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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Political Interference

In the midst of ubiquitous calls for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys, a Washington Post article today exposed yet another example of the “overwhelming politicization” of the Department of Justice. The lead Justice Department counsel from the agency's landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies, Sharon Eubanks, has alleged that high-level officials from the department interfered with the work of the lead lawyers on the suit to weaken the government’s case against the tobacco companies. Who were these high-level officials? One of the three lawyers Eubanks named was none other than Peter Keisler, nominee to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The article goes into great detail about the flagrant abuses Eubanks attributed to Keisler: including instructing witnesses to “soften” their testimony, reducing the sought-after monetary penalty, and forcing Eubanks to “read word for word” a closing argument that he and the two other named officials had written.

Clearly the blatant “political meddling” allegedly undertaken by Peter Keisler in the tobacco case, if true, should raise some concern about Keisler's nomination to the federal bench, where he will need to interpret and enforce our laws in a neutral fashion. If, as a Justice Department lawyer, he “failed to zealously represent the interests of the American people,” one wonders if his judicial temperament will be any different?

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