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What A Screw-Up

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has been a fixture for decades on Capitol Hill, which means by definition folks are afraid of him. In this case it also mean’s he’s dirty. Now the federal government — prosecuting Stevens for omitting $250,000 in home improvements from his financial disclosure forms — has totally botched the case by itself failing to disclose evidence to Stevens’ defense team. Judge Threatens to Throw Out Corruption Case Against Ted Stevens [L.A. Times].

That’s a Brady violation, so named for the Supreme Court case requiring disclosure of exculpatory materials to a criminal defendant. Basic, basic. Here the Assistant U.S. Attorney disclosed only a “redacted” — incomplete — copy of the government’s interview of its star witness. Turns out the missing stuff was also the good stuff. Good for Stevens and now bad for the people. In think this sullied old crook should be hounded out of office by the Alaska electorate or banned by the Senate Ethics Committee. A long time ago, Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo asked whether “the criminal should go free because the constable has blundered.” The answer to that is yes, but it’s no solace that a crooked politician gets away with corruption for such a stupid blunder.

Not the Best & Brightest

Thirty years ago the U.S. Department of Justice, and its Honors Program for law school graduates, attracted some of the best-credentialed, smartest and most talented young lawyers around. It made DOJ a plum position for aspiring litigators, where one could "learn by doing" instead of watching others and — despite obvious financial sacrifices — allowed the federal government to recruit from the top law schools in the nation.

But now it seems the Bush Administration has totally politicized the Justice Department. As if firing U.S. Attorneys for political reasons — not being "loyal Bushies" according to internal emails — is not bad enough, now the DOJ Inspector general reports that senior political appointees at Justice have for six years been "using ideological reasons to scuttle the candidacy of lawyers who applied to the elite honors and summer intern programs."  So members of the conservative Federalist Society got a free pass, without the resume to warrant a position, while members of the Nature Conservancy were nixed without consideration at all for being too liberal.

That’s revolting.  It’s truly a sad end to a once impressive agency where I was proud to have stared my own legal career in 1982 after a judicial clerkship.