Monica Goodling, a graduate of Pat Robertson's law school who was the Justice Department's enforcer of partisan purity until she resigned and investigations began. In a full day of testimony, she accused the No. 2 Justice official of giving false testimony to Congress, implied that Gonzales himself had improperly tried to influence her testimony, and generally described Gonzales's Justice Department as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican National Committee.

"I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions," the trembling young witness told the committee after securing immunity from prosecution for her testimony. "I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions."

"Was that legal?" demanded Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). Under the witness table, Goodling wrung her hands and rubbed her bracelet. She drew a deep breath. "I know I crossed the line," she admitted.

So, apparently, did Paul McNulty, who has already announced his resignation as deputy attorney general. Goodling said he was "not fully candid" in his testimony to Congress about the White House's role in the replacement of U.S. attorneys.
And speaking of line crossers, there was that "uncomfortable" meeting when Gonzales seemed to be trying to coach Goodling's testimony. Days before she resigned, the attorney general presented his version of the firings ("Let me tell you what I remember") and asked for her reaction. "I didn't know that it was maybe appropriate," Goodling said.

Republicans must have known they had a problem on their hands, for they moved with dispatch to create diversions. Rep. Chris Cannon (Utah) opted to read into the record a lengthy editorial comparing Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) to Tony Soprano. Rep. Dan Lundgren (Calif.) delivered a 250-word speech praising his own glorious service as his state's attorney general.

The only break Republicans got all day came from a neophyte Democrat on the committee, Steve Cohen (Tenn.), who decided to poke fun at the educational pedigree of Goodling, Regent University law school Class of '99 ("top 10.5 percent of class," reported her résumé).

"The mission of the law school you attended, Regent, is to bring to bear upon legal education and the legal profession the will of almighty God," he said. "What is the will of almighty God, our creator, on the legal profession?"

"I'm not sure that I could define that question for you," Goodling answered.
Cohen continued: "Are you aware of the fact that in your graduating class, 50 to 60 percent of the students failed the bar the first time?"

"I know it wasn't good," she conceded.

Republicans erupted in groans and cries of "bigotry." "Regent University students won the American Bar Association's Negotiation Competition February 11," protested Randy Forbes (R-Va.).

Goodling had been the subject of considerable speculation as her testimony was delayed for weeks by her immunity negotiations. Would she be a modern-day Fawn Hall, defending her bosses the way Ollie North's secretary once fought for him? Or would she be the woman with powerful tear ducts described by her colleague David Margolis as having sobbed in his office for "30 to 45 minutes" when the scandal broke.
But Goodling was neither. Her trembling fingers gave away her nerves, but she made clear from the start that she hadn't come to take the fall: At the top of her written testimony, bold and underlined, was the sentence "The Deputy Attorney General's Allegations are False."

With the assistance of committee Democrats, Goodling quickly established that she had little preparation for the senior job she held at the Justice Department. Asked about her previous experience making personnel decisions, Goodling began her answer by noting that she was student body president in college.

But Democrats quickly realized that Goodling, who worked for the RNC before joining the Justice Department, was of more use to them as a savvy operative than as an ingenue. Their questions encouraged her to paint political considerations at Justice as so pervasive that she couldn't quantify them.

How many job applicants did she block because of political leanings? "I wouldn't be able to give you a number." Did she ask aspiring civil servants whom they voted for? "I may have." Did she screen applicants for career prosecutor jobs so that Republicans landed in those positions? "I think that I probably did." How many times? "I don't think that I could have done it more than 50 times, but I don't know." She further admitted that she "occasionally" researched career applicants' political affiliations and checked their political donations.

Legally, this could all add up to a major Monica Problem for Goodling, who brought three high-priced lawyers with her to the hearing. "I intend to establish a legal defense fund at some point," she told the committee.

Here's guessing that Gonzales and McNulty won't be contributing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cheryl Cox and George Bush agree: public attorneys should be accountable only to officials, not to the public that pays them

33-year-old lawyer Monica Goodling testified before congress today. Monica is the Justice Department aide who resigned recently when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted that eight US Attorneys were fired due to a plot among his underlings, while he himself was innocent of conducting a purge of Bush appointees who failed to use the justice system to further Bush's agenda.

Monica admits she broke the law by asking political questions of job applicants, but she didn't mean to. As Dahlia Lithwick of Slate Magazine noted, Monica just seemed to want the Justice Department to be one big happy family. "She almost makes it sound like a good thing," said Lithwick, on TO THE POINT on KCRW radio.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bonnie Dumanis likes uncorroborated jailbird testimony

Why does this Voice of San Diego story not surprise me?

A wrongful conviction is better than no conviction at all, right, Bonnie?

Hushing the Jailbirds
by Will Carless
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that legislation approved Thursday by the California Senate would limit prosecutors' ability to rely on testimony from prison inmates to obtain convictions.

Essentially, the Mercury News reports, the legislation would require prosecutors to corroborate testimony from inmates with an independent source who is not incarcerated. That’s motivated by the worry that inmates could be tempted to lie and help prosecutors in order to get themselves more lenient sentences.

In an e-mail, a spokesman for the San Diego District Attorney’s Office said the local DA "disapproves in principle" of the legislation. Here’s what the spokesman, Steve Walker, wrote:

The California District Attorney's Association (CDAA) has taken a "disapprove in principle" stance on SB609, a position that the San Diego District Attorney's Office agrees with.

Here’s an extract from the story:

Making it more difficult to convict using such testimony was recommended by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which has reviewed the causes of wrongful convictions.

The bill passed 25-10.

Friday, May 18 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

How dirty do you have to be to have a bunch of lawyers say you have no ethics?

Answer: You have to be really dishonest!

The California Bar Association says Elizabeth Schulman's behavior was acceptable.

Ex-Prosecutor Faces Panel on Ethics Charges
By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post
Monday, May 7, 2007

G. Paul Howes tried more than a few big cases as a federal prosecutor in the District during the late 1980s and early '90s.

Now, more than a decade after leaving the U.S. attorney's office for private practice, he faces what could be his biggest trial: his own.

Charged with ethics violations stemming from his conduct in two drug-and-murder conspiracy cases, Howes is to appear today before a D.C. disciplinary panel that could recommend his disbarment in the District.

A confidential Justice Department investigation, completed in 1998, found that Howes flagrantly abused the stipend system for witnesses, signing off on tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized payments to witnesses and, even more significantly, to their friends and families.

Witnesses routinely are paid stipends when they go to court to testify or when they meet with prosecutors to prepare for the proceedings. But the payments must be disclosed to defense attorneys so informed assessments can be made of the witnesses' credibility. And relatives and friends who are not bona fide witnesses cannot be paid.

At the time of the cases that came under scrutiny, a witness in a federal case would have received a voucher for $40 for each day of service. In its charging documents, the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel cites questionable payments totaling more than $75,000 from among the nearly $141,000 in voucher payments issued in the cases.

The cases were the kind on which reputations can be made. In one, a D.C. police officer was charged with conspiring with a drug gang to kill its rivals, and in the other, members of the notorious Newton Street Crew were charged with running a criminal enterprise that was engaged in murder and narcotics distribution.

In each of the cases, Howes kept the defendants' lawyers in the dark about the unauthorized payments. His motivation remains unclear.

But the fallout was far-reaching. In the years after the abuses came to light, the U.S. attorney's office had to agree to significant reductions in the sentences of several defendants, including some who had been serving life prison terms. At least three defendants were released within months of the reductions.

No criminal charges were brought against Howes, however, and the Justice Department found no indication that he was acting for personal gain.

In 2002 -- four years after completing its investigation -- the Justice Department referred the matter to the bar counsel. That office investigates allegations of ethical misconduct by lawyers licensed in the District.

It wasn't until February that the bar counsel filed charges against Howes, now a partner at Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins in San Diego. Howes is accused of making a false statement, making an illegal inducement to a witness, failing to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence, committing a criminal act and other offenses.

In a written reply to the bar counsel's charges, Howes did not dispute many of the allegations. He said, for example, that he "engaged in conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation" and that he "engaged in conduct that seriously interfered with the administration of justice."

But he contested other accusations, denying that he ever offered "an unlawful inducement to a witness" and denying that he committed a "criminal act that reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer."

Neither Howes nor his lead attorney responded to requests for comment.

In a letter sent earlier this year to a federal judge in Houston, where he has been representing shareholders in a class-action lawsuit against disgraced energy giant Enron, Howes alerted the court to his pending ethics charges. He told the judge that he has "always accepted responsibility for my conduct and that of the police officers who worked with me" on the D.C. cases, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.

Such charges against a current or former federal prosecutor are rare, and the hearing that begins today could be the first time Howes publicly addresses his conduct in two of the biggest organized crime prosecutions of that era.

Leading the defense will be one of Washington's most prominent lawyers, Plato Cacheris, whose roster of clients has included former FBI agent Robert Hanssen and former CIA officer Aldrich H. Ames in two of the biggest spy cases in U.S. history, and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, whose relationship with President Bill Clinton came under worldwide scrutiny and an independent counsel's investigation.

At stake is Howes's career as a lawyer.

After returning from service in Vietnam and earning a law degree and a master's degree, Howes went to work in government, first as a special assistant to FBI Director William H. Webster, then as a clerk for federal appeals Judge Roger Robb. He took a job as a Washington correspondent for ABC News but soon returned to government, joining the U.S. attorney's office, where he would remain for 11 years, until 1995.

As a prosecutor, he made a name for himself taking on murderous drug gangs that kept bodies dropping across the District in the late 1980s and early '90s. It was intense work, and it all seemed to be coming together in 1993, as Howes prepared to try two of the biggest cases of his career.

The first, the case against reputed gang member Javier Card, D.C. police officer Fonda Moore and others, was tried over seven months in D.C. Superior Court, concluding in April 1994.

The second, the Newton Street case, began a day after the Card-Moore case ended and spanned six months in U.S. District Court.

Both prosecutions ended with convictions and long prison terms and, taken together, should have been a capstone to Howes's career.
Now his professional future is largely in the hands of others.

Today, he will go before a three-member hearing committee of the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility, the arm of the D.C. Court of Appeals that administers the disciplinary system for lawyers in the District.

Most lawyer discipline cases in the District stem from allegations that a lawyer neglected a client or misused money. Allegations such as those faced by Howes are unusual, said Phil Fox, a partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, who was chairman of the Board on Professional Responsibility in the mid-1990s.

"I can't think of a case similar to this," he said.

Evidence will be presented by bar counsel lawyers and by Howes's lawyers. Howes himself could testify, along with character witnesses on his behalf.

The hearing is expected to last for at least a couple of days, and after it ends, both sides will submit briefs. The hearing committee will prepare a report to the board, a nine-member body of lawyers and nonlawyers.

The board will then prepare its own report and make a recommendation to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which has the authority to strip a lawyer of the right to practice in the District.

It is a process that could take quite a while to play out, Fox said. "It's going to be a couple of years."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cheryl Cox made character an issue, then ducked hard questions about her character

On her campaign-for-mayor website, Cheryl Cox states:

"Cheryl Cox believes that those elected to office should be held to a high standard of personal conduct, that they should represent their constituents rather than themselves, and that they should never forget who they’re working for."

Are you listening, Bonnie Dumanis?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Is Bonnie Dumanis playing politics with our justice system?

Bonnie Dumanis
District Attorney
County of San Diego

Dear Ms. Dumanis:

Since you began prosecuting last month, on behalf of the Cheryl Cox campaign, allegations of perjury regarding a 2-hour-leave from work by a young man employed by the City of Chula Vista, it is long past time that you reconsider your hasty response to my complaint about felony obstruction of justice by Richard Werlin, agent for Cheryl Cox and the Chula Vista Elementary School District. Richard Werlin, of course, was not operating in a vacuum when he came up with the idea to commit crimes and cover them up. As soon as possible I will send you proof that CVESD attorneys Daniel Shinoff and Kelly Angell AKA Kelly Minnehan, and possibly others, were involved in directing Richard Werlin to obstruct justice.

If you look at my original complaint, you will see that it uses the language of California statute, almost WORD FOR WORD. Your response that my complaint did not involve criminal allegations is false on its face.

In addition, I have attached proof of perjury and subornation of perjury by Deborah Garvin, Michael Carlson and Sam Gross in San Diego County and San Diego County Superior Court. These crimes were committed to cover up criminal violations of Labor Code 432.7 and many other laws of the state of California by your very own Cheryl Cox and her fellow Chula Vista Elementary School District board members. Attorney Mark Bresee was CVESD's legal advisor duirng the original violations of law.

Since the crimes I have reported were accompanied by many instances of intimidation of witnesses and other actions that extend the statute of limitations, I believe that even the earliest incidents of obstruction of justice that occurred in 2002 are still prosecutable.

Yours truly,
Maura Larkins