The Washington Post reported this week that Monica Lewinsky was mistreated by the federal government — and not just by the head of the Executive Branch.
According to the article, a report just became public detailing misconduct by federal law enforcement in the way they approached Lewinsky at the start of her part of the investigation that lead to Clinton’s impeachment.
The report finds that the government’s approach was wrong. Lewinsky shouldn’t have been handled the way the FBI and prosecutor dealt with her.
Fake stash house robbery cases are a shameful example of the worst of federal law enforcement.
Here’s how they work. An undercover — generally with the ATF — meets someone who has a criminal record (that part becomes important later). The ATF agent tells the person that there’s a stash house out there, and that it has a whole bunch of drugs in it. Also money. It doesn’t really matter how much — the agent can make up virtually any number he wants. Maybe there are 150 kilos of cocaine in there. Maybe a million. It’s whatever the agent thinks he can dream up and sell.
The agent sells the person on the idea that there’s a vulnerability in the stash house and it can be easily robbed. The agent gives the person a car, or guns, or whatever the guy isn’t able to get on his own. He encourages the guy to recruit more people. You need a lot of bodies to rob stash houses that don’t exist.
They plan the robbery. The agent tape records them planning the robbery. Then they strap up to go rob the stash house that the agent made up.
Surprise! The agent arrests the guy and his friends. And it gets worse…
In a criminal case in federal court, if you are acquitted at trial of almost all of the charges against you, you can still be sentenced as though you were convicted of all of the charges against you, when the judge disagrees with the jury’s decision. That is off-the-rails crazy.
The point of a trial, of course, is to figure out if someone is going to go to prison for doing something. The jury’s decision about what a person did should be what controls what crime the person is sentenced for committing. Yet that’s not what judges do.
But that’s a judge using her power to set a sentence while respecting the decision of a jury. She accepts what the jury decided, then takes that into account — in addition to other things — when imposing sentence.
When a judge gives someone more time in prison based on something that a jury already decided the person wasn’t guilty of, it’s very different. That’s an insult to the jury and is really hard to square with how the law of federal sentencing has been developing lately.
This week, the Supreme Court had a chance to fix that. It didn’t.
The white-collar world has two main conferences. There’s the NACDL White-Collar conference in November — which is sometimes affectionately called the Abbe Lowell conference, since he has been the driving force behind much of it — and the ABA White-Collar conference in the Spring. Normally, the NACDL conference is in Washington, D.C. or New York, and the ABA Conference is some place southern, pleasant, and known for alcohol consumption (Miami last year, New Orleans this year, Vegas a few years ago).
There are differences between the conferences, and they illuminate a good deal about the differences in the white-collar bar….
The case, in a highly generalized nutshell, came down to this — WellCare, a company in Florida, that took Medicaid payments made a decision about how to set up a way to provide services under Medicaid that took advantage of an ambiguous statute. Counsel vetted it and signed off on the interpretation as reasonable.
Other companies took essentially the same approach to the ambiguous statute and set up essentially the same approach to providing these services.
The agency in Florida that administers its Medicaid program took a different view of what the statute meant.
Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice for giving non-responsive answers to questions in a grand jury. As Judge Fletcher told the government in the oral argument in the 9th Circuit en banc challenge to his conviction, “I find your reading of the [obstruction of justice] statute absolutely alarming.” And for good reason — Judge Fletcher thinks that the government’s interpretation of obstruction of justice would mean that most civil lawyers are felons.
There are a lot of ways to violate federal laws that are related to obstruction of justice. You can lie to a federal agent who is coming to your house to interview you and violate 18 U.S.C. § 1001. You can commit perjury under 18 U.S.C. § 1621. And there are a host of other false statement statutes specific to other regulatory schemes (like false statements in connection with a tax filing, or a health care request for payment, etc.).
All of those laws, though, require that the person who is being prosecuted make a false statement.
Obstruction of justice is different. Instead of having concrete elements like “making a false statement”, obstruction of justice criminalizes willfully “obstruct[ing], imped[ing], or interfer[ing] with” whatever is being allegedly obstructed.
Here, Barry Bonds didn’t make a false statement. Instead, he gave an answer that was non-responsive. The government’s theory was that Barry Bonds didn’t give a responsive answer to a question in order to throw the government off (because, apparently, having the temerity to force an AUSA to listen to questions in a grand jury and ask a follow-up question is the kind of thing that ought to brand you a felon).
And that was “obstructing” the federal law enforcement apparatus.
There are a lot of things wrong with this prosecution. The one I want to focus on is the lengths the federal government will go to in order to protect AUSAs from having to do the same basic work that the rest of the legal community does routinely.
There’s a new sheriff in town, and it’s corporate America.
Companies face pressure to make sure their market competitors aren’t getting a jump on them. And, in an effort to do that, some large companies have noticed that if they can get the United States Department of Justice to help, they have a big advantage.
Take, for example, this new blog about black market cigarettes. I heard a radio interview with the guy who writes it — Richard Marianos. He seems very passionate about the problems of black market cigarettes being trafficked on Interstate 95. His blog argues that I-95 is the new tobacco road.
(The old tobacco road, apparently, was Interstate 40 in North Carolina, which didn’t traffic in tobacco but, rather, collegiate sports, but, still, it’s a catchy name for a blog. Both tobacco roads seem to be separate from David Lee Roth’s understanding of the term.)
Marianos explained on the radio that black market cigarettes are a huge problem.
Often, he says, folks who traffic in cigarettes aren’t treated as seriously by judges as people who traffic, say, heroin, even though, when you think about it, they’re both drugs. (Though, of course, at the same time, an outhouse and the Louvre are both buildings, so I’m not sure how far that kind of reasoning goes.) Marianos is outraged that some cigarette traffickers only get probation.
He strongly suggested that black market cigarette sales are being used to fund terrorists.
Normally, when I hear the word “terrorist” I stop thinking and just hope the government throws money at combating whatever is being talked about. So, at first, I though black market cigarettes might be a very serious problem that the government needed to fund a response to.
Until I realized that a Marianos’s blog is another example of a disturbing development that I’ve been seeing in criminal intellectual property cases lately….
One often hears lawyers, especially at large firms, say something like “if I were a client, I couldn’t afford to hire me.”
The reason is obvious; billable hour rates are high and quality legal work, especially in a tricky area, takes time. Legal fees for middle-class or even upper-middle-class people can easily outpace a client’s ability to pay.
This is a problem in a lot of areas of law, from divorce to employment to routine consumer litigation. In some cases, fee shifting or contingency fees can help make hiring a lawyer more affordable. Still, even for lawyers who aren’t in big firms, clients are often unable to afford the lawyer they need.
Federal employees caught up in Congressional or inspector general investigations are another sad example; they can be hit with massive fees for something they have no control over.
As you’ve likely heard, there’s a Southern governor on trial for public corruption.
Shockingly, he’s not from Louisiana.
Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for, in essence, taking gifts from a guy named Johnnie Williams in exchange for doing things in the governor’s mansion (there are also some bank fraud charges and obstruction charges, but frankly, in comparison to the public corruption stuff the bank fraud is terribly dreary). After five weeks of trial and testimony, the case just went to the jury.
There has been a lot of commentary on the McDonnell trial (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here). One thing that hasn’t been talked about during the trial much: the defense severance motion that was denied at the very start.
And, as the trial has continued, that motion looks more and more important in hindsight….
As part of a nationwide tour, Above the Law is coming to the great city of Chicago.
Join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model. Come on by Thursday, November 20, at 6 p.m., for thought-provoking discussion, food, drink, and networking.
Space is limited and there will be no on-site registration, so please RSVP
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.