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Priorities for the New Attorney General

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The Crime Report is published daily by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.  It includes investigative articles by a number of veteran crime reporters, plus analysis and commentary.

It asked me to write a memo for Loretta Lynch setting out what I believe should be her priorities as she takes the helm at Main Justice.  My response is here.  I start with questions about what model of leadership she should adopt (Michael Mukasey).  I go on to suggest how she should react when the White House starts to push her (push back) and what to do about the fact that by far most of the members of the majority party in the Senate opposed her (reach out to them).

I continue by making suggestions about what direction to take in dealing with drugs, over-criminalization, the decaying sentencing guidelines, assaults on the First Amendment (especially on campus), criminal justice "reform," the culture of grievance and racial preference, the growing chorus against police and prosecutors, calls for mass clemency, and enforcement of the death penalty.

That's for starters.  My extremely unsolicited (by Ms. Lynch) advice is set forth after the break. 
Now this is definitely the shortest opinion of the Ninth Circuit en banc I have ever read:

During a grand jury proceeding, defendant gave a rambling, non-responsive answer to a simple question. Because there is insufficient evidence that Statement C was material, defendant's conviction for obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 1503 is not supported by the record. Whatever section 1503's scope may be in other circumstances, defendant's conviction here must be reversed.
A reversal for insufficient evidence implicates defendant's right under the Double Jeopardy Clause. See United States v. Preston, 751 F.3d 1008, 1028 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc) (citing Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1, 11 (1978)). His conviction and sentence must therefore be vacated, and he may not be tried again on that count.
That's the whole thing.  The eleven judges on the pseudo-en-banc panel are so fractured that the court issued this brief disposition "per curiam" (by the court as an institution with no identified individual author) and then various judges weighed in with lengthy concurring and dissenting opinions.

Judge Rawlinson dissented, citing Ernest Lawrence Thayer.  "There is no joy in this dissenting judge. The per curiam and concurring opinions have struck out."   What's up with that?  The defendant is Barry Bonds.

Eric Holder Gets One Right

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I have frequently been critical of Attorney General Holder, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and it is due here.

On the other hand, that he feels like he has to issue such instructions is a sorry comment on where DOJ is after more than six years of his "leadership."

New Leadership at NAAUSA

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The National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys (NAAUSA) is an organization representing career federal prosecutors.  I was a member at one time, although my membership has lapsed.  It led the opposition of hundreds of prosecutors to the Smarter Sentencing Act, which failed in the last Congress (but has been re-introduced now).  Its opposition was cited by then Ranking Member, now Chairman, Chuck Grassley, in his statement in opposition to the Act after it got out of Committee.  It then never made it to the floor, despite then-Majority Leader Harry Reid's promise that he would bring it up  --  and that was before Sen. Reid lost the fight with his exercise bike.

NAAUSA last week elected Steve Cook as its President.  I have never met Mr. Cook, but I have occasionally exchanged emails with him.  I believe he is an outstanding leader for NAAUSA, and that he will do even more to strengthen its role in fighting the dumbing down of federal sentencing.

The text of part of the relevant part NAAUSA's press release announcing Mr. Cook's election follows the break.

When the "News" Gets Written by Partisans

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The March 18 edition of the Washington Post carried a story titled, "Prosecutor Accused of Misconduct in Disputed Texas Execution Case."  The story is about the much-heralded controversy surrounding Cameron Todd Willingham.  Willingham was executed in 2004 for murdering his three children by setting fire to his (and their) house.

It is not my purpose in this entry to rehash the case, which has been discussed frequently on this blog and elsewhere.  The newspaper story is about proposed state bar ethics charges against the prosecutor, John H. Jackson, for intentionally failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, to wit, a deal for leniency he had with a key government witness.

What caught my attention was the Post's by-line.  The story was written by one Maurice Possley.  I am a regular reader of the Post, and I did not recognize Mr. Possley as a writer.  So I did a bit of research.

It turns out that Maurice Possley is an anti-death penalty zealot affiliated with the Marshall Project.  What this means is that the Post farmed out a story to a partisan and printed it as news.  Equally bad or worse, if possible, is that, so far as I am able to see, the Post never identifies Mr. Possley's affiliation.  A less suspicious reader would have no idea of what was going on.

Florida Cohabitation Bill

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It is a misdemeanor in Florida to "shack up."  Not for long, though.  Michael Auslen has this story in the Tampa Bay Times.

Riley on Selma and Ferguson

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Jason Riley has this article in the WSJ, titled Drawing the Wrong Lessons From Selma About America Today: Ferguson, Mo., in 2015 is not Alabama in 1965. But liberals have reasons to pretend otherwise.

Banning the Box

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A lot of people today have Sixties Envy.  The Great Civil Rights Battle was won in the mid-1960s.  That is, of course, a wonderful thing, but if you aspire to be St. George the extinction of dragons is a problem.  So people are going further and further away from what the real civil rights battle was about to proclaim new things as "civil rights" causes, fight for them, and denounce anyone who gets in the way as a bigot.

One such cause is "banning the box," an effort to prohibit employers from asking whether applicants have a criminal record and using that information in the hiring decision.  James Jacobs has this guest post at the Volokh Conspiracy:

Hawaii, New York, and Wisconsin make employment discrimination against ex-offenders (CBED) unlawful, unless an employer can show that successful performance of the job would be jeopardized by a person with a propensity for the kind of crime for which the job seeker had previously been convicted.
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The New York statute and similar anti-CBED laws and proposals are simplistic. It is a mistake to assume that an employer always or usually hires someone only to fill a narrowly prescribed job. Employers routinely want to hire individuals who can fill various positions as needed and who have a chance of advancing through the firm. In addition, an employer wants employees who are honest, rule-compliant, reliable, and self-disciplined, employees who come to work every day and on time, get along well with fellow employees and clients, and contribute to a harmonious working environment.

To Kill An Ending

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Alexandra Petri at the WaPo is dreading the Harper Lee sequel.

Grand Theft Vino

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Kerana Todorov reports for the Napa Valley Register:

Investigators have recovered the bulk of the premium wine bottles stolen from The French Laundry on Christmas Day, according to the Napa County Sheriff's Office. No arrests have been made.
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The wine, with an estimated retail value of about $300,000, was reported missing Dec. 26 after an employee discovered someone had broken into the famed Yountville Michelin-starred restaurant. The suspect - or suspects - broke into the building sometime after 2 p.m. on Christmas Day, Pike said. The alarm system had not been set.
How big a truck do you need to steal 300 grand worth of wine?

NY Speaker Arrested for Corruption

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Reid Wilson reports for the WaPo:

Federal agents on Thursday arrested powerful New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) on federal corruption charges, stemming from payments he received from two New York City law firms.
Jennifer Queliz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York, confirmed Silver was in custody Thursday morning. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will hold a press conference Thursday afternoon to announce the charges.
There is an interesting federalism question on the constitutional basis for federal prosecution of corrupt state officials.  It generally hinges on some tenuous connection with mail or interstate commerce.  In my view, a corrupt official denies the honest people of the state equal protection of the laws.  The bribe-payor gets special treatment that the honest people do not.  That is, of course, why he pays the bribe.  I haven't gotten any takers for my view yet.

Whatever the basis, prosecuting corrupt state officials is one of the most important functions of federal law enforcement.  Some valiant prosecutors do go after crooks who hold their purse strings, but we cannot expect that as a matter of course.

A Letter to AG Holder

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Snopes confirms that a much discussed, scathing open letter by retired FBI Agent K. Dee McCown to Attorney General Holder is genuine.

Equating Prudence with Cowardice

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The title of this post is the latest article from the always wise Theodore Dalrymple in the City Journal regarding the media's predictable reaction to yesterday's massacre in France.  As the doctor puts it:

How long would it take for a Western journalist to blame the Charlie Hebdo murders on French colonialism and journalistic insensitivity to the feelings of Muslims? Not nearly as long, I suspected, as it would take a journalist in the Muslim world to blame them on the legacy of Mohammed and Islam.

And I was right. It took less than four hours for an associate editor of the Financial Times, Tony Barber, to post a piece on the website of his august publication blaming the journalists and cartoonists of the satirical French magazine (and the two policemen as well?) for their own deaths. Here is what he originally wrote and posted, though he later edited out the final clause:

[Charlie Hebdo] has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling French Muslims . . . [This] is merely to say that some common sense would be useful at publications such as Charlie Hebdo . . . which purport to strike a blow for freedom when they provoke Muslims, but are actually just being stupid.

According to this perverted logic, if the relatives of the 12 murdered men were now to storm into the offices of the Financial Times and shoot 12 staff members because of the considerable provocation offered by Tony Barber, it will prove only that Barber had just been stupid.

One wonders whether Mr. Barber is also a zealous advocate for the general defense of provocation in its traditional sense of reducing the crime of men who find their wives in bed with a paramour. 

That aside, there seems to be an epidemic of hand-wringing taking place rooted in the innate desire to understand what compels people to commit such horrific acts of violence.  Such a desire is, what modernity calls, natural and perhaps inexplicable: We know that reasonable people do not wish to commit such atrocious crimes.  But that, of course, assumes that the radical terrorist mind is reasonable.   

"Reverend" Al

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Al Sharpton has come up a number of times in discussions on this blog lately.  Dennis Saffran has this article in City Journal to remind us who Al Sharpton really is.  One thing he is not is a minister.
Gallup does an annual survey asking, "Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields -- very high, high, average, or very low?"

Police officers took a bit of a hit this year, dropping six points on their "very high or high" rating, but they didn't change rank, still fourth of eleven.  It would tempting to attribute the drop to the highly publicized cases of late, but pharmacists had a drop nearly as large with no obvious cause.

The public seems a bit more cynical overall, with every occupation surveyed but one moving in the negative direction.  The one, believe it or not, is lawyers, with a small (and statistically insignificant) uptick of 1%.  Lawyers are still pretty low, though, seventh of eleven and only 21% "very high or high."  Frankly, given what some members of my profession do, I can't blame the people for that opinion.

Car salespeople and members of Congress bring up the rear.

And the most trusted of the professions ... ?

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