Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Perrelli’
Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, the No. 3 official in the Justice Department, told NPR he will be stepping down from his position in March.

Perrelli, who has overseen the Civil Division since his Senate confirmation in March 2009, said he plans to take time off to spend with his family.  He and his wife have two young children and a pair of twins due later this spring, NPR reports.

Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli (Photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice)

“This is the best job I’ll ever have… you really couldn’t ask for much better,” he told NPR. However, he said, the “enormous amount of energy and commitment and sacrifice” he put into his work began to take a toll.

The 45-year-old was a classmate of President Barack Obama at Harvard Law School. He served in several capacities at the Justice Department over his professional career.  He was counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno from 1997 to 1999 and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division’s Federal Programs Branch from 1999 to 2001.  Prior to that, he worked at Jenner & Block LLP, heading up the entertainment and new media practice group from 1992 to 1997 and then as managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office from 2001 to 2009.

In recent months, Perrelli has pushed for domestic violence initiatives in Congress, appearing in November to urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow American Indian tribal courts prosecute non-tribal offenders of domestic violence. He also oversaw the negotiations on a $1.4 billion settlement of Cobell v. Salazar, a class action lawsuit on behalf of American Indians who alleged the government had mismanaged Indian trust funds.

In 2010, Perrelli spoke on Capitol Hill about the department’s investigation into the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Perrelli also came under some scrutiny in 2010 after the Washington Times alleged he politicized a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party by consulting with the White House before dismissing the charges. A subsequent Office of Professional Responsibility report cleared the department’s handling of the matter.

Perrelli graduated from Harvard Law School and served as managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.  He also served as a law clerk for Royce C. Lamberth in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1992.

A spokesperson from the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

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DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

______________________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2021 DOJ (202) 514-2007

WWW.JUSTICE.GOV DOI (202) 208-6416

USDA (202) 720-4623

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER, SECRETARIES SALAZAR AND VILSACK

APPLAUD FINAL PASSAGE OF THE CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT

WASHINGTON – Today, the Departments of Justice, Interior and Agriculture applauded the bipartisan House passage of the Claims Settlement Act. The act, which recently passed the Senate, will provide long-awaited funding for the agreements reached in the Pigford II lawsuit, brought by African American farmers; the Cobell lawsuit, brought by Native Americans over the management of Indian trust accounts and resources; and four separate water rights suits made by Native American tribes. President Barack Obama has said that he will sign the legislation into law.

“These are truly historic settlements that do not only resolve litigation, but also offer a new relationship between many deserving Americans and the federal agencies that play an important role in their lives,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Bringing this litigation to a close has been a priority for this administration, and today’s vote in Congress is a significant, historic achievement. These cases provide fair deals for the plaintiffs and for the American taxpayers.”

“Congress’ approval of the Cobell settlement and the four Indian water rights settlements is nothing short of historic for Indian nations,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “The settlements honorably and responsibly address long-standing injustices and represent a major step forward in President Obama’s agenda to empower tribal governments, fulfill our trust responsibilities to tribal members and help tribal leaders build safer, stronger, healthier and more prosperous communities.”

“President Obama and I made a firm commitment not only to treat all farmers fairly and equally, but to right the wrongs in USDA’s past,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I applaud those who took this historic step to ensure black farmers who faced discrimination by their government finally receive justice. And I commend those who led this fight in the U.S. Congress and I am thankful for their unwavering determination. Today’s vote will help the Department of Agriculture move beyond this sad chapter in history. The bill that passed the Senate and House includes strong protections against waste, fraud, and abuse to ensure integrity of the claims process. In the months and years ahead, we will not stop working to move the Department into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider. We also must continue the good work we started to resolve all remaining administrative claims.”

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

The Washington Post editorial board on Friday criticized Attorney General Eric Holder for his response to the oil spill, calling his announcement that the Justice Department had opened a criminal probe into the matter “odd” and “discomfiting.”

Attorney General Eric Holder (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice)

Last month, Holder traveled to the Gulf coast and, during a press conference, said the DOJ had opened a criminal investigation of the spill. Holder declined to say which companies were being investigated.

The announcement was unusual: Justice Department officials almost always decline to confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation. According to the U.S. Attorneys manual — the document that governs the behavior of DOJ attorneys in the field — prosecutors can only confirm probes when officials determine that an extraordinary event justifies public acknowledgment.

“In matters that have already received substantial publicity, or about which the community needs to be reassured that the appropriate law enforcement agency is investigating the incident, or where release of information is necessary to protect the public interest, safety, or welfare, comments about or confirmation of an ongoing investigation may need to be made,” the manual states. “In these unusual circumstances, the involved investigative agency will consult and obtain approval from the United States Attorney or Department Division handling the matter prior to disseminating any information to the media.”

One week before Holder announced the probe, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that “consistent with long-standing policy, we neither confirm nor deny the existence of such an investigation,” The Post noted.

In addition, the editorial also was critical of Holder’s appearance at a meeting between White House officials and representatives from BP.

Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, who lead the White House negotiations that resulted in a multibillion-dollar victims’ compensation fund, was “perfectly capable of ensuring that the fund agreement passed legal muster,” the editorial said, and Holder’s presence “inevitably raised the specter of the criminal probe — and the possibility that it could be used to pressure BP on the size and terms of the fund.”

Administration officials pointed out that Holder attended with other Cabinet secretaries and left the meeting before substantive negotiations had begun.

Because he handles both criminal and civil aspects of an issue, the Attorney General “must take great care to avoid even the appearance of conflict,” wrote the editorial board.

“Mr. Holder may not have crossed that line in the gulf oil matter, but he has come close.”

Read the full editorial here.

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder promised on Thursday that U.S. taxpayers would not have to bear any costs associated with cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I can make this pledge to the American people that the American people will not pay a dime for the cleanup of the Gulf region and that BP will be held responsible for all the damages that have occurred,” Holder told reporters at a news conference on Thursday. “We will take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that… occurs,” Holder said.

On Wednesday, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli said that the prospect that BP PLC may try to go into bankruptcy or split into several companies to prevent paying the full damages “is an issue of real concern to us because we want to make that the responsible parties truly have the wherewithal to compensate the American people for the damage done.” Perrelli said the Justice Department was reviewing its options.

But a Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Dow Jones on Thursday that DOJ is not preparing to seek an injunction to block BP from paying dividends to shareholders, but the department has not ruled out seeking an injunction in the future.


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Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli said Wednesday that the Justice Department continues to closely monitor the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and will use all possible means to hold those responsible accountable for the damage.

Associate Attorney General Thomas Perelli (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice)

Perrelli testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of the Obama administration’s proposal to lift the cap on liability for economic damages incurred following oil spills. Under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, liability is capped at $75 million.

But Perrelli said that while the Oil Pollution Act is the primary vehicle for addressing liability, it is not the only means of seeking compensation.

“It is important to remember that OPA expressly preserves state and other federal mechanisms for pursuing damages for injuries caused by such incidents and for assessing penalties for the underlying conduct that may cause such disasters,” Perrelli said in prepared remarks.

Perrelli also noted that there are at least three recognized exceptions to the cap, including when there has been negligence.

BP has promised it will not limit itself to the $75 million cap and will pay all legitimate claims. Perrilli said the Justice Department expects BP to uphold that commitment.

At least one member raised concerns because BP qualified its pledge by saying it would pay “legitimate” claims. But Perrelli told the committee that “legitimate” is not a legal term.

“The term ‘legitimate,’ as I’ve heard it, has been used by BP. It’s not a statutory term,” Perrelli said. “Our view is that the scope of damages that is available under OPA is quite broad…and we anticipate pursing BP and other responsible parties for a wide range of damages.”

Perrelli also said the Justice Department was concerned that BP may try to go into bankruptcy or split into several companies to prevent paying the full damages.

“It is an issue of real concern to us because we want to make that the responsible parties truly have the wherewithal to compensate the American people for the damage done,” Perrelli said. “We are reviewing our options, and hope to be able to report back to you soon with the action we’ll take.”

Attorney General Eric Holder has assembled a team of lawyers from the Civil Division and the Environment and Natural Resource Division who have experience with the legal issues that arise out of oil spills and other environmental disasters, Perrelli said.

“President Obama, the Department of Justice, and the entire administration are committed to ensuring that those responsible for this tragic series of events are held fully accountable,” Perrelli said.

Perrelli’s full remarks are embedded below.

ASG Perrelli Testimony. FINAL. Oil Spill. House Transportation. 6.9.2022 (1)

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Francesco Isgro, John A. DiCicco, John J. LaCorte Jr., Francis M. Allegra and Thomas Perrelli in the Great Hall of the Justice Department. (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice)

The Justice Department and the Italian Historical Society of America honored the Attorney General who founded the Federal Bureau of Investigation during a ceremony in the Great Hall on Wednesday.

A portrait of Charles Bonaparte, Attorney General from 1906 through 1909. (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice)

Charles J. Bonaparte was named the 46th Attorney General of the United States by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. He found he had trouble enforcing Roosevelt’s “trust busting” policies because the Justice Department at that point lacked a permanent investigative staff. Under orders from the president, he started a 23-man unit that in 1935 was renamed the FBI.

The FBI has honored Bonaparte annually since 1960. The first ceremony featured then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and was held in the Main Justice building. It has been held in a variety of places over the years, often across Pennsylvania Ave. NW in the FBI headquarters auditorium.

But in honor of the 50th anniversary of the honoring of Bonaparte, today’s ceremony made an encore back at DOJ headquarters.

Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli’s remarks relayed the history of Bonaparte’s work as Attorney General.

Bonaparte insisted on ensuring that ordinary citizens had a chance against the malfeasance of the big institutions, and he initiated several investigations into some of the biggest corporations of the day – from Standard Oil to the American Tobacco Company and the Union Pacific Railroad.

Now, the threats that we’re zeroing in on today with our Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force aren’t the same as the trusts that Bonaparte had in his sights, but what President Roosevelt saw in Bonaparte’s leadership on these issues sets a legitimate example for us today.

What I take from Bonaparte’s work in those days is not that there is any particular joy to be gotten from slaying giants – though you do get the sense that Bonaparte was happy to slay whatever got in his way – but just a basic understanding that the giants have to be subject to the same rules as everybody else.  We’re a nation of laws.  And when a giant, or anybody else, isn’t following those rules or laws, it is often the Department of Justice’s job to call them to account.

Judge Francis M. Allegra of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a veteran of the Justice Department who worked with Perrelli when he was a career attorney, said DOJ was very fortunate to have Perrelli as Associate Attorney General.

Charles J. Bonaparte (Library of Congress)

Perrelli joked that his family was wondering why his testimony before Congress was on C-SPAN but the Bonaparte event, which they were much more interested in watching, was not.

Justice Department officials John A. DiCicco, the acting Assistant Attorney General of the Tax Division, and Francesco Isgro, senior litigation counsel for the Civil Division, made brief remarks at the ceremony.

A representative from the Italian Embassy also spoke at the ceremony, highlighting the work the United States and Italy are doing to combat crime.

Cristianao Maggipinto, first counselor for social and consular affairs, said the two countries were cooperating on several issues including terrorism and organized crime. He highlighted Attorney General Eric Holder’s trip to the G8 in Italy last year as an example.

“We are very satisfied with the level of cooperation, and we are committed to building on the cooperation,” Maggipinto said.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

At a meeting of the President’s Puerto Rico Task Force Tuesday, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli said the White House was open to the idea of the U.S. territory becoming a state.

“The president strongly believes that the status question is a significant one. He also believes that Puerto Rico’s status must be based on self-determination by the people of Puerto Rico,” said Perrelli in remarks opening the meeting. “And we on the task force are here with open minds on this issue.”

Perrelli, who co-chairs the task force, said that the public hearings were being held because of President Barack Obama’s pledge that the government be open, transparent and accountable. “That’s why as part of the process we have undertaken with the task force on Puerto Rico’s status, everyone around this table agreed that we needed to hold public hearings,” said Perrelli.

The hearings will continue throughout the afternoon, and are streaming on the White House website.

Friday, April 9th, 2010

In an interview with Federal News Radio on Friday, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli hailed the Justice Department’s Open Government plan that was released earlier this week.

“Our signature initiative is what’s called the Freedom of Information Act Dashboard — FOIA Dashboard. It is a Web tool that we are going to be deploying in the coming months. [It] was something, really, that the public asked for. We saw input from the public about what kinds of transparency initiatives would be well-received, and one of the top-rated was a tool that would allow the public to learn more about agencies and the Freedom of Information Act [and] to have access to data about how agencies across the government were performing and implementing [FOIA],” said Perrelli.

“Where we can, we are looking at increasing sharing and collaboration across the board, as well as engaging the public,” said Perrelli. “Remember, this Open Government Initiative is not just about putting information on the Web, but being more engaged across the board with our stakeholders, which includes state and local police, courts, prosecutors, and the public more generally.”

An audio file of the interview is available at Federal News Radio.

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Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Although Attorney General Eric Holder is pushing government agencies to expedite Freedom of Information Act requests, the Department of Justice processed fewer requests in fiscal 2009 than it did in 2008.

The 2009 figures were disclosed in an annual report to Congress on Justice Department FOIA requests. Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli also sent two letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden last week to accompany the report.

According to the report, the department processed about 60,200 requests in fiscal 2009, a slight decrease from the nearly 61,300 requests processed in fiscal 2008. More than 6,200 requests were pending at the beginning of fiscal 2009. By the end of the fiscal year, that number had jumped to more than 7,400 — an 18 percent jump.

While the number of requests processed in 2009 was slightly lower than in the previous year, it was still the second highest number processed since 2002, according to a report (PDF) issued by the DOJ’s Office of Information Policy chief Melanie Pustay last month.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said it takes longer to process requests since a new Obama administration policy on FOIA requests was implemented last year. Both President Barack Obama and Holder both issued memoranda in 2009 aimed at making the executive branch more transparent. The new policy instructs government lawyers to lean towards disclosure when reviewing requests.

The Holder memorandum rescinded then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Oct. 12, 2001 memo that told government lawyers the DOJ would defend any FOIA requests rejections so long as the decision had a sound legal basis.

Pustay said in testimony last month that federal agencies are continuing their efforts to reduce the FOIA request backlog. According to Pustay, the government’s overall backlog has been reduced by 50 percent since the new policy went into effect.

Speaking to government Freedom of Information Act officials last month, Holder said that “this past year has brought a shift in the way our entire federal government operates.”

While there is still a lot to be done, Holder said, the past year has “signaled the emergence of a government that’s striving to work more openly and more effectively for the people it serves.”

An independent audit by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University released last month named DOJ one of the few federal agencies to receive high marks for processing FOIA requests.

Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

The Justice Department is evaluating recommendations from the public for increasing transparency as it finalizes its new open government plan.

In December, the White House issued an open government directive as part of its larger Open Government Initiative. The directive requires agencies to take suggestions from the public about how to be more transparent and come up with an open government plan by April 7.

Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli is leading a working group to oversee development of the DOJ’s plan.

The Justice Department used an online feedback system called Ideascale to set up a Web site, OpenDOJ, to gather suggestions from the public. According to the OpenDOJ Web site, the working group will incorporate “as many of these ideas as are feasible” into the plan.

“The ideas are being examined based on a variety of criteria, including to see how well they serve the department’s broader mission, whether or not our current resources would support the implementation of the suggestions and whether the suggestion would truly ‘open up’ the department,” said spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler.

Some ideas offered by individuals on the OpenDOJ site are more likely to be included than others. One suggestion would have Attorney General Eric Holder make his daily schedule public, as is done by the State Department and by the White House. Several other suggestions involve the Freedom of Information Act, including a proposal that previously released FOIA documents be organized and published on the Justice Department’s Web site.

Other ideas unlikely to make the cut: a popular proposal that the Justice Department live stream all meetings online.

The Justice Department has some special circumstances to consider, according to Schmaler.

“In evaluating the release of any department information, we must balance the interests of transparency with the need to protect sensitive law enforcement and national security matters and information,” Schmaler said.

The department also leads the effort to encourage agencies throughout the administration to comply with Holder’s FOIA guidelines.