Recently in USDoJ Category

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied certiorari in the case that sought to block implementation of the "fast track" for the processing of federal habeas corpus petitions by state death-row inmates.  See the docket for Habeas Corpus Research Center v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, No. 16-880.  The Ninth Circuit threw the case out a year ago, holding that the District Court had no jurisdiction to issue the injunction that it did.  See this post from last March.

The law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has been representing the interests of murderers against those of victims and law-abiding people contra bono publico in this case as well as the Proposition 66 case.  One can only wonder if America has completely run out of deserving poor people to represent pro bono, given how many blue chip firms are devoting their unpaid representation hours to the interests of people who thoroughly deserve the fate they are facing and who are in their present situation solely because they chose, as an act of free will, to take the life of an innocent person.

In retrospect, though, Orrick did actually achieve something "for the public good."  As a result of the delay they caused, the initial precedent-setting decisions in applications under Chapter 154 will be rendered by a Department of Justice headed by Jeff Sessions rather than Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch.  In the long run, that may well be worth the delay.

Standing on Principle

Some Senate Democrats seem to be really desperate to have a special prosecutor appointed over the Russia allegations.  They are really, really hoping, I think, that a special prosecutor would be the kind of thorn in President Trump's side that Lawrence Walsh was in President Reagan's and Ken Starr was in President Clinton's.  It was that bipartisan experience that produced a bipartisan consensus that the independent counsel law be allowed to expire in 1999.

Aruna Viswanatha and Nicole Hong report for the WSJ:

President Donald Trump's nominee to be deputy attorney general on Tuesday wouldn't commit to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate any Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, saying he wasn't in the job yet and didn't know all the facts needed to make a decision.

Trying to Lose and Unanimously Failing

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Today's SCOTUS decision in Beckles v. United States was a noteworthy win for the Justice Department.  At stake were many, many sentences handed down under guidelines language identical to statutory language in the Armed Career Criminal Act that the Court struck down as void for vagueness in the Johnson case a little less than two years ago, https://www.oyez.org/cases/2014/13-7120.  Not only did the Court preserve quite a few stern sentences for dangerous characters; it held that the Guidelines, being advisory only in the post-Booker world, embody a broadly discretionary sentencing system to which applying the concept of "vagueness" makes no sense.

So this is a big win for DOJ.........................Oh, wait.  It was actually a loss for DOJ. That's because the Department's argument, prepared and presented by the Obama Solicitor General's Office, abandoned the victory the US Attorney had won in the Eleventh Circuit and took up the cause for a previously convicted felon who armed himself with a sawed-off shotgun.

Today, the Department's newly-minted but gushing embrace of the criminal won exactly zero votes.

As I've said before, Jeff Sessions can't start cleaning house too quickly.
I have not commented on the allegations that Attorney General Sessions had illicit contacts with the Russians, and lied about it during his confirmation hearings, because I have been around this town long enough (more than 40 years) to spot a politically-inspired concoction when I see one.  The idea that Sessions is or was a Russian collaborator  --  in essence, Benedict Arnold slyly impersonating a wahoo Alabama conservative all these years  --  is something you'd expect to read in the Onion, not the NYT (although it's getting harder to tell the difference). Same deal with the idea that the plain-spoken former state prosecutor has learned the smooth talking schtick of the defense bar.

It predictably turns out (and it didn't take that long) that the whole thing was  --  how shall I say this?  --  fake news. Vanity Fair, not known as a mouthpiece of the Republican Party, looks in detail at the allegations against Sessions and concludes:

As things clear up, we may be seeing a collapsing soufflé. And as with so many soufflés served up by the press in recent months, it emerged from the oven to oohs and ahs--this time, with me among the oohers and ahers--only to sink, first slowly, then quickly. Next, it will go into the trash, and we'll bake another. It's tiring. It's boring. And above all it's supremely damaging to the press. If you want people to believe you, then develop a reputation for believability.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions just held a news conference at which he confirmed that his answers about Russia contacts during his confirmation hearings were true answers to the questions as he understood them -- about contacts concerning the campaign or as a spokesman for the campaign and not unrelated contacts in his capacity as Senator.  However, he will recuse himself from any matters involving the Trump campaign.

Now the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate need to get moving on the Deputy Attorney General nomination.  We have already seen what can happen when important decisions are made by Obama holdovers.

The WSJ has a stub of a story here, which says it will be updated as the story develops.

AG Sessions Speaks to State AGs

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President Trump's speech yesterday confirmed that the "law-and-order candidate" will indeed be the law-and-order President.  His remarks on that topic were necessarily general, given the breadth of his address and the number of topics covered.

Earlier the same day, Attorney General Sessions spoke to the National Association of Attorneys General.  His remarks as prepared for delivery, dated the day before, are posted on the DoJ website.  Here are some excerpts.

First, let's put things in context.  Overall, crime rates in the United States remain near historic lows.  Murder rates are half of what they were in 1980.  The rate of violent crime has fallen by almost half from its peak in the early 1990s.  Many neighborhoods that were once in the grip of gangs and drugs and violence are now vibrant places, where kids can play in the park and parents can enjoy a walk after sunset without fear.  There is no doubt that in the past four decades  -  under leadership from both political parties, and thanks above all to the work of prosecutors and good police using science and professional training  -  we have won great victories against crime in America.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans are alive today as a result.

But in the last two years, we've seen clear warning signs  -  like the first gusts of wind before a summer storm  -  that this progress is now at risk. 

The latest FBI official data tell us that from 2014 to 2015, the violent crime rate in the U.S. increased by more than 3 percent  - the largest one-year increase since 1991.  The murder rate increased 11 percent  -  the largest increase since 1968.  The rape rate increased by over 4 percent, and the aggravated assault rate rose by nearly 4 percent.

If this was a one-year spike, we might not worry too much.  But the preliminary data for the first half of 2016 confirmed these trends.  The number of violent crimes in the first half of last year was more than 5 percent higher than the same period in 2015.  The number of murders was also up 5 percent over the same period the year before, and aggravated assaults rose as well.
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The desperate need for Jeff Sessions to turn DOJ's Civil Rights Division upside down has never been on more vivid display than in the juxtaposition of the following stories.

In the first, we see that, under DOJ's consent decree with crime-ridden Baltimore, one subject of considerable attention is the need for police to use the correct pronoun when they interact with citizens.  PowerLine repeats the relevant portion of the decree:

Ensure that BPD officers address and in documentation refer to all members of the public, including LGBT individuals, using the names, pronouns, and titles of respect appropriate to the individual's gender identity as expressed or clarified by the individual. Proof of the person's gender identity, such as an identification card, will not be required. 

To the best of my knowledge (readers please correct me if I'm wrong), there has not been a single episode of murder, robbery or mugging in Baltimore's 288 year history because the police used the wrong pronoun in referring to a gay, bi, or transgender person.

The second story provides a different slant on what Baltimore police might attend to instead of pronouns.


Sessions' First Speech as Attorney General...

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...is less than three minutes and to the point.  My take-away is this:  Wishful thinking is out, hard thinking is in. Endless, mushy conferences are out, targeted action is in. We have a serious problem with rising crime, and we will use the full forces of the Department to deal with it.

This is almost enough to make me want to sign back up as an Assistant US Attorney. Almost.

The Attorney General's remarks, with the President listening, are here.
A picture is still worth a thousand words.
Sen. Sessions' farewell speech to the Senate, and his appreciation of his new responsibilities, is here.

Key line:  "This is a law enforcement office, first and foremost."

Attorney General Sessions

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Jeff Sessions has been confirmed as United States Attorney General, 52-47.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted yes, and Senator Sessions himself voted "present."  All others voted down party lines.

That is most unfortunate.  Jeff Sessions is a well-qualified nominee, and the attacks on him have been shown to be spurious, yet only one Senator from the opposition party has the spine to cross the aisle.
Wondering why the Senate leadership has not held the confirmation vote for Jeff Sessions as Attorney General yet?  Ted Barrett and Tom LoBianco at CNN suggest an answer.

The nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education has been scheduled for tomorrow.  Two Republican Senators have bailed.  If the vote is 50-50, Vice President Pence will cast the tie-breaking vote, the first such Veep vote on a cabinet nominee in history.

If that vote came in the gap between Senator Sessions resigning from the Senate to take the helm at DoJ and Gov. Bentley's naming of a successor, Ms. DeVos's nomination would go down 50-49.

Sessions Nomination Moves to the Floor

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Why Trump Had to Fire Sally Yates

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Prof. Josh Blackman has this article at Politico with the above title:

Democrats are calling it the Monday Night Massacre. On Monday evening, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates announced that under her leadership, the Justice Department would not defend President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration. After acknowledging that the Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed the policy, and noting that the Civil Division could defend it in court, she personally rebuffed the president's judgment, which she did not find "wise or just." Yates, a career prosecutor appointed by Barack Obama, is now being hailed for standing up to a supposedly "tyrannical" president, according to a statement blasted out by the Democratic National Committee.

But this has it wrong. If Yates truly felt this way, she should have told the president her conclusions in confidence. If he disagreed, she had one option: resign. Instead, she made herself a political martyr and refused to comply. Trump obliged, and replaced her with the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente. While this late-night termination may bring to mind President Richard Nixon's infamous "Saturday Night Massacre," the analogy is inapt. This is a textbook case of insubordination, and the president was well within his constitutional powers to fire her. Call it the Monday Night Layoff instead.
In a stunning statement of journalistic ignorance, James Hohmann writes in the WaPo's Daily 202: "The decision to fire Yates also raises profound questions about Trump's view of the judiciary as an independent branch of government."   Red hot news flash, Mr. Hohmann, the Department of Justice is in the executive branch.   Whatever else the controversy may mean, it has nothing whatever to do with the independence of the judiciary.
The Klan's main goal in life is to deprive black people of the ordinary rights of citizenship, dignity and equality that white people take for granted.  At its best  --  "best" being viewed from the Klan perspective  --  the organization attacks not merely the rights but the lives of African Americans.  Jim Crow was a substantial accomplishment, sure, but the crown jewel was lynching!  Why merely intimidate blacks when you can murder them?

Even now, when the Klan has been mostly subdued (but cf. Dylann Roof), murder of black men is still a national scandal.  The culprit has changed, however.  It's not the machinations of the Klan.  It's a poisoned culture in our big cities, north and south, that tolerates and breeds drug dealing, thugishness, violence and murder.  Young black men are, to a grossly disproportionate extent, its victims.

The Klan must be thrilled.  They now have a whole culture, not merely in the South but across the country, that will do their work for them.  Liberals hold dithering conferences to talk to each other in Very Earnest Tones about "compassion" while murder of black people skyrockets.

But danger is lurking.  Indeed, it comes up in a Senate hearing tomorrow.

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