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Tag: U.S. Attorneys

Legal Pot in Limbo After Sessions Invites Federal Crackdown

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has compared marijuana to heroin, blamed pot for spikes in violence and declared that “good people don’t smoke it,” just threw the blossoming  cannabis industry into chaos.

The longtime, zealous opponent of pot is rolling back Obama-era directives that discouraged federal prosecutors from busting growers and sellers in states where laws permit medicinal or recreational marijuana use.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In a memo to U.S. attorneys Thursday, Sessions told U.S. attorneys they are once again permitted to pursue marijuana prosecutions in any state because federal law prohibits the possession and sale of pot.

“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission,” Sessions said in a statement. “Therefore, today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”

A total of 36 states have legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use.

The impact of Sessions’ memo won’t be immediately clear because enforcement is up to the discretion of each federal prosecutor.

Barnes & Thornburg First Major Firm to Have 3-Ex-U.S. Attorneys As Partners Who are African Americans

(L-R) Mike Battle, Roscoe Howard, Patrick Miles

(L-R) Mike Battle, Roscoe Howard, Patrick Miles

By Allan Lengel

Barnes & Thornburg, based in Indianapolis, is the first major law firm to have three former U. S. Attorneys  as partners who are African American.  The firm has 13 offices and is among the 100 largest in the U.S.

The former U.S. Attorneys include Mike Battle, who served in the Western District of New York (Buffalo) under President George W. Bush; Roscoe Howard who served in D.C. under Bush and Patrick Miles, who served in the the Western District of Michigan (Grand Rapids) under President Barack Obama.

Howard and Battle work in the D.C. office and Miles is based in Grand Rapids.

Report Suggests Justice Department Mishandled Sexual Misconduct Cases

justice-dept-photo-with-woman-and-court1By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department has mishandled sexual harassment and misconduct cases because of sloppy management, according to the department’s Office of Inspector General.

“We identified significant weaknesses in the Civil Division’s tracking, reporting, and investigating of the 11 sexual harassment and misconduct allegations that we reviewed” during fiscal 2011-2016, the report said, “as well as inconsistencies among penalties imposed for substantiated allegations.”

The report, revealed by the Washington Post, suggests that the Justice Department acted like the Catholic Church did when a suspected pedophile priest was reassigned to a new parish: The offenders were “flushed” to other offices.

In another case, a male attorney accused of spying on two female lawyers who were pumping breast milk was absolved by his male supervisor.

“The investigation into the allegation consisted of the male attorney’s supervisor speaking with him,” according to the report. “Thereafter, his supervisor accepted the male attorney’s explanation of the incident as an honest mistake and imposed on him an informal disciplinary action of oral counseling.”

The treatment of attorneys suspected of sexual misconduct left many women with the impression that the accused were lightly punished or even rewarded.

“What is alarming about the Civil Division and what rings true for the entire labor force is the lack of accountability for individuals committing acts of sexual misconduct due to the absence of punitive procedures,” said Wanda Killingsworth, president of Federally Employed Women. “Without any internal system to protect employees from sexual harassment the fight to effectively combat workplace sexual harassment is directly inhibited and the current report on the Department of Justice just proves that lack of awareness is a breeding ground for abuse.” The division’s cases, she added, “are not unique to any single agency, but nonetheless present in many sectors of the workforce.”

DOJ: Resignation Letters of Ousted U.S. Attorneys Are Not Public’s Business

foiaBy Steve Neavling

The Justice Department denied a newspaper’s request for copies of the resignation letters from nearly 50 U.S. attorneys who were removed by the Trump administration, but there’s a caveat.

The Justice Department denied the request from the Burlington Free Press without having read any of the letters, public records show. 

Lawyers for the DOJ said the reason for not releasing the records was that they are so “inherently personal.”

The records you have requested are inherently personal and protected from disclosure,” senior Justice Department counsel Vanessa R. Brinkmann wrote, citing a section of the Freedom of Information Act that “pertains to information the release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of third parties.”

“None of this information is appropriate for discretionary disclosure,” Brinkmann added.

Open-government advocates and even Sen. Bernie Sanders were astounded, saying the public has a right to see the contents of the resignation letters.

Atty. General Sessions Says Adios to All the Remaining U.S. Attorneys From the Obama Administration

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (file photo)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (file photo)

By Allan Lengel

As always, some U.S. attorneys had hoped to dodge the bullet and stick around. But that was not meant to be.

On Friday,  the Justice Department announced that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asking all 46 remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys across the country to submit their resignations immediately, according to report in the Washington Post by Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett.

“As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice,” agency spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”

Until the President appoints replacements, career prosecutors will run the offices.

Among those who will ago is Detroit’s U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

“I have loved serving in this job as much as anyone has ever loved any job,” McQuade said in a statement Friday night. “It has been an incredible privilege to work alongside public servants who devote their tremendous talents to improving the quality of life in our community. I am proud to have served as U.S. Attorney in the Obama Administration.”

But not all went quietly into the night.

New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the highest profile U.S. Attorney in the country, refused to go, saying President Donald Trump had promised him during the campaign that his job was safe.

So, Trump fired him.


Justice Department Puts End to Waivers That Prevented Defendants from Appealing

By Steve Neavling

The Justice Department has ended the controversial practice of asking defendants who plead guilty to waive their appellate rights over bad legal advice, CNN reports.

In a memo issued Tuesday, the Justice Department said it will ban the waivers that are still used in 35 U.S. attorney offices.

The waivers are controversial because make it difficult for defendants to have due process.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the new policy.

The Justice Department said the waivers were used to discourage frivolous lawsuits.

Is Attorney General Eric Holder Getting Ready to Call it Quits?

file photo

By Allan Lengel

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has stuck around longer than many had anticipated.

ButAl Kamen and Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post say there’s speculation that he could call it quits, possibly by the end of the year.

Then again, the Post writes, that the shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, could make him hang in a while longer.

The Post goes on:

On the other hand, his travel schedule this month could give another clue to his intentions.

One of his major goals, we understand, is to visit every U.S. attorney’s office in the country — all 93 of them. He’s been doing that since he settled in at the Justice Department, and now there are only three left on the list — and he’s traveling to two of them this week, in Louisville and Lexington, Ky.

In other words, he wants to check that mission off his bucket list before calling it quits

DEA Spokesman David Ausiello Named Assist. Director for Communication at Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys

By Allan Lengel

DEA Public Affairs Specialist David Ausiello is making a switch.

Ausiello has been named Assistant Director for Communication and Law Enforcement Coordination at the Executive Office for the U.S. Attorneys.

“Staying in the DOJ family…but moving up, over, and out,” Ausiello said in an email to members of the media on Thursday.