Justice Department

Eric Holder

Now that Eric Holder has announced his departure as attorney general, talk has turned to who his successor will be — and should be. Early buzz has centered around Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, but there are other compelling candidates as well, including lots of legal luminaries that Above the Law readers will recognize.

Who will be our nation’s next AG? And who should be the next AG? Let’s discuss….

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President Obama formally announced the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week. Filling the position ordinarily poses a political challenge, but installing Holder’s successor will be particularly rancorous. And we have Eric Holder himself to thank for that.

With Congressional midterm elections weeks away, confirmation hearings for a new AG any time soon seemed unlikely at first. However, Senator Patrick Leahy (D – VT), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that he intends to urge the confirmation process onward. “Definitely, we should have confirmation hearings as quickly as possible in the Senate,” Leahy told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Changes to Senate rules allow debate to end over executive and judicial branch nominees (except for nominees for Supreme Court vacancies) with a simple majority vote, rather than a supermajority of 60 votes. At least until the January 2015 session, when the Senate can revisit the rule change, Senators cannot filibuster the vote on Eric Holder’s potential successor. No matter what shifts occur after the upcoming elections, Republicans hold only 45 seats in the Senate until January 2015. So, Democrats acting quickly hold an advantage. However, Democratic senators facing dicey election contests may not be enthusiastic about their party’s push for hearings before the election.

The AG confirmation process opens a new battlefield in the war between supporters of President Obama and his critics. The battle to confirm Eric Holder’s successor promises to be messy. Senate Republicans will treat the process as a referendum on everything President Obama has done — possibly everything his critics suspect he might want to do. Washington politics makes this sort of fight possible. The timing of Holder’s resignation, a few weeks ahead of Congressional midterm elections, makes this plausible. But Eric Holder himself made this battle necessary.

So, how did Holder generate so much bad blood?

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* A list of lawyers who followed their passions. Let’s be honest: I just like that Lat’s in the same listicle as Jerry Springer. [One 400]

* Another report on the Brian Leiter kerfuffle (by Professor Jonathan Adler). [The Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Postal carrier hoarded 40,000 pieces of mail. Newman! [The Smoking Gun]

* Another court allows service via Facebook. [Peter S. Vogel]

* Eric Holder is resigning. Time for the speculation that he must have done something awful to begin! [New York Observer]

* D.C. lawyer Ronald Goldfarb reviews John W. Dean’s new book (affiliate link) about the Nixon tapes. [Washington Independent Review of Books]


NPR has a breaking scoop. Sources report that Attorney General Eric Holder will announce his resignation today.

Holder is one of the longest-serving members of Obama’s cabinet. People have called him the most “racially divisive” AG in history. In related news, he’s also African-American, a fact that has really seemed to piss some people off.

It’s been a few weeks without a manufactured “scandal” landing on his desk, so maybe now is a good time to go back to private practice and make millions of dollars?

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The white-collar bar is a varied and wonderful thing.

On one hand, there are the large-firm players — the FCPA mongers and the folks doing criminal antitrust work who fly all over the globe representing clients in lucrative conference room litigation that will rarely see a courtroom.

These cases are well-funded. Even if the client has a higher chance of French kissing the Chief Justice during the State of the Union address than of being indicted, as long as he’s indemnified by a large company, many firms will do everything they possibly can to be completely and fully ready for an indictment that will never come. I haven’t yet heard of a mock jury for a client in an investigation that isn’t going to be indicted, but I think that’s only because no one has thought it up yet. (And, to my friends currently representing such indemnified clients, you’re very welcome for the suggestion.)

For these folks, attorney-client privilege exists and is relatively easy to preserve. It’s good to be pre-indictment and it’s good to be indemnified.

But, for the rest of the folks accused of white-collar crimes, our Department of Justice is only too happy to make folks choose between a preserved attorney-client privilege and the Sixth Amendment.

How?

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With the Supreme Court’s 2013 term concluding on Monday, many Americans are assessing how they feel about the judicial branch of their government. Even if you are still reeling about some of the decisions made recently by the least dangerous branch, don’t forget the executive. The president and his agencies can also make you wonder how the American experiment is panning out.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton issued an order to hear oral arguments from lawyers representing the Internal Revenue Service and the conservative nonprofit True the Vote. True the Vote is one of the conservative groups claiming IRS improperly targeted its application for nonprofit status based on the group’s political and philosophical affiliation. True the Vote filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and expedited discovery on Monday, calling for an independent forensics examination of any IRS hard drives, servers, or other computer hardware involved in the government agency’s possible targeting of conservative nonprofits’ applications for tax-exempt status. It wants an outside computer expert to try to ascertain how and when any electronic evidence, such as former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner’s emails, may have been lost. Also, it would be great if the government didn’t spoliate — I mean “recycle” — any more evidence….

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Glenn Greenwald

I have lawyers who are extremely well-connected at the Justice Department who usually can, with one phone call, get [Attorney General Eric] Holder on the phone. And they actually have gotten the people they wanted to get on the phone. And those people have been very unusually unforthcoming about what their thinking is or what’s happening, even to the extent of not being willing to tell them whether there’s already an indictment filed under seal or whether there’s a grand jury investigation…. [T]hey clearly want me to linger in this state of uncertainty.

– Lawyer turned journalist Glenn Greenwald, famous for his reporting on NSA surveillance, discussing with GQ the legal limbo he finds himself in.

(What Greenwald thinks about Hillary Clinton — hint: he’s not a fan — after the jump.)

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On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit benchslapped a gaggle of lawyers for filing briefs with excessive acronyms. The court’s per curiam order directed the parties to “submit briefs that eliminate uncommon acronyms used in their previously filed final briefs.”

Alas, attempts to comply with this order have raised a new problem — a problem that some readers saw a mile away….

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The D.C. Circuit to counsel: readable briefs or GTFO. From an order filed today:

Who are the parties and their counsel? Additional information and the full order, after the jump.

(Also note the UPDATES — in defense of the lawyers, and floating a theory about the judge behind the benchslap — added to the end of this post.)

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Back in November 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the so-called “nuclear option,” eliminating the threat of squelching the president’s executive branch and judicial nominations by filibuster. Under the new rules, a nominee only needs 51 votes to break a potential filibuster, instead of the 60 votes previously needed. Democratic senators lubricated nominees’ paths to confirmation. Finally, we were told, a cantankerous Republican minority could no longer block all the well-qualified, uncontroversial nominees that the president had waiting in the queue.

Nevertheless, yesterday the Senate voted to reject President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The 47 – 52 vote failed to reach the 51 votes necessary to achieve cloture and advance the nomination. Seven Democratic senators — Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, John Walsh of Montana and Chris Coons of Delaware — opposed the nominee. Adegbile is perhaps best known for his work leading litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, often known simply as LDF.

No Republicans voted against their party line. Perhaps some of them opposed his nomination on principle; perhaps some reflexively opposed an Obama nominee. The Democrats who voted against Adegbile, however, took a clear and conscious against him. Effectively, Democrats killed Adegbile’s nomination.

Why? Despite his other professional accomplishments, Adegbile’s problems in the Senate can be summed up in a word: Mumia. In six words: convicted and controversial cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal . . . .

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