Department of Justice, Eric Holder, Federal Government, Job Searches, New Jersey, Politics

A Justice Department Round-Up: Gloomy News

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. But at the U.S. Department of Justice, there might not be a lot to be thankful for. Most of the DOJ-related news floating around right now is depressing.

A court-appointed investigator, Henry F. Schuelke, just issued what the New York Times described as a “scathing” report on one of the DOJ’s most prominent prosecutions in recent years. Schuelke concluded that the prosecution the late Senator Ted Stevens “was ‘permeated’ by the prosecutors’ ‘serious, widespread and at times intentional’ illegal concealment of evidence that would have helped Mr. Stevens defend himself at his 2008 trial.” Ouch.

(The good news, from the Department’s perspective: a recommendation against criminal prosecution of the DOJ officials involved in the case. That’s something to be thankful for, I suppose.)

Alas, that’s not all for depressing dispatches out of the Department. Let’s discussing the hiring freeze, and the state of Honors Program offers….

Eric Holder

The “temporary” hiring freeze, issued by Attorney General Eric Holder in January 2011, remains in effect. We haven’t heard any news (or rumor) about it being lifted anytime soon. If you have, please email us (subject line: “DOJ Hiring Freeze”).

Is the hiring freeze saving that much money? There’s an argument to be made that it’s counterproductive. Here’s an editorial from the Newark Star-Ledger, regarding my old office:

Chasing down big-time crooks can be incredibly lucrative. In New Jersey, the U.S. Attorney’s office managed to recover $137.5 million from criminals this fiscal year — more than four times its budget for 2011. That money, which goes to the victims and the federal Treasury, adds up to a very cost-effective use of resources.

Yet the budget for this agency, which prosecutes federal crimes ranging from terrorism to public corruption, has been slashed. Congress didn’t appropriate enough funding over the past two fiscal years to hire the same number of prosecutors that had previously been on the payroll. So since last January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has had a nationwide hiring freeze, with few exceptions, leaving New Jersey’s division with 16 vacancies for prosecutors it can’t fill.

The recent dysfunction in D.C. over deficit reduction may make this situation even worse:

Since this is part of discretionary spending, the portion of the federal budget that Congress debates and decides every year, it’s likely to be reduced in any budget deal that relies on across-the-board cuts. Such cuts may be imposed automatically if the deficit-reduction supercommittee can’t agree on a plan before Thanksgiving.

What Congress calls “discretionary” includes core law enforcement functionaries such as federal prosecutors and FBI agents. It also includes military spending, but the decision on where those cuts land will fall to the Armed Services Committee, which can pick and choose. So why do we rely on a blind ax for the other cuts, resulting in this kind of irrational move?

Alas, irrationality and Congress are not strangers.

Finally, let’s look in on the state of Honors Program hiring….

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