Had enough yet?


The Legal Schnauzer shares a letter he recently received. In his post, Message From a Political Prisoner, he describes the receipt of the letter as “a profound experience recently, something I never dreamed would happen to me as a U.S. citizen.” He explains:

My letter was from Wes Teel, a former state judge in Mississippi who is in federal prison in Atlanta after being convicted in the Paul Minor case. Wes and I have never met; we’ve never even talked on the phone. But we got acquainted via e-mail when I began to write about the Minor case last September.

Wes and his codefendants, fellow state judge John Whitfield and well-know plaintiff’s attorney Paul Minor, had been convicted, and Wes was looking at reporting to federal prison in December 2007.

In our e-mail exchanges, I found Wes to be a man of keen intellect, common sense, and good humor–even in the face of going to prison for a crime he did not commit. I came to consider Wes a friend, and I shared his pain when he had a heart attack not long after reporting to federal prison. I shared his concerns about his wife, Myrna, who has multiple sclerosis and needed care while her husband was eight hours away in federal prison. I know he worried about his grandchildren and what they would grow up to think of a country that could imprison their grandfather simply for doing his job as a state judge.

On the surface, Wes and I might seem like unlikely friends. My blog started only because of the wrongdoing I had witnessed from lawyers and judges in Alabama state courts. Corrupt lawyers and judges have brought my wife and me to the edge of ruin–and here was Wes, a lawyer and former judge who was charged with being corrupt himself.

But here is one of many lessons I’ve learned from my Legal Schnauzer journey: Just because you’ve had a bad experience with someone in a certain profession, don’t assume that everyone in that profession is a bad actor.

After studying the Minor case at length, I realized that Wes Teel and John Whitfield were honest judges. They ruled for Paul Minor’s clients because that’s what the facts and the law required them to do. And I realized that, based on the evidence I had seen, Paul Minor was an honest lawyer. Certainly in the cases the government had used to build its prosecution, Minor acted properly, and his client prevailed because they should have prevailed.

The Minor case taught me that not even all Republican judges are corrupt. Another codefendant was Oliver Diaz, a justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court who was tried and acquitted twice. And Diaz is a Republican.

I realized that the bad guys in the Minor case were not lawyers, judges, or even Republicans. No, it is that certain breed of Republican that has been infected by a virus that seems to have started with George W. Bush and Karl Rove and wound up sickening our entire justice system.

Wes Teel is a victim of that justice system. His letter made me sad, angry, and ultimately, determined:

Please go to the full post to read more excerpts of Mr. Teel’s letter, but contemplate this excerpt which, as noted by the Legal Schnauzer, answers the question:

What does it mean to be a political prisoner in the United States?

Due to the conviction, unless it is overturned, I am essentially no longer a citizen. I can’t vote, possess a firearm, hold a bond, run for public office, or ever practice law again. Despite all of this, I have a vested stake in the success of our Republic. I want my grandchildren to grow up and be proud of our constitution and our government. I pray that change will one day come, and my precious grandchildren can come to enjoy the freedoms instituted by our Founding Fathers and paid for by the blood and sacrifice of many patriots.

Had enough yet to file a grievance?

If not, there’s more. Juxtapose the politicized prosecutions of Wes Teel, John Whitfeld, Paul Minor, Oscar Diaz, Don Siegelman, Georgia Thompson and Dr. Cyril Wecht with the politicized refusal by Michael Mukasey to prosecute Michael Elston, Kyle D. Sampson and Monica Marie Goodling. Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine has named this selective failure to prosecute The Mukasey Doctrine and describes it like this:

Today [Attorney General Michael Mukasey] addressed the annual convention of the American Bar Association, and expanded upon what may be known to future generations as the “Mukasey Doctrine.” This doctrine holds that political appointees in the Justice Department who breach the public trust by using their positions for partisan political purposes face no punishment for their crimes. In the Mukasey view, this is all simple political gamesmanship—“boys will be boys”—and sufficient accountability is provided by exposing their games to the public limelight.

After reviewing in the briefest terms the recent internal Justice Department probe into the politicization of the hiring process in the honors program, with respect to immigration judges and in other areas, here’s what Mukasey has to say:

The conduct described in those reports is disturbing. The mission of the Justice Department is the evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it. That mission has to start with the evenhanded application of the laws within our own Department. Some people at the Department deviated from that strict standard, and the institution failed to stop them.

I want to stress that last point because there is no denying it: the system failed. The active wrong-doing detailed in the two joint reports was not systemic in that only a few people were directly implicated in it. But the failure was systemic in that the system–the institution–failed to check the behavior of those who did wrong. There was a failure of supervision by senior officials in the Department. And there was a failure on the part of some employees to cry foul when they were aware, or should have been aware, of problems.

Note how Mukasey plays the entire affair down and uses the traditional language of the criminal defendant–for him it was a “system failure.” His language is passive: things evidently just happened. But in fact a closer read of the Inspector General’s report shows that the figures involved and the schemes adopted had a clear provenance in the White House, and specifically in the warren of Karl Rove. The actors under investigation, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling, had come with Alberto Gonzales from the White House. They benefited from an extraordinary delegation of authority from Gonzales that allowed them, two thirty-somethings with little experience, to exercise the authority of the attorney general in the hiring and firing process. This didn’t “just happen.” It was the result of a careful plan for partisan entrenchment at Justice—consciously pursued in defiance of the law. A serious investigation would have focused on the senior figures responsible for this program. So what is the penalty for such a systematic violation of the law? Well, according to Mukasey, there isn’t one. Those involved have already suffered enough. Yes, they suffer because their misdeeds are now known.

Their misconduct has now been laid bare by the Justice Department for all to see.

* * *

Mukasey insists that the process of partisan entrenchment has been checked following his arrival.

* * *

The message that Mukasey is sending seems to be this: he will refuse to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the matter, whatever the inspector general suggests. In the Mukasey view, it will be enough punishment for the truth to come out.

Had enough yet? Ready to file a grievance?

From Dana Jill Simpson by Glynn Wilson of The Locust Fork Journal spoke to Dana Jill Simpson, who explains why we need to continue this fight:

After hearing about the speech and reading the stories about it, North Alabama attorney Jill Simpson said in a statement that Mukasey is a “disgrace to our country” and those who really pursue justice.

She called on President George W. Bush to restore the rule of law and fire Mukasey.

“He is showing a complete lack of respect for the rule of law by not charging individuals who were part of the United States Justice Department that broke the law,” she said. “He is creating a class of individuals that are above the law in this country and that is wrong. They should be tried for the crimes they committed, but Mr. Mukasey told the ABA they are going to get off Scott free.”

“These Doj employees broke the law it doesn’t matter where they work, ignorance to the law is no excuse, plus the evidence suggests these folks knew what they were doing and broke the law anyway. They should be tried and, if convicted, punished for their crimes,” she said.

Or at least disbarred. It’s time to file grievances against these attorneys.

Updated August 13, 2008 to fix title.

Updated August 15, 2008: More on Wes Teel here.

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2 Responses

  1. […] You all know about AG Mukasey’s horrendous decision to not prosecute Sampson, Goodling, et al.  Although expected, that’s not good enough.  These attorneys are an embarrassment to the legal profession and this country deserves better.  I’ve long had enough.  Have you had enough? […]

  2. […] Had enough yet? […]

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