Report Cites Top Challenges for DOJ
By Joe Palazzolo | December 1, 2009 7:14 pm

Restoring confidence in the Justice Department remains a major challenge for the Obama administration, according to a report by the agency’s watchdog.

The Office of the Inspector General’s semiannual report, released Tuesday, said the department had taken measures to prevent politicized personnel decisions that plagued the Bush administration, but that the botched prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens “created concern about the prosecutors’ adherence to professional standards of conduct.”

Stevens was prosecuted during the Bush administration, but Attorney General Eric Holder moved to dismiss the indictment in April, after an internal review of the case uncovered instances in which prosecutors improperly withheld material favorable to Stevens’ defense. A court-appointed counsel is investigating whether they did so intentionally. Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator, was convicted of lying on his Senate disclosure forms and lost his re-election bid in 2008.

“Restoring confidence in Justice Department” was first ranked as a management and performance challenge in 2007, amid investigations into the purge of U.S. Attorneys and other instances of politically tinged personnel decisions. At the time, it ranked as the No. 2 challenge, behind counter-terrorism. In 2008, it fell to No. 5 on the priority list.

The 2009 report released Tuesday hoisted “restoring confidence” to the department’s No. 2 challenge — again, behind counter-terrorism — citing the Stevens case and other allegations of prosecutorial misconduct by federal judges.

“The department needs to ensure that the diligence, hard work, and sound ethics of the overwhelming majority of department employees are not undermined by the few but highly visible incidents of potential misconduct,” the report said. “While the department’s leadership, both at the end of the past administration and during this administration, has taken important steps to confront this challenge, it must remain focused on this critical issue.”

The report noted that the Justice Department has announced a series of reforms in the wake of the Stevens case, including a new training program for prosecutors and a position at Main Justice dedicated to overseeing the efforts.

And while the report was largely complimentary of efforts to depoliticize hiring practices, it said the department had failed to clarify policies on the use of political or ideological affiliations in selecting career attorneys.

Many of the challenges from the 2008 list remain, but the Office of the Inspector General dropped “violent crime” and “cybercrime” from the list and added “Recovery Act funding” and “financial crimes.”

The Obama administration recently unveiled an interagency task force to target financial crimes that played a role in the financial crisis and try to deter future fraud. It replaced the Corporate Fraud Task Force, which President George W. Bush established in 2002 to restore investor confidence following revelations of criminal wrongdoing in America’s boardrooms.

See the full list of challenges from 2008 and 2009 below, and click here for a more detailed look at each of them.

2009 Challenges:

  1. Counterterrorism
  2. Restoring Confidence in the Department of Justice
  3. Recovery Act Funding and Oversight
  4. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties:
  5. Financial Crimes
  6. Sharing of Intelligence and Law Enforcement Information
  7. Grant Management
  8. Detention and Incarceration
  9. Information Technology Systems Planning, Implementation, and Security
  10. Financial Management and Systems

2008 Challenges:

  1. Counterterrorism
  2. Sharing of Intelligence and Law Enforcement Information
  3. Information Technology Systems Planning, Implementation, and Security
  4. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
  5. Restoring Confidence in the Department of Justice
  6. Violent Crime
  7. Cybercrime
  8. Grant Management
  9. Detention and Incarceration
  10. Financial Management and Systems


  1. Prudent Man, CFA says:

    Having worked with the legal system for close to fifty years I don’t confuse our corrupted legal system with Justice. Justice is too important to rely upon the legal profession to reign in the ABA’s financially motivated, monopolistic agenda. We don’t need the mostly incompetent lawyers to make law and occupy the “Bench”. You don’t need any examples as they are all over the country but Congress is a blatant example of self-interest perverting justice.

The Senate Democratic leader describes the Republicans' refusal to hold hearings on President Obama's eventual Supreme Court nominee "historically unbelievable and historically unprecedented."

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