Saturday, April 21, 2007

Just Politics? Or Politics Plus the Federalist Society?

My friend, Janie Sheppard, who posted here in February and was posted about here in March, is today’s guest blogger. We both see the issue of which US Attorneys were fired and which ones weren’t as hugely important. Here Janie, an attorney, focuses on US Attorney, Steve Biskupic, who has remained in office and the devastating consequences to a career civil servant, Georgia Thompson (photo).

As a companion piece to Janie’s article, I highly recommend Scott Horton’s The Political Corruption of the Prosecutorial Function.

Just Politics? Or Politics Plus the Federalist Society?

Steve Biskupic, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, is the guy who prosecuted a career civil servant in Wisconsin without having any evidence of wrongdoing. How could that be?

Georgia Thompson, a career civil servant, was indicted and convicted for bid-rigging in what must have been a terrifyingly Kafkaesque trial. The evidence was manufactured out of her role in evaluating contract proposals submitted by travel agencies to provide travel services to state employees. She was convicted in a jury trial and sentenced to 18 months in federal prison by Federal District Court Chief Judge Rudolph T. Randa.

Judge Randa refused her request to remain free on bail pending an appeal, a very unusual move. In his order refusing bail, he explained that because she had not raised “a substantial question of law likely to result in a reversal” there was no basis for granting the request. Never mind the missing facts. She was ordered to prison.

Go to prison she did. She had served 4 of her 18 months when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard her appeal. At the hearing, one of the three judges on the appellate panel ridiculed Biskupic’s theory of the case as “beyond thin.” Not amused, the Appeals Court ordered Randa to reverse the conviction and acquit.

The Court of Appeals also ordered Thompson released from prison before the close of business that very day.

Judge Randa has the worst record for reversals of all the federal judges in Wisconsin. Between 2000-2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed 50 percent of his cases. Other circuit court judges’ decisions were reversed 15 to 33 percent of the time.

Biskupic was appointed to his position by the present President Bush, Judge Randa by the first President Bush. Although Biskupic’s name appeared for a while on the list of U.S. Attorneys to be fired, in the end he wasn’t.

Maybe he wasn’t fired because he agreed to prosecute Thompson during the run-up to the November election where Democratic Governor Doyle faced a stiff challenge from a Republican candidate. Inquiring minds would like to know. Both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have asked for the documents in connection with the case.

And then again, maybe Biskupic managed to hang on to his job because he is a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. Or both.

Judge Randa is also a member of the Federalist Society. And maybe that’s why he bought Biskupic’s theory, “beyond thin” though it was. Federalist Society you ask, what does that have to do with this?

The Federalist Society describes itself as "dedicated to reforming the current legal order." Indeed, under the old order a U.S. Attorney would not have prosecuted this case, totally lacking in evidence as it was.

According to the entry on the Wikipedia website the Federalist Society hopes to transform the American legal system by developing and promoting conservative positions and influencing who will become judges, top government officials, and decision-makers.

Indeed, when the prosecutor and the trial judge are members, the Federalist Society bond may be stronger than ethics, a quaint idea from the old order.

We know that the Federalist Society figures in the present US Attorney scandal. On the spreadsheet Kyle Sampson prepared there is a special column to indicate whether any given US Attorney is a member of the Federalist Society. We know that the interim replacement for Carol Lam (she who prosecuted Duke Cunningham) is a member. We know that Karl Rove is a member. In fact, Justices Thomas, Kennedy, Alito and Scalia are members. To keep track of the new order, People for the American Way has a partial list of members in important positions, including the courts. A Washington Monthly article paints a picture of the new order. Another member, Senator Orrin Hatch, was the gatekeeper for all nominations to the federal bench.

Now that the new order has arrived, it’s just a mop-up operation to get rid of the remaining old order prosecutors and judges.

(photo: Wisconsin State Journal)

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