Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, May 31, 2007

DOJ Hirings and Firings and Democracy

We've been blogging a lot about the war lately: should Hilary apologize, should the Congressional leadership do more to stop it etc. But I think the biggest issue going on right now is the Department of Justice probe. Congress is investigating two related issues. One is related to hiring practices and the other to who gets fired.

First, did the DOJ make religious and political views a pre-condition for getting a job at DOJ?
This is the whole mess about the surprising number of people hired at DOJ with degrees from academically suspect, religious universities like Regent, Messiah and Liberty. If you think I'm just being snobby or anti-religious pick a field about which you know something (political science, economics, physics or whatever) and check out the CVs of the faculty at these places
and compare them to the CVs of faculty in the same field at even average public universities like Kansas or Kent State or NC State.

Second, did the DOJ target federal prosecutors who refused to bring their prosecution strategies into line with Republican campaign strategies. The most famous examples are prosecutors who were fired for either prosecuting Republicans like Duke Cunningham or refusing to bring poorly supported cases against Democrats in the run up to the 2006 elections. The latest story in the LA Times though is that a prosecutor in Minnesota, Tom Heffelfinger, may have been targeted for firing just as he "resigned for personal reasons" because he resisted the local Republican Secretary of State's plan to limit Native American voters' use of IDs when they come to the poles. Reminiscent of the Blackwell scheme in Ohio in 2004, the Minnesota Republicans were planning to refuse to allow Native Americans to use their tribal IDs to prove their identity when they went to vote. Heffelfinger's office said it might be a violation of Native American voting rights.

The pattern is clear. The DOJ has been transformed into a political office. Prosecutions under the Bush regime are subject to political approval. Prosecute the wrong person or refuse to prosecute the right person and you could be forced out. Graduated from Harvard but not a Fundamentalist Christian? Well, you may not be DOJ material then. Have a law degree from a cracker-jack box but you're a biblical literalist? You'll be in a position of tremendous authority before you're 30.

LTG's been busy as all get out lately so I'm not complaining that he hasn't blogged about this. But I really am interested in his analysis of this whole DOJ/Regent/Hiring/Firing mess.


The Law Talking Guy said...

What's to analyze? It's like asking what's clogging up the toilet. Nothing pretty.

I thank RBR for bringing up the phony university scandal. That's what it is. Regent, Messiah, and Liberty aren't bad because they're third or fourth tier schools, but because they're not real schools at all. They are madrasas. And if Monica Goodling and the infamous "torture memo" is any indication, they just plain produce bad lawyers.

I'm not saying they need to staff entirely from the elite law schools, because the correlation between the quality of the lawyer and the US News ranking of the law school is a very rough fit at best. My experience is that the average Yale lawyer is better than the average second-tier law school lawyer, but it's just about averages.

But they need to look for the best and the brightest, and obviously these phony religious schools are way, way overrepresented in DOJ hirings. US attorneys in the district offices do hire the best and the brightest, but not, apparently, the DOJ in Washington. Bad lawyering and bad legal advice hurts the whole country.

Dead Parrot said...

RBR, this story has bothered me tremendously. Not only are jobs (including prestigious and powerful judgeship and prosecutor positions) doled out to those with the proper political/religious profile, but DoJ also seems to be using these to reward donors. I am appalled at the extent to which DoJ is now a political office. There seems to be no corner of the Executive Branch that shows that it values competency over loyalty or orthodoxy.