Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beware politicized prosecutors

We have it on no less an authority than Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, that the Department of Justice should be concerned with the law, not politics.  Or at least that's what he thought back in 2007, before Barack Obama appointed Eric Holder Attorney General;
For now, the nation’s focus is on the eight federal prosecutors fired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In January, Mr. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, that he “would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons.” But it’s already clear that he did indeed dismiss all eight prosecutors for political reasons — some because they wouldn’t use their offices to provide electoral help to the G.O.P., and the others probably because they refused to soft-pedal investigations of corrupt Republicans.
In the last few days we’ve also learned that Republican members of Congress called prosecutors to pressure them on politically charged cases, even though doing so seems unethical and possibly illegal.
Which Krugman is correct to fear; A Department of Injustice. Federal prosecutors should investigate crimes, not people, and certainly not people just because lawyers in the DOJ don't like their race, color, creed, or national origin. An ethical prosecutor should ignore political pressure to take action against a citizen. All decent people agree on that.  Or do they?
The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday afternoon appealed to civil rights groups and community leaders, nationally and in Sanford, for help investigating whether a federal criminal case might be brought against George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, one advocate said.
The DOJ has also set up a public email address to take in tips on its civil rights investigation.
Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – who earlier in the day joined calls for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, said that later in the afternoon, she joined a U.S. Department of Justice conference call to discuss the prospects.
“They were calling on us to actively refer anyone who had any information,” that might build a case against Zimmerman for either a civil rights violation or a hate crime, Arnwine said. “They said they would very aggressively investigate this case.”
Professor Krugman could not be reached for comment on whether the DOJ might be acting unethically and possibly illegally.

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