At an event in the Great Hall Monday honoring the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is working to “[live] up to its responsibility to provide a work environment where every employee is respected and given an equal opportunity to thrive.”
Holder also pointed to the Obama administration’s accomplishments on LGBT issues including the new federal hate crimes law — the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act that the president signed into law in October — and the Justice Department’s recent decision that the Violence Against Women Act covers same-sex partners.
“We have much to celebrate today. In the year since we last gathered, our nation – and the Justice Department – have taken steps to address some of the unique challenges faced by members of our country’s LGBT community,” said Holder in remarks at the annual DOJ LGBT Pride Month event.
DOJ Pride was founded in 1994, and flourished when Janet Reno was Attorney General. Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales later banned the group from using Justice Department facilities. Attorney General Michael Mukasey welcomed DOJ Pride back to the Great Hall in 2008, and DOJ Pride President Chris Hook said the event has grown in size since the Obama administration took over in January 2009.
During his remarks, Holder also touted the DOJ’s new Diversity Management Plan — which calls for greater diversity in such areas as hiring, promotions and retention — and the appointment of former acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips to manage the implementation of the plan as Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity.
“With this initiative, and with Channing’s leadership, we’re working to ensure that the department can effectively recruit, hire, retain, and develop a workforce that reflects our nation’s rich diversity, a department that welcomes and encourages the contributions of its LGBT employees,” Holder said.
Holder did not address some of the controversies that LGBT advocates have raised with the Department of Justice, such as the DOJ’s defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez introduced the keynote speaker, U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, the first openly gay federal prosecutor to head a U.S Attorney’s office.
“What a difference two years makes,” Durkan said. “Today I stand before you as the first openly gay U.S. Attorney. But I can promise you I’m not the last. In fact, today there are three Senate confirmed openly gay U.S. Attorneys in America.
“Two followed me. I started a trend. But I do want to point out, they’re all women. So guys, you need to step it up,” Durkan joked.
She also praised Holder’s work on the LGBT issues, saying that “there is nobody more committed to equality and justice across America than our Attorney General Eric Holder.”
Sharon Lubinski, the first openly gay U.S. Marshal, also spoke at the ceremony and was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Officials in attendance at the event included Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West; Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno of the Environment and Natural Resources Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten; U.S. Attorney for Minnesota B. Todd Jones; U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman; and Chris Dudley, Deputy Director of the U.S. Marshals Service.
DOJ Pride also gave out three awards, including to two local advocates for same-sex marriage. D.C. Councilmember David A. Catania, the force behind the law that made same-sex marriage legal in the District of Columbia, received the Gerald B. Roemer Community Service Award along with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Gansler was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia under then-U.S. Attorney Holder.
Hook received the James R. Douglass Award for his leadership of DOJ Pride. He took over in 2006, when the group had shrank dramatically during the Bush administration, but it has since grown back to the size it was during the Clinton administration.
Hook made it clear when he took over the organization in 2006 that DOJ Pride “did not intend to go into hiding,” said Marc Salans, Assistant Director of the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, who presented the award.
The event was sponsored by the Department of Justice, the Justice Management Division’s Equal Employment Opportunity staff and DOJ Pride.
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In an expected move, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman on Tuesday named J. Gilmore Childers as his first assistant.
From 1987 to 1997, Childers served in the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s office. While in the New York U.S. Attorney’s office, he was lead counsel for the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. From 1998 to 2000, Childers worked at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, before becoming an associate general counsel at Goldman Sachs.
In a news release, Fishman praised Childers for his experience.
“Gil has extraordinary experience as a prosecutor and he has an unparalleled reputation for his great judgment and integrity,” Fishman said. “I am delighted that he was willing to return to the Department of Justice as my primary advisor.”
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A New Jersey man has been charged with threatening employees at some of the nation’s top Latino civil rights organizations, the Justice Department announced on Monday.
Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Paul Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, made the announcement.
The man charged, Vincent Johnson, said in one e-mail message that he told his congressman, who, according to Politico, reports is probably Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), that he planned to use violence against the group.
“[C]an you give me simply one good reason why someone should not put a bullet between your eyes for your actions that are promoting lawlessness in this country?” Johnson allegedly wrote in one 2007 message to the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.
From the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division:
The 14-count indictment, returned by the grand jury on Feb. 4, 2010, alleges that between November 2006 and February 2009, [Vincent] Johnson, using the internet username “Devilfish579”, repeatedly sent threatening e-mail communications to employees of the Latino Justice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; the National Council of La Raza; the League of United Latin American Citizens; and the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders. The indictment further alleges that Johnson intended to place the victims in fear of bodily injury and that Johnson acted because the victims were aiding and encouraging persons of Latino descent to participate without discrimination in activities provided by the federal and state governments.
According to the indictment, among multiple e-mails Johnson sent, in November 2006, he wrote “[d]o you have a last will and testament? If not, better get one real soon.” Additionally, in January 2007, Johnson sent two e-mails to the victims, stating “[o]ur guns are loaded and we will take you out as well whether by the courts or by true fire power” and “[i]f the idiots in the organizations which this e-mail is being copied to can’t fathom the serious nature of their actions, then they will be on the hit list just like any illegal alien…actually, they are already on the list.” In February 2007, he wrote “I am giving you fair warning that your presence and position is being tracked…you are dead meat…along with anyone else in your organization.” In September 2007, he sent two e-mails, in which he wrote “my preference would be to buy more ammunition to deal with the growing chaos created by the pro-illegal alien groups. RIP [names] who are not the friends of our democracy” and “[a]fter reading the article below can you give me simply one good reason why someone should not put a bullet between your eyes for your actions that are promoting lawlessness in this country?”The indictment charges Johnson with five counts of transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce and four counts of using a computer service to place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, commonly known as cyberstalking, each of which carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Johnson is also charged with five counts of interfering with the exercise of civil rights, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
One of the organizations threatened, the National Council of La Raza, was vocal about its disappointment that Thomas Saenz wasn’t chosen by the Obama administration to head the Civil Rights Division because some thought his work on immigration issues might make his confirmation process difficult.
The indictment is embedded below. Warning: contains explicit language.
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Attorney General Eric Holder will attend a ceremonial swearing-in Monday for Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, a spokesperson for Ortiz’s office told Main Justice.
Ortiz was officially sworn in on Nov. 9, a few days after the Senate confirmed her. But U.S. Attorneys often have a later ceremonial investiture with local, state and federal leaders in attendance.
The Attorney General has attended six U.S. Attorney investitures so far. He was at the swearing-in ceremonies for Paul Fishman in New Jersey, Timothy Heaphy in the Western District of Virginia, Neil MacBride in the Eastern District of Virginia, Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York, B. Todd Jones in Minnesota and Joyce Vance in the Northern District of Alabama.
Read our previous article here about the warm glow U.S. Attorneys get when the Attorney General shows up at their swearing-in ceremonies.
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If New Jersey Gov.-elect Chris Christie (R) in fact had been considering appointing his controversial ally from the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey, Ralph Marra, to be state attorney general, as previous reports indicated, he’s decided against it.
Christie will name Essex County, N.J., prosecutor Paula Dow (D) to the post today, The Associated Press reports. The New Jersey attorney general is an appointed position, not elected, but requires confirmation by the state Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.
Marra recently returned to his First Assistant U.S. Attorney position after serving as acting U.S. Attorney, a post he assumed in December when Christie resigned to run for governor. Yesterday, Obama administration appointee Paul Fishman was sworn in as the state’s new U.S. Attorney.
During the campaign, Marra’s office was criticized by Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s campaign for foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests about Christie’s tenure. In addition, the Justice Department launched an ethics probe of Marra for remarks he made at a news conference about a major public corruption sweep Chrthat Democrats said were intended to boost Christie politically.
Dow previously worked with Christie in the U.S. Attorney’s office, serving as counsel to the U.S. Attorney and working in the special prosecutions division and the criminal division. She was in the office from 1994 to 2003. Before joining the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office, Dow worked in the Southern District of New York’s office from 1987 to 1994 and for Exxon for seven years.
Christie has already tapped two of his former subordinates from the U.S. Attorney’s office for his administration - Jeffrey S. Chiesa, who will be Christie’s chief counsel, and Kevin M. O’Dowd, who will be deputy chief counsel.
PolitickerNJ reports the former New Jersey U.S. Attorney will also appoint three other prosecutors to top posts. They are:
- Phillip Kwon, a deputy chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as first assistant attorney general
- Marc Ferzan, a deputy chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s office, as executive assistant attorney general
- Carolyn Murray, first assistant prosecutor in Essex County, N.J., as counsel to the attorney general.
UPDATE: Christie during a noontime press conference made the nominations official, The Star-Ledger of New Jersey reports. In addition, the newspaper reports that Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Guadagno will also serve as secretary of state in the Christie administration. The lieutenant governor, which is a new position in New Jersey, may serve in duel roles in the administration except for attorney general. Guadagno was the deputy chief of the corruption unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 1990 to 1998.
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Attorney General Eric Holder is slated to attend the swearing-in ceremony for the New Jersey U.S. Attorney on Monday, the Justice Department announced today.
Paul Fishman officially took the helm of the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office on Oct. 14. The Senate confirmed him on Oct. 7. Later that month, Holder tapped Fishman to be on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, a body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at DOJ headquarters in Washington.
Fishman replaced Ralph Marra, who served as acting U.S. Attorney after Republican Chris Christie stepped down to mount a successful run for governor.
The Attorney General has attended five U.S. Attorney investitures thus far. He was at the swearing-in ceremonies for Timothy Heaphy in the Western District of Virginia, Neil MacBride in the Eastern District of Virginia, Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York, B. Todd Jones in Minnesota and Joyce Vance in the Northern District of Alabama.
Read our previous article here about the warm glow U.S. Attorneys get when the AG shows up at their investitures.
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Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday announced nine appointees to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.
In August, Holder tapped Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones to chair the committee, an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at Main Justice.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, of Illinois’ Northern District, served as interim chairman before Jones was confirmed. Chicago’s top prosecutor, a Republican appointee who has been recommended for a second tour of duty, will remain on the committee.
The nine new members are listed below. Click on their names for a summary of their Senate questionnaires.
- Preet Bharara, of the Southern District of New York
- Dennis Burke, of Arizona
- Jenny Durkan, of the Western District of Washington
- Paul Fishman, of New Jersey
- Neil MacBride, of the Eastern District of Virginia
- Peter Neronha, of Rhode Island
- Joyce Vance, of the Northern District of Alabama
- Channing Phillips, acting U.S attorney in the District of Columbia
- John Davis, chief of the criminal division of the federal prosecutors’ office in Alexandria, will represent the views of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
They will each serve two-year terms.
The Senate so far has confirmed 18 of 93 U.S. Attorneys. One nominee is waiting for approval by the full Senate, and 11 more await a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Holder, in a statement, said he would rely heavily on the the AGAC as the department works to curb violent crime and gang violence, promote civil rights, police the marketplace and protect national security.
The AGAC’s other members, who were appointed during the Bush administration, include U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, of Middle District of Alabama; Rod Rosenstein, of Maryland; Brett Tolman, of Utah; and Gretchen Witt, the civil chief in the District of New Hampshire.
Regulations require only that the committee have an “appropriate” number of members.
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A prominent New Jersey Democrat is urging the Justice Department to investigate whether Chris Christie used the U.S. Attorney’s office to conduct his campaign for governor.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg said it was “shocking” that former New Jersey Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown appeared to use her position to improperly help Christie’s campaign for governor, The Associated Press reported today.
The New York Times reported yesterday that the former Assistant U.S. Attorney was involved with processing a long-delayed Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Gov. Jon Corzine (D) campaign. The request included Brown’s travel records, which showed that Christie allowed Brown to stay at luxury hotels while on official travel.
Brown also argued for the arrests of public officials in a corruption sweep called Operation Bid Rig to occur before U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman took office, according to The Times. This was done “presumably so that Mr. Christie would be given credit for the roundup,” the newspaper said.
“It was particularly distressing that this raw political agenda came into an office with a historic reputation for fair and unbiased dispensation of justice, and Ms. Brown went so far as to try to bring political campaign objectives into the planning of law enforcement actions,” Lautenberg said in a statement.
Christie and Brown have denied the allegations.
Brown resigned in August shortly after Christie revealed that he gave a $46,000 loan to her.
Stephanie Woodrow contributed to this report.
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President Obama’s U.S. Attorney nominees are turning out to be a diverse bunch in terms of race, gender — and net worth.
Of the 29 U.S. Attorney candidates who have been confirmed or nominated so far, reported net worth ranges from nearly $6 million to less than $10,000, according to an analysis of financial disclosure data filed with the Senate Judiciary Committtee.
The wealthiest include recently confirmed U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of the Western District of Washington ($5.9 million) and Paul Fishman of New Jersey ($5.1 million).
Four nominees reported net worth of less than $200,000. They are Stephanie Rose, nominated to lead Iowa’s Northern District; Richard Callahan, nominated for Missouri’s Eastern District; Carter Stewart of Ohio’s Southern District; and Nick Klinefeldt, of Iowa’s Northern District.
Both Rose and Klinefeldt are under 40. Moreover, Rose has spent most of her career in government, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Iowa. Klinefeldt, meanwhile, reported little equity in his personal residence and student loan debt for both himself and his wife.
Before taking on the Western Washington job, Durkan ran her own law firm in Seattle and worked at a number of other law firms, including Williams & Connolly. She donated $288,205 to Democratic candidates, causes and organizations on the state and federal levels from 1998 to 2008, election records show.
Fishman was a partner at Friedman, Kaplan, Seiler & Adelman in New York, specializing in white-collar defense, corporate investigations and complex civil litigation.
Below is a ranking of the U.S. Attorney picks by net worth. We’ll update the table as more nominees for the 93 federal prosecuting jobs are announced.
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The New York Times reports that the prosecutor to whom Chris Christie lent $46,000 appears to have “used her position in two significant and possibly improper ways to try to aid Mr. Christie in his run for governor.”
The story published on the NYT Web site Monday evening significantly advances the Michele Brown story. It says the former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey resigned in August after interim U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra came under pressure from unnamed Justice Department officials to remove Brown from collecting records for a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Gov. Jon Corzine (D) campaign.
The Corzine FOIA sought documents related to Christie’s official travel and lodging during his tenure as U.S. Attorney, before he resigned to mount a Republican campaign for governor. But some of those records also involved Brown, and they were not being forwarded in a timely manner - prompting the Corzine campaign to file a complaint about the matter with the Justice Department.
Says the Times:
In March, when Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s campaign requested public records about Mr. Christie’s tenure as prosecutor, Ms. Brown interceded to oversee the responses to the inquiries, taking over for the staff member who normally oversaw Freedom of Information Act requests, according to federal law enforcement officials in Newark and Washington. The requested information included records about Mr. Christie’s travel and expenses, along with Ms. Brown’s travel records.
It was later revealed the Christie and Brown had rented rooms in the same luxury hotels while on official travel.
The Associated Press last week reported:
The vouchers show Christie and Brown stayed at the NineZero Hotel in Boston on Oct. 16, 2007 and each billed taxpayers $449 plus taxes and fees for their rooms, more than double the government allowance for a Boston hotel room at the time, according to a General Services Administration travel reimbursement table.
Christie made a mortgage loan to Brown five days after they returned from Boston, on Oct. 22, 2007. He failed to report the loan on federal ethics forms and on his 2007 federal income tax returns, omissions he later described as a mistake. Brown has since resigned and joined a private law firm
The NYT piece cites ”federal law enforcement sources in Newark and Washington” as its sources.
It also illuminates some of the political wrangling around Marra’s successor, Obama nominee Paul Fishman, whose nomination was stalled for months by Republican senators placing anonymous holds on him.
As we guessed here in this earlier report, the delays apparently had to do with whether Christie or Fishman would get to take credit for a massive roundup in July of public officials in a corruption sweep called Operation Bid Rig. If Fishman had been promptly confirmed, he would have likely emerged a the public face of the investigation.
The NYT reports:
In mid-June, when F.B.I. agents and prosecutors gathered to set a date for the arrests of more than 40 targets of a corruption and money-laundering probe, Ms. Brown alone argued for the arrests to be made before July 1. She later told colleagues that she wanted to ensure that the arrests occurred before Mr. Christie’s permanent successor took office, according to three federal law enforcement officials briefed on the conversation, presumably so that Mr. Christie would be given credit for the roundup.
Brown declined to be interviewed by the New York Time but emailed the newspaper to call the charges “outrageous and inaccurate.”. A Christie spokesman said Brown had not helped his campaign in any way while in the U.S. Attorney office. Read our previous report about Marra’s frustrations, including revelations of an Office of Professional Responsibility probe into whether he aided Christie’s candidacy with remarks a news conference announcing the corruption sweep.
Christie said said he loaned Brown $46,000 to pay her mortgate in September 2007 after her husband, Michael Allen, lost his job.
News of Mr. Christie’s loan to Ms. Brown broke in August, dealing a blow to his candidacy, and he apologized for failing to report it on his tax returns and ethics filings.