Posts Tagged ‘Eleanor Holmes Norton’
Friday, February 19th, 2010

Eric Holder speaks at the University of the District of Columbia on Thursday (photo by Ryan J. Reilly).

Appearing before a meeting of the Alliance of Concerned Men at the University of the District of Columbia, Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday stressed the importance of fathers taking an active role in the lives of their children.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) preceded Holder on stage, and called him a historic figure as the nation’s first African-American Attorney General. Norton said that despite his rise, he has “not forgotten his roots here in D.C.”

The Alliance’s membership is primarily African-American. Its stated goal is to save lives of at risk youth residing in high crime areas of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan community.

Holder said that being a father is as demanding as being Attorney General of the United States.

“Each day, I’m reminded of the threats we face, and I’m charged with protecting both the safety of the American people and the strength of our justice system,” said Holder. “As solemn and imperative as these duties are, they often seem manageable in comparison to the awesome responsibilities that I feel as the father of three children. Being a good father is every bit as demanding, and every bit as important, as being the Attorney General of the United States.”

“If we are going to call ourselves men then we must act like men.”

Videos of the Attorney General’s speech are embedded below, followed by Holder’s prepared remarks.

Thank you, Tyrone [Parker]. I appreciate your kind words, and I want to thank you for bringing us all together – something you do as well as just about anyone in this city.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to work with you and your partners. Good, strong men who have become my friends. I’ve watched the Alliance of Concerned Men grow from a handful of frustrated – yet, ultimately, hopeful – friends and neighbors into what it is today: one of this city’s most powerful, and most successful, voices for change. You’ve helped to create peace in some of our most dangerous and divided neighborhoods. You’ve spoken out for communities in crisis. And you’ve stood up for families and individuals in need. This work has always begun in the same, simple way – by getting people together, by talking, and by listening.

That’s what today is all about. I’m grateful to be part of this discussion. And that’s why I want to talk to you this afternoon about the responsibilities we share and must fulfill. Responsibilities to ourselves, to each other, to our communities, and to the children who depend on us.

Of all the titles I’ve held in my life – lawyer, prosecutor, judge, U.S. Attorney, and, now, Attorney General – the one I’m most proud of is “father.” It says the most about me. It also means the most to me.

As Attorney General, I have the honor of serving as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Each day, I’m reminded of the threats we face, and I’m charged with protecting both the safety of the American people and the strength of our justice system. As solemn and imperative as these duties are, they often seem manageable in comparison to the awesome responsibilities that I feel as the father of three children. Being a good father is every bit as demanding, and every bit as important, as being the Attorney General of the United States.

Let’s be clear about one thing: a father’s role in the life of a child is irreplaceable. Research has proven this. For me, my own experiences parenting two teenage daughters and a 12-year-old son, is all the evidence I need.

I’m glad to be in the company of so many fellow dads and local leaders who want to focus on, and talk about, fatherhood. In the course of this discussion, I hope we will be open and honest enough to ask ourselves tough questions – father to father, parent to parent – about what our communities, as well as the federal government, can do to strengthen our families and support those fathers who are trying to do the right thing.

Open and honest communication is what the Alliance of Concerned Men is all about. I first saw this 13 years ago, when I was the U.S. Attorney here in D.C. That was 1997, the year that Darryl Hall was murdered by rival gang members in Southeast Washington. Darryl was just 12 years old, but he’d been an active gang member. And his tragic death illustrated an alarming problem. I visited the housing complex where he’d lived. That’s where I met Tyrone Parker. I watched as Tyrone and his partners brokered an unprecedented truce between the two gangs whose long-running feud had led to Darryl’s death. It was amazing to witness. Not only did the Alliance help enemies find common ground, they raised the spirit of a hurting city. They lifted up young people who, until that point, had seen only dark times ahead. They worked a miracle. And it was just the first of many.

I realize that this kind of extraordinary service is not done without great sacrifice. Many of you devote your time and talent, as well as your own money, to helping young people day after day. It’s difficult work, for you and also for those you’re working to help. One young gang member, a teenage boy who had been on the front lines of a gang war that you helped end this winter, put it this way. He said, “It’s hard to come in the room and make peace with someone who’s been shooting at you, who’s been trying to kill you.”

But if that young man can come together with his former enemies, if those who have suffered most can find healing through dialogue, then I know that we can, too. We must bring ourselves to ask tough questions and to demand more from ourselves and each other.

After all, we fathers have an opportunity today, as we do every day, to act responsibly in the lives of our children and to be better fathers to them. We can spend time with our sons and daughters. We can help with their homework. We can teach them to play well together. We can teach our sons to show respect to women. And we can teach our daughters to demand respect for themselves. We can serve as role models for how to interact with others and how to handle the challenges of life. Stated simply, we can – and we must – assume the responsibility of being involved in our children’s lives. By being involved, and by setting a good example, we each have the opportunity to impact our kids’ lives, as well as the future of our nation, in positive and profound ways.

Here in Washington, too many of our children are in need and living in pain. Too many kids have given up on themselves and given in to a life of violence and crime. As some of you recall, it wasn’t too long ago that our city was called the most dangerous city in the world. But for all the progress we’ve made our young men are still more likely to experience violence here than in almost any other city in the United States.

Let me give you the statistics: 2,500 active gang members; 5,000 loose affiliates; 156 juveniles crammed into a detention center meant to house no more than 88 youth offenders; hundreds of robberies; dozens of murders.

But behind these numbers are the stories of lost children, unrealized dreams, shattered families, and grief beyond measure.

The plain truth is that youth violence is far-too common. There’s no single cause and no simple solution. But we know one important contributor is the absence of a responsible, loving father. Here in D.C., where half of African-American households don’t include even one grown man, the implications of this fact could not be clearer.

If we are going to call ourselves “men” then we must act like men. We must nurture and care for those we bring into this world. That’s what a “man” does. We can’t leave this awesome responsibility only to the women in our lives who, nevertheless, do a superb job. And we can’t ask our communities to shoulder our obligations. This must end. Any man who can create a child must also help, in a meaningful way, to help raise that child.

I don’t pretend that this will be easy, especially for fathers who have been incarcerated. I come here with great respect for those of you who have made mistakes but have chosen to appear here tonight because you know that someone is counting on you.

People sometimes make bad choices. And some of these choices come with a prison sentence. But we can’t permit the incarceration of a parent to punish an entire family.

Today, more than 1.5 million American children have fathers in prison. More than half of these children are African American. Often, these kids struggle with anxiety, depression, learning problems, and aggression, undermining their own chances to succeed. In many cases, maintaining relationships with their parents during incarceration can improve the lives of these children. Yet, too often, our policies have failed to support these relationships.

We must find ways to help these men play a central role in their children’s lives. Research reveals that men who maintain strong family ties while behind bars are more successful when they are released. They have an easier time finding jobs and staying off drugs. And they’re less likely to commit new crimes after they leave our jails.

There’s a theme here: family connections improve public safety, and responsible and engaged parenting improves public safety. It’s time we started to think about reentry in that context.

It may surprise you to learn that approximately 700,000 people return to their communities from prison every year. Seven hundred thousand. And yet, only a small percentage of these people receive any help preparing for their return. Surely this failure must play a role in the fact that two-thirds of men released from prison are re-arrested within three years.

The good news is that here in D.C., and in communities across the country, we’re giving more attention to family. We’re also using science and evidence-supported policies, not political dogma, to tackle the issues of recidivism and reentry. I’m pleased that, last year, the Justice Department awarded $28 million under the Second Chance Act for reentry programs. These investments will support parenting training inside our prisons and reunification programs for when people are released.

I know that many of you have struggled with these challenges or are facing them today. And many of you have found innovative, productive solutions. I look forward to hearing your stories this afternoon.

And as we talk together, let us keep in mind the wise words of Eric Perry, the courageous D.C. teenager who summoned the Alliance last year to intervene in one of this city’s deadliest gang disputes. “Now,” he told reporters, “it is up to us to get our community back together.”

He’s exactly right. I look forward to working with all of you to figure out where we go from here and how we build the future that our communities, and our kids, deserve.

Thank you.

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The White House and the Justice Department are vetting the head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, Mary Patrice Brown, for a federal judgeship, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Brown, a well-regarded career prosecutor, is expected to secure a nomination to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, assuming she clears her FBI background check and American Bar Association review, the people said.

Brown was tapped to lead the Justice Department’s ethics unit in April, amid a high-profile probe of former Office of Legal Counsel lawyers whose legal opinions paved the way for waterboarding of terrorism detainees. Her office reportedly determined that the lawyers — John Yoo, now a law professor, and Jay Bybee, now a federal judge — violated professional standards in blessing some of the Bush administration’s most controversial national security policies.

The Justice Department official who oversees OPR in the Deputy Attorney General’s office, David Margolis, softened the report to say the lawyers were guilty of “poor judgment” but not of professional misconduct — a finding that would have warranted referrals to state bar associations, Newsweek reported.

The issue would almost certainly be raised in Brown’s Senate confirmation hearings. Many Republicans strongly oppose disciplining Yoo or Bybee for their work during the Bush administration in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, while many Democrats have called for them to account for approving an interrogation method that Attorney General Eric Holder and others have equated with torture.

Brown, just the third OPR counsel since the office was created in 1975, came from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, where she was chief of the Criminal Division. The Justice Department announced the move the day after a federal judge criticized OPR for dragging its feet in an investigation of possible misconduct in the botched prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. The events were unrelated.

The judge, Emmet Sullivan, took the extraordinary step of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate government lawyers for possible criminal contempt. Sullivan’s actions also set in motion a series of reforms designed to ensure that prosecutors meet their obligations to turn over evidence to defendants. (Brown would be Sullivan’s colleague on D.C.’s federal trial court, among the most prestigious in the country.)

The OPR investigations of the Stevens prosecutors and of the former OLC lawyers elevated the profile of Brown’s office. Rarely do OPR findings see the light of day, much less become the subject of congressional inquiries, as the OLC probe has. As a result, the office has received more complaints, Brown has said.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton sent Brown’s name to the White House, along with eight others, for three vacancies on the court. (The names were generated by Norton’s nominating commission, the same group that interviewed candidates for U.S. Attorney in the District.) The White House appears to have pared the list down to three names, and the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy has been assisting with the vetting since December, the people said.

The lawyers being considered for the other two vacancies are Venable LLP partner Robert Wilkins, former special litigation chief for the D.C. Public Defender Service, and D.C. Superior Judge James “Jeb” Boasberg, who was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in District before his confirmation in 2002, the people said.

Brown could not be reached for comment. Wilkins and Boasberg declined to comment.

The court has a fourth vacancy as of late December, when U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman took senior status. It’s unclear whether the White House will select a nominee from Norton’s list, ask for more names or conduct its own search.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

The District of Columbia City Council yesterday defeated a proposal by Democratic Councilman Tommy Wells to transfer the powers of the U.S. attorney’s office to an elected district attorney, the Washington Post reported.

The action came as the council was debating whether the District should have an elected attorney general, instead of one appointed by the mayor, as is now the case.

The council approved that proposal, 12-1, but it still must win the approval of Mayor Adrian Fenty. And, Congress would have to amend the District’s home rule charter.

During consideration of the attorney general proposal, Wells offered an amendment, defeated 3-10, to leave the attorney general’s status untouched, but rather transfer authority for prosecuting local crimes to a local district attorney.

The District’s non-voting delegate in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, has introduced legislation to establish a local district attorney in each of the last four Congresses, but has not been successful.

The effort follows a 2002 referendum in which District residents voted to establish a locally elected D.A. Currently, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia prosecutes local crimes – from burglaries to murders. .

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Ron Machen (Wilmer Hale)

President Barack Obama has nominated criminal defense attorney Ron Machen to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, according to a Justice Department official.

The nomination was sent to the Senate late Wednesday and will be announced on Thursday, an administration official said.

Machen, 40, is a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he specializes in complex civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense and internal corporate investigations. He was among three candidates Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton submitted to the White House for the post in August.

Machen’s nomination had been expected for some time. He was interviewed at the Justice Department in late October. The other finalists were Anjali Chaturvedi, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP; and Michael Bromwich, a partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.

An Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia from 1997 to 2001, Machen (Stanford, Harvard Law) worked in the office’s Fraud and Public Corruption and Homicide sections. At Wilmer, he has represented Boeing Co., CitiGroup Inc., and Mitchell Wade, the defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.).

The District’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, the largest in the nation with about 340 prosecutors, handles local and federal criminal cases. The office is currently overseen by acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips. Phillips, a career prosecutor, had been the office’s Principal Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney since 2004.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

EleanorHolmesNorton

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton isn’t giving up her quest to get the feds to take a back-seat role in prosecuting local District of Columbia crimes. The non-voting Democratic delegate to Congress has reintroduced a bill to establish a District Attorney’s office for Washington.

As a federal enclave, Washington is ultimately governed by Congress. Norton’s bill, the proposed District of Columbia District Attorney Establishment Act, is part of a long-time push by Washingtonians to wield more control over local affairs.

Norton has introduced the measure in each of the past three sessions of Congress – in 2003, 2006, and 2007. The effort follows a 2002 referendum in which District residents voted to establish a locally elected D.A. Currently, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia prosecutes local crimes – from burglaries to murders. The D.C. U.S. Attorney also  shoulders a weighty national security docket, including holding habeas hearings on motions from Guantanamo Bay prisoners challenging their detention.

Norton has picked up one co-sponsor for her bill, Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), this go around. Establishing an elected position of district attorney would require an act of Congress and presidential approval.

D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, told Main Justice he hasn’t spoken to Norton about the bill’s chances and didn’t want to speculate. Mendelson did say that historically Congress has been pre-occupied with federal issues and “just doesn’t get” the importance of home rule in the District. “It’s just hard to get their attention,” said Mendelson.

The size and scope of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District make it one of the most coveted positions in federal law enforcement. Attorney General Eric Holder was the first African-American to serve as U.S. attorney for the District at the recommendation of Norton. Norton spokeswoman Sonsyrea Montgomery didn’t say if Norton has spoken to Holder about her proposal, and said she would check with Norton to see if she believed she had enough support for the bill to move forward.

Channing D. Phillips is  acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Main Justice reported that Ron Machen has interviewed with the Justice Department and is likely to be the next U.S. Attorney for the District.

Norton argues that the District U.S. Attorney “needs to be freed up to handle national security and other vital federal cases, particularly in the post-9/11 nation’s capital.” But a spokesman for the office seemed to think it was handling the caseload just fine.

“We put a huge amount of resources into local prosecutions,” Ben Friedman told Main Justice. “We are the local prosecutor and we act like it.”

Norton’s desire to have an elected district attorney is a legitimate issue, said Friedman. But he added that the U.S. Attorney’s Office “does everything that a local D.A. does and more.” There are over 350 assistant U.S. attorneys in the D.C. office, including 146 assistant U.S. attorneys divided into four main sections working on local crime and 76 on the federal side, according to Friedman.

All employees of the District U.S. attorney’s office are federal employees. Asked what would happen if the bill actually made its way through Congress and was signed into law, Friedman said he wasn’t sure.

“I honestly wouldn’t even speculate, I couldn’t imagine how it would work,” said Friedman.

Holder served as U.S. Attorney for D.C. from 1993 until 1997 and embraced his role in the prosecution of local crime, “paying nightly visits to churches and advisory neighborhood commissions, he focused attention on raising the office’s community profile and on beefing up local law enforcement,” according to a 1997 article in Washington City Paper. He does not appear to have an opinion on record as to whether the District needs a D.A.

Norton introduced Holder at his Senate confirmation hearing in January, stating that he ”created a new gold standard” by “localizing the district’s part of his jurisdiction by, for example, placing assistant U.S. attorneys in communities for the very first time while strenuously carrying forward significant federal prosecutions.”

“Eric wore two very different high-profile hats at the same time with remarkable skill,” said Norton.

Despite the innovations Norton credited to Holder, she still would like to see the way local cases are handled overhauled.

Mendelson said the recent case of Tony Hunter, a gay man who was killed on his way to a gay bar whose killer was charged with manslaughter, shows that federal prosecutors aren’t always as in touch with the local community as an elected district attorney would be.

“I don’t want to convey that [the U.S. attorney] was insensitive, but a local prosecutor would be more sensitive to the local community’s feelings,” said Mendelson.

“There is no law enforcement issue of greater importance to our residents, or on which we have less say, than the prosecution of local crimes here,” said Norton. “A U.S. Attorney has no business in the local criminal affairs of a local jurisdiction. This bill simply would make the District’s prosecutor accountable to the people by electing him or her, as elsewhere in the nation.”

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Ron Machen (Wilmer Hale)

Ron Machen (Wilmer Hale)

Ron Machen, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, is nearing the finish line.

Two people familiar the situation tell Main Justice that the former federal prosecutor had his interview at the Justice Department earlier this week. If all went well, he is virtually guaranteed the nomination for the U.S. Attorney post in the District of Columbia. (For an inside look at the interview process, click here.)

Machen declined to comment.

Machen worked in the Fraud and Public Corruption and Homicide sections of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia from 1997 to 2001. At Wilmer, he has represented a slew of high-profile clients, including Boeing Co., CitiGroup Inc., and Mitchell Wade, the defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.).

In August, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton submitted a slate of three names to the White House. Nixon Peabody partner Anjali Chaturvedi and Fried Frank partner Michael Bromwich are also among the finalists, though news reports pegged Machen as the early favorite.

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

After we broke the news earlier this week of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s recommendations for U.S. Attorney — she slipped three names to White House in late August — her office issued this news release Wednesday:

In response to speculation about the name of the next U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, the Office of Eleanor Holmes Norton today said that several weeks ago the Congresswoman gave her recommendation to the President, and she understands that the President has made his choice. Norton interviewed several candidates before making her recommendation.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is a presidential position, and the choice and the nomination will be his,” Norton said.

Ron Machen (Wilmer Hale)

Ron Machen (Wilmer Hale)

Barack Obama’s choice — or at least the front-runner, according to The Washington Post and The Washington Examiner — is Ron Machena partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and a former federal prosecutor in the District. We’ve written about his candidacy here and here.

According to The Post, Machen was Norton’s first choice. (She also recommended Anjali Chaturvedi, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, and Michael Bromwich, a partner Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.) Sources told the newspaper that Machen is being vetted and will likely be nominated if he passes his background check.

The White House said no decision has been made.


Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Anjali Chaturvedi (Nixon Peabody)

Anjali Chaturvedi (Nixon Peabody)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has recommended three former federal prosecutors – Anjali ChaturvediMichael Bromwich and Ron Machen – for U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, according to various people familiar with the process.

We previously reported here that the three lawyers interviewed with Norton, after her 17-member commission narrowed the field of U.S. Attorney applicants. Norton sent her recommendations to the White House in late August, according to one person. The process has been airtight, so bear with us.

Michael Bromwich (PBS.org)

Michael Bromwich (PBS.org)

Two people told us that Chaturvedi, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP who specializes in government investigations and complex civil and criminal matters, made the cut. She has a combined 12 years experience as an Assistant U.S. Attorney on both the East and West coasts. She was chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and deputy chief of the Felony Trial Section in the D.C. office.

Ron Machen (Wilmer Hale)

Ron Machen (Wilmer Hale)

Another person familiar with the matter indicated that Bromwich was on the list. A former Justice Department inspector general, Bromwich now heads the internal investigations, compliance and monitoring practice group at at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. Bromwich was an AUSA in the Southern District of New York in the 1980s and later served as associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel for Iran-Contra.

And three people told us Norton recommended Machen, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.  Machen worked in the Fraud and Public Corruption and Homicide sections of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia from 1997 to 2001. At Wilmer, he has represented a slew of high-profile clients, including Boeing Co., CitiGroup Inc., and Mitchell Wade, the defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.).

Absent from the list, apparently, is Channing Phillips, a veteran prosecutor and acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. We could not confirm whether Phillips interviewed with Norton in August, but he enjoys strong support within the office.

Phillips joined the office in 1994 as a line prosecutor. In 2004, he was tapped as principal deputy assistant attorney general, the office’s No. 2. Phillips was also the office’s chief spokesman. He was named acting U.S. attorney in May, after Jeffrey Taylor stepped down for a position at Ernst & Young.

Norton’s recommendations cap the local phase of the selection process, which began in April. Phillips, Chaturvedi and Bromwich declined to comment. Machen could not be reached.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is the largest in the country, with more than 350 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and more than 350 support staff. The office prosecutes federal and local crimes.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s nominating commission has been quietly reviewing applicants for U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia since April, and I’ve reported the names of five who have been interviewed. Yesterday, a person with knowledge of the process told me of a sixth: Fried Frank partner Michael Bromwich, who served as the Justice Department’s inspector general during the Clinton administration. (Bromwich declined to comment.)

Michael Bromwich (PBS.org)

Michael Bromwich (PBS.org)

Bromwich, who heads the firm’s Internal Investigations, Compliance and Monitoring practice group, brings some heavy credentials to a mix that includes Assistant U.S. Attorney Roy Austin Jr.; Nixon Peabody partner Anjali Chaturvedi, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner Ron Machen; Channing Phillips, the District’s acting U.S. attorney; and Shanlon Wu, of Wheat Wu.

Chaturvedi, Machen, and Wu were all AUSAs  in the District. Bromwich was an AUSA in the Southern District of New York in the 1980s and later served as associate counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel for Iran-Contra. At Fried Frank, Bromwich splits his time between the firm’s New York and D.C. offices, and since 2002, he’s been the independent monitor for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department on use of force issues. Click here for his firm bio.

In late May, the 17-member commission tasked with reviewing candidates for U.S. attorney began interviewing the candidates, one of the final stages before the body makes its recommendations Norton. Still unclear is whether Norton will forward all of the commission’s recommendations to the president or pluck her favorite from the list. Her office has repeatedly declined to say, and my former colleagues at The National Law Journal wrote earlier this year that Norton and the White House could be in a bit of a  row over the issue.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Pauline Schneider, who chairs the commission, could not be immediately reached.

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

 U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jeffrey A. Taylor will step down Friday to lead the fraud section of Ernst & Young, The Associated Press reported this afternoon. Read the news release here

Taylor, a former aide to Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, was appointed interim U.S. Attorney by the Justice Department in September 2006, after then-U.S. Attorney Ken Wainstein left to become Assistant Attorney General in the National Security Division. President Bush formally nominated Taylor in 2007. 

But Taylor withdrew his nomination after D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) raised objections to Taylor’s hiring of an Assisstant U.S. Attorney with a history of ethical problems, under what Norton said was pressure from Bush officials at Main Justice. Lacking Senate confirmation, Taylor has been serving under a U.S. District Court appointment.

Interestingly, Taylor was also a close friend and former roommate of a defendant in the Jack Abramoff public corruption probe, we’d heard. We haven’t seen much, if anything, written about Taylor rooming with Bob Coughlin, who was deputy chief of staff to Alice Fisher, chief of the Criminal Division. Coughlin pleaded guilty in April 2008 to one felony count of accepting gifts from Abramoff and his associates. It just goes to show how closely knit the D.C. political/legal world is.

Melissa Schwartz in the Office of Public Affairs at Main Justice said Taylor rented a room from Coughlin in 2001, but she said the relationship had no bearing on a decision to refer Coughlin’s prosecution to Maryland instead of the District, where it logically should have been. Schwartz said that decision was made because Coughlin had been a special Assistant U.S. Attorney in D.C. during Wainstein’s tenure, before Taylor took over. 

Mary Jacoby can be reached at mjacoby@mainjustice.com.