Friday, January 12, 2007

Something's Rotten in San Diego

Over at TPM(Muckraker), they're reporting that US Attorney Carole Lam (prosecutor of Duke Cunningham) has been asked by the White House to step down since she has failed to make smuggling and gun cases a top priority.
As the San Diego Union Tribune reports:

    When she took over, Lam made it clear that she planned to focus less on low-level smuggling cases in favor of public corruption and white collar crime, which would mean fewer but more significant prosecutions.
    But even some of Lam's legal opponents said the supposed reasons she is being forced out are perplexing.

    "What do they want her to do, lock up Mexico?" said Mario Conte, former chief of Federal Defenders of San Diego Inc. Conte, now a professor at California Western School of Law in downtown San Diego, said every prosecutor walks a tightrope.

Quite possibly. But I think this quote gives us great insight as to why she was forced out [emphasis added]:
    "She has shown a certain tunnel vision in her prosecutions and has exercised an appalling lack of discretion in terms of the individuals she has targeted for prosecution and the classes of crimes that she has chosen to direct her resources at," said criminal defense attorney Geoffrey C. Morrison, who represented a defendant in the City Hall corruption case prosecuted by Lam's office.

Lack of discretion? What an interesting turn of phrase. Are there individuals whom we should never scrutinize by virtue of their positions of authority? I wonder why failing to accord this "respect" to certain individuals might garner the White House's displeasure. Senator Feinstein pointed out that other U.S. Attorneys are being forced to step down for reasons that are not at all clear to the public at large:
    "...we have no idea why this is happening. The Attorney General could have legitimate reasons for asking for specific resignations, or this could be motivated by political concerns or worse, derailing on-going investigations. Again, we just don’t know."

Senators Feinstein (Ca.), Leahy (Vt.), and Pryor (Ark.) have introduced legislation to return Congressional oversight to the appointment of U.S. Attorneys; this oversight was bypassed under the Patriot Act.