Former Justice Officials Rally Around Margolis
By Joe Palazzolo | March 5, 2010 7:07 pm

A bipartisan group of former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General have come to the aid of the Justice Department’s highest-ranking career official, David Margolis, who is under the microscope for his decision to overturn a finding of professional misconduct against former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

Seventeen former officials — including every AG and DAG in the past 17 years, excepting Eric Holder — signed a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama extolling Margolis’ impartiality and wisdom.

“We all benefited during our tenures from the wise counsel and good judgment of David Margolis,” the March 4 letter states. “His advice is informed by his long experience and delivered with utter lack of partisan bias or any other distorting prejudice.”

As Associate Deputy Attorney General and a 45-year veteran of the department, one of Margolis’ duties is to oversee the Office of Professional Responsibility, which determined that Bybee and Yoo committed professional misconduct in authoring legal memos blessing brutal interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.

In a memo overturning the finding, Margolis said he agreed that the authors’ work was slipshod and that they demonstrated “poor judgment”  but not misconduct. He also took aim at OPR for using what he described as shifting and incoherent standards against which Yoo and Bybee’s conduct was measured.

The letter makes no comment about the merits of his decision but concludes that it was reached “conscientiously and wholly without partisan purposes.”

Margolis’ decision has drawn sharp rebukes, and in some cases personal attacks, from the left, and praise, generally, from the right. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing last week on the report, though it did not live up to the ferocity of the debate unfolding on editorial pages and blogs. Only four senators attended.

See the letter below.

030410 Joint Letter

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3 Comments

  1. alinaustex says:

    Margolis also needs to look at his own potential liabilty for aiding and abetting war crimes -waterboarding is a war crime -plan and simple.

  2. springrain says:

    The former AGs (I note wryly that AG Gonzales, himself under criminal investigation, also signed the letter) and DAGs CAN RALLY AROUND MARGOLIS ALL THEY WANT, THEY CAN EXTOL HIS “VIRTUOSITY” ALL THEY WANT, BUT IT STILL DOES NOTHING TO CHANGE THE FACT THAT MARGOLIS HAS BEEN IN THAT POSITION WAY TOO LONG, THAT HE HAS MADE SOME VERY QUESTIONABLE DECISIONS IN DOWNGRADING SANCTIONS AGAINST PROSECUTORS WHO VERY MUCH SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN REFERRED TO THEIR RESPECTIVE BARS, NOT JUST IN THE YOO/BYBEE CASE, BUT IN SUCCUMBING TO PRESSURE FROM THE US ATTORNEY’S OFFICE IN THE EDVA ON THE MATTER OF DAVID NOVAK, THE MOUSSAOUI PROSECUTOR WHO OPR DETERMINED HAD COMMITTED BOTH PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT AND POOR JUDGMENT DURING THAT TRIAL, AFTER A 14 MONTH INVESTIGATION -MARGOLIS DOWNGRADED ALL OF IT. MARGOLIS HAD ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS TO DO SO IN THAT CASE. THE FACTUAL DOCUMENTATION AGAINST NOVAK WAS OVERWHELMING-MARGOLIS DOES SUCCUMB TO POLITICAL FORCES IN CERTAIN HIGH VISIBILITY CASES-THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT HE HAS.

    I SHOULD THINK AG HOLDER WOULD BOLSTER OPR BY HAVING MORE THAN JUST THIS ONE TOO OLD ATTORNEY BEING THE SOLE DETERMINANT OF SOME VERY GRAVE PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. IF AG HOLDER AND DOJ IS SERIOUS ABOUT THE RAMPANT MISCONDUCT WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT, THEN IT OUGHT TO SET ABOUT CHANGING ITS POLICY SO THAT BOTH OPR IS BEEFED UP WITH MORE ATTORNEYS AND MORE ENFORCEMENT POWER, AND THAT A PANEL OF ATTORNEYS WITHIN THE ODAG’S OFFICE BE APPOINTED TO REVIEW OPR’S FINDINGS-MARGOLIS HAS SLIPPED AND SLIPPED BADLY IN BOTH THE ABOVE-REFERENCED CASES-THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE OUGHT TO DEMAND THAT DOJ FIX THIS MATTER ASAP.

  3. [...] A bunch of former DOJ bigwigs just wrote a seemingly pointless letter to Pat Leahy to assure him that David Margolis does not have a partisan–and they mean Left-Right partisan–bias. (h/t Main Justice) [...]