The Department of Justice plans to push for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in an attempt to support stalking victims, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli said Tuesday at a stalking awareness month program.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), sponsored by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), was originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. Although the original act was aimed at ending violence against women, the reauthorizations have included additional protections for battered immigrants, sexual assault survivors, victims of dating violence and under-served populations.
Since President Barack Obama declared January National Stalking Awareness Month, DOJ officials have amplified efforts to end stalking.
“The U.S. Attorneys’ offices are aggressively pursuing interstate stalking cases, often receiving referrals from our local law enforcement partners,” Perrelli said. “We are training our attorneys to understand the dynamics of stalking, including cyberstalking. And the Office on Violence Against Women funds the Stalking Resource Center, which provides technical assistance, training, and resource materials to organizations throughout the United States, including OVW grantees, to build capacity to effectively respond to stalking.”
Attorney General Eric Holder and the director of the Office on Violence Against Women, Susan B. Carbon, also spoke at the event. Also in attendance were Rebecca Dreke, senior program associate at the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime, and Cindy Southworth, director at the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
Also present were stalking victim Hannah Perryman and her mother, Debbie Perryman, who spoke of the Illinois teenager’s experience being harassed by one of her peers in a series of episodes that eventually required police intervention.
The majority of children in America, 60 percent, are exposed to crime, violence and abuse, and it is a top priority to reduce it, according to Holder.
“This is unconscionable. And it is unacceptable,” he said.
Last year, DOJ launched the Defending Childhood Initiative in conjunction with the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, the FBI, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the Office of Justice Programs and the Office on Violence Against Women focused on preventing childhood violence and helping children overcome it.
“To date, eight communities have been selected as demonstration sites for testing strategies and compiling research,” Holder said.
“This is about making our communities and neighborhoods feel like places where people can build a family, a business, and a life, free from fear,” Perrelli said.
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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.”
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Justice Department employees packed the Great Hall on Wednesday morning to give First Lady Michelle Obama a rousing greeting as she thanked them for their service.
Since her husband took office last year, Obama has visited several government agencies to thank federal employees for their service.
DOJ staffers filed into the standing-room-only Great Hall as early as 7:30 a.m. Others took up posts on the third-floor balcony above the auditorium. When Obama emerged from the rear of the stage just after 11:30 a.m., a sea of cameras and phones sprang up from the crowd to capture the moment. Later, shrieks rang out when Obama approached the crowd to shake hands with career attorneys and top-ranking DOJ officials.
The greeting was so warm, in fact, that Attorney General Eric Holder offered the First Lady a job at DOJ.
“I can tell you that, like the president, she has a brilliant legal mind,” Holder said. “I have been so impressed by her legal skills that I’m going to make her an offer — right now — to join the best lawyers in the world, right here at DOJ.”
The First Lady praised both the Attorney General and the work of the employees of the Department of Justice.
“One of the privileges of being First Lady has been the opportunity to visit so many agencies over the past year or so so that I can thank all of you, really, for the hard work and dedication that you’ve all put in,” Obama said. “You put in long hours. And a lot of people look at the President, they look at your boss, and they say, well, you’re working hard. But the truth is — and we all know this — you all are putting in that kind of time as well. You’re making sacrifices. You miss time with your families. And often, you do it without getting any recognition from anyone.
“So I want to let you know how much that we value everything that you’re doing here, however long you’ve been doing it,” she added.
Obama also gave a shout-out to those who work outside Justice Department headquarters — Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employees, FBI agents, U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Attorneys.
Justice Department employees Celeste Simmons, Janean Bentley, and Cee Cee Simpson Allaway said they were the first three to arrive at 7:30 a.m.
“It was worth it, I would do it again anytime,” said Simmons, an investigator in the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section who has been with the department for 15 years.
They were joined by Sabrina Jenkins, a fellow employee in the Disability Rights Section, and Angela Parks of the Criminal Division. All said they were thrilled to meet and shake hands with the First Lady and showed off pictures they took of Obama.
Joining the First Lady and the Attorney General on stage were some of the Justice Department’s longest serving employees, including Jack Keeney, Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division, who at age 88 still holds an office at DOJ headquarters.
The other long-serving employees on stage were: Civil Division trial attorney Marshall T. Golding, who joined DOJ in April 1957; FBI employee Earl F. Hostetler Jr., who began his career in June 1961; Justice Management Division security specialist Barbara J. Russell, who began her career with the Department of Justice in July 1961; Civil Division legal assistant William H. Wiggins, who has been with DOJ since December 1963; FBI telephone operator Mary C. Smith, who entered the FBI in June 1964; FBI support services technician Marcia M. Taylor, who began her FBI career in September 1965; Civil Division mail clerk Eugene W. Crane, who started his career at DOJ in January 1966; Civil Division Appellate Staff Director Robert E. Kopp, who has served since August 1966; Justice Management Division Procurement Analyst Patricia Ann Belcher; Civil Rights Analyst Myra D. Wastaff; and Senior Counsel for Appeals in the Criminal Division Sidney Glazer.
Officials seated in front of the crowd included Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, and Assistant Attorneys General Tony West, Christine Varney and Ronald Weich.
Story updated at 4:45 p.m.
Attorney General Eric Holder and First Lady Michelle Obama’s remarks are available below.
Good morning. Thank you all for being here today to help me welcome our nation’s First Lady – and my good friend – to the Department of Justice.
In the recent past, including many miles on the campaign trail, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know our First Lady. And I can tell you that, like the President, she has a brilliant legal mind. I have been so impressed by her legal skills that I’m going to make her an offer- right now- to join the best lawyers in the world, right here at DOJ.
I’ve also learned that she has a deep appreciation for the work and many responsibilities of the Justice Department. But what’s impressed me most, and what I admire most about her, is her commitment to justice.
Many of you already know her extraordinary story – that she grew up in a small apartment on the South Side of Chicago and, with hard work, determination and the support of a loving family, made her way to Princeton University, then Harvard Law School, then on to one of the nation’s premier law firms. And she decided long ago – long before she became First Lady – that she wanted to harness the power of the law to generate positive social change and build a more just society.
That commitment took her in unexpected directions. As she once put it – and I know many of you feel this way, too – she realized that she, “wanted to have a career motivated by passion and not just money.” And so she built on her legal training to serve communities, assemble volunteers, and – despite the pay cut – spend her time inspiring young people to enter public service themselves.
And did I mention that it was because of the law that she met a certain summer associate – and her law firm mentee – who would change her life? She has said that she, and I quote, “wasn’t expecting much” of the young Harvard Law student who everyone else was raving about. But shortly after they met, our President summoned all the charm he could muster - and all the moves he had – and apparently it worked. From that time on, our First Lady has been, not only a distinguished attorney, executive, and community leader, but also, in her husband’s words, “the rock” of her family. Indeed, she does seem to do it all: lawyer, advocate, visionary and, above all, the mother of two wonderful daughters, a supportive and engaged wife, and a wonderful daughter herself.
Over the past year and a half, the First Lady has also become “the rock” of our nation – a committed, and already accomplished, force for positive change, especially for young people. Last month, I had the privilege to join her in Detroit, where she kicked off a day of mentoring and called on young students to work hard and, just as important, to give back. And her “Let’s Move!” campaign to eliminate childhood obesity is already creating a healthier – and, in a very real sense, more just – America.
But her commitment and her tireless efforts don’t stop there. She also works to support military families, to serve as a role model for working women, to promote the arts and arts education, and – of course – to continue to make sure that my boss still takes out the trash. That can’t still be true!
When I think about the First Lady, I’m struck by the fact that, though I’ve only known her for a few years, it feels like so many. That’s the kind of friend our speaker is. From the day we met, she has made me feel welcome and at home. And so in that same spirit, I’d like us to welcome her to our home here at the Department of Justice. Ladies and gentlemen – the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Such a warm and wonderful welcome. I am thrilled to be here.
I want to start by thanking our outstanding Attorney General, Eric Holder, your boss, for that very kind introduction, and also for the wonderful work that he’s doing here at the Department of Justice. He is — I could say the same accolades as he said about me. He’s just been a phenomenal support, not just to the President but to me personally.
As he mentioned, he joined me along with celebrities and other people from the administration in Detroit to do some very important mentoring in Detroit. And he was just amazing. I mean, you know how busy he is. And my view is that if this man can take the time out to fly and spend a day talking to young people, I mean, sitting down at a table with kids, and talking about how they can pursue their dreams, how he can use his own story to show them that they can reach for passions that maybe they thought they never could, that he, in his own role, serves as a role model. If he can do that, then we all can do that.
And I know that there’s so many of you here who are following that lead. And I’m grateful to him and I’m grateful to all of you for serving in that role. So we have to give him an incredible thank you. (Applause.)
I’m told that Eric started out as a 25-year-old law graduate — school graduate working in the Public Integrity Section here at DOJ. You were 25?
ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: That was five years ago.
MRS. OBAMA: Five years ago. (Laughter.) And even though he’s been around the block a few times since then — (laughter) — only five years — he’s never lost that sense of responsibility that comes from working to uphold our highest legal principles. It’s a responsibility that all of you share, and one that some of you have been shouldering for quite a while, I understand. That’s why I want to take a moment to recognize the folks here on the stage with me. These are some of the longest-serving employees here at the Department of Justice. I don’t know the numbers here, but they’ve been here for quite some time, and I want to take some time to give them a round of applause for their dedication. (Applause.)
It’s just wonderful to see people who have made commitments for decades to government service, and it’s important for the world to see, particularly young people, to see how people are building and have built lifetimes here serving the broader community.
And I know that even though we’re here at Main Justice, I also want to recognize the men and women who serve as the faces of this agency in communities all across the country: the FBI and the ATF agents. (Applause.) The U.S. Marshals and the hardworking folks at the U.S. Attorneys offices who are on the ground every day — yay, yes — (applause) — they’re keeping us safe and protecting our most basic rights.
And when I travel, one of the great things I get to do is usually see the U.S. Attorneys on the ground. So our congratulations and thanks goes out to everyone.
One of the privileges of being First Lady has been the opportunity to visit so many agencies over the past year or so so that I can thank all of you, really, for the hard work and dedication that you’ve all put in. You put in long hours. And a lot of people look at the President, they look at your boss, and they say, well, you’re working hard. But the truth is — and we all know this — you all are putting in that kind of time as well. You’re making sacrifices. You miss time with your families. And often, you do it without getting any recognition from anyone.
So I want to let you know how much that we value everything that you’re doing here, however long you’ve been doing it, because I know we have a lot of newbies here, folks who are just joining the department as well. Yay, all right, let’s give them a round of applause, too. (Applause.)
So that’s one of the reasons I’ve been doing these visits, to make sure that you all know that even in the heat of change and all the work that goes on here, that we haven’t forgotten the work that you do and the sacrifices that you make.
These visits, though, also help me get a better understanding of what’s happening in some of these agencies, to listen, to learn about your work and to help spotlight the difference that you make in the lives of so many Americans, because when I show up, there are cameras that usually come, and I think it’s important for the people around the country to know that government is working hard for the American people and that it’s made up of everyday Americans who are making sacrifices on their behalf.
And I have to admit that I’m especially excited to be here at DOJ because we have a lot in common, many of us here. As many of you know, long before I lived in the White House, I worked in Chicago, and I did a little law thing. (Laughter.) I decided to study law for some of the same reasons many of you did. Number one, math was really hard. (Laughter.) And as my mother said, I talked a lot — (laughter) — and could write pretty good. But it’s also because I’ve seen the power that law has to change people’s lives in a very real and meaningful way. And I knew that lawyers had the ability to help turn words on a page into justice in the world –- to keep a neighborhood safe; to keep a family in their home; to leave our children a world that is a little more equal and a little more just.
And I also — as Eric mentioned — I met this guy named Barack Obama while I was studying law. (Laughter.) Yes, he was my mentee — a summer associate when I was a first-year associate. So that was a nice little perk from my law career. (Laughter.)
And here at DOJ, you all represent the ideals that drew us all to this business in the first place: those principles of equality, fairness and the rule of law. Your responsibility is not to a particular party — and that’s important for people to understand — or to a particular administration or to a President. You work for the American people. You do battle every day on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. And you touch the lives of virtually every American in ways large and small -– even if they don’t realize it.
For a department that started out with a single, part-time employee in 1789, the workload here at DOJ has really never stopped growing. And I know you all are feeling that right now.
Whether it’s keeping our nation safe from terrorist attacks, or bringing our most hardened criminals to justice, protecting consumers or safeguarding our civil rights, your work has never been more important that it is today.
That’s especially true in the wake of the worst environmental disaster that we’ve ever faced here in this nation. And I know that the Attorney General and several members of the leadership team have traveled to the Gulf, and many folks here in this agency are working tirelessly to ensure that accountability is going on, that we’re protecting taxpayer dollars, and that we’re helping those affected by the oil spill really get back on their feet.
And people need to know that the Department of Justice is at the center of that work. But it’s not just the work that you do that makes this place so special. It’s what you all bring to the work that you do. It’s the passion, and the persistence and the energy that you bring to your cases.
And I know to be here, taking pay cuts as many of you do, you’ve got to be doing it because of passion because all of you all would be at a firm somewhere if it didn’t mean something to you.
But that’s true whether you’re an attorney, a paralegal, a librarian, a support staffer — truly, the dedication that you’ve all shown is extraordinary. And I’m proud — very proud — of the work that you’ve done, and I’m extremely grateful for what you’re doing every day.
And it is not an easy job. That I know as well. But the fact that so many of you have stuck around for so long really says something about the culture of this agency.
Administrations, as you know, can come and go, but the pride that you put into your work, it never fades. As Attorney General Holder likes to say, working here isn’t just about making a living. And that’s so important for young people out there to know and to see. These jobs, it’s not about earning the dollar; it’s about making a difference in someone’s life.
And this group really takes those words to heart. I’m told that in the first six months of this year, your attorneys have taken on 20 pro bono cases -– from custody battles and landlord-tenant disputes, to domestic violence and personal injury cases. Pro bono, for those of you who don’t know, is completely free legal service.
And 50 of your attorneys, I understand, have staffed legal clinics right here in D.C., helping to write wills, to file taxes and to do other important work for members right here in this community who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
In the end, that’s really what the Department of Justice is all about. That’s really what the field of law is supposed to be about. You all help make the promise of our laws a reality for every single American regardless of their race, their standing or their political affiliation.
From the Great Hall of the Supreme Court to a folding table in a legal clinic, you help our families secure the protection that they need and the rights that they deserve. And you do it with a level of fairness and compassion that stands as an example to us all.
So for that reason, I’m here to show you, along with the rest of America, our gratitude, our admiration. These are going to be tough times. And we’re going to need every one of you to buckle up and work even harder. But it’s easier to have that conversation here because you all know what hard work means. You all know what sacrifice means.
And it’s important for us to share those values with the next generation. We need to replace you all. We need to start working on the next generation of staffers and attorneys and librarians and paralegals who are going to fill these seats in decades to come. And they’re going to do that because of the work that they see you doing. They’re going to do that because of the pride that you take in your work. We are the role models for the next generation.
So we are grateful for your work. And I just look forward to coming out there and shaking a few hands.
So thank you, thank you so much. (Applause.)
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The Justice Department and the Agriculture Department are at odds over how to handle politically sensitive claims of Hispanic farmers who have alleged discrimination against them in seeking government loans.
The case, which is being overseen by the DOJ Civil Division and its No. 3 official, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, will be a test of how the administration balances thorny legal and political questions.
The White House is facing intense pressure from senior members of Congress, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and others who say that Hispanic farmers should be compensated in a manner similar to black farmers, who received more than $1 billion under a 1999 settlement with the government and could get up to $1.25 billion more under a deal announced by the administration in February.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose law firm joined as co-counsel for the Hispanic farmers last year, even buttonholed then-White House Counsel Greg Craig at an event last year about the matter.
But the two cases have a major difference. The black farmers case — known as Pigford after the lead plaintiff — was certified as a class action lawsuit. The Justice Department persuaded judges to reject class action status for the Hispanic farmers case, Guadalupe L. Garcia Jr. v. the Secretary of Agriculture.
‘A different judge in the same courthouse’
In 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling rejecting class-action status for the Garcia case. Given that ruling, the Justice Department has balked at a global settlement for the Hispanic farmers, arguing instead that claims of discrimination in Agriculture loan programs should be handled individually. The same goes for a similar case involving female farmers, Rosemary Love v. Thomas Vilsack.
A senior congressional aide familiar with the matter said these cases could each command settlement pools equal to the more than $2 billion attributed to the two stages of the Pigford case, or a total of around $4 billion, depending on the number of plaintiffs who stepped forward in any settlement process.
Given the large federal budget deficit, there could be pressure in Congress against a settlement. A March 31 date for Congress to appropriate $1.15 billion in funds for the supplemental black farmers settlement passed without action. (Another $100 million for the black farmers was already set aside in a 2008 farm bill.)
And Sen. John Barrosso (R-Wyo.) recently proposed capping at $50 million attorneys’ fees, expenses and costs associated with a proposed settlement with American Indians in a case known as Cobell v. Salazar. The $.3.4 billion Cobell settlement, announced with fanfare in December, would compensate Indians for the government’s mishandling of trust funds administered by the Interior Department.
The congressional aide and another informed person watching the Garcia case said the Agriculture Department’s advocates for a settlement would like to see general guidelines similar to the framework of the Pigford settlement. This could mean an average of about $50,000 for each plaintiff who presents a case for discrimination – without having the government question the evidence they offer. The government is likely to pay out much less overall to Hispanic farmers if they are required to litigate their cases individually.
An Obama administration official said the White House is playing a “coordinating role” in discussions with the Justice and Agriculture departments. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack has been seeking a global settlement for the Hispanic farmers.
Last June, eight U.S. senators, led by Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), wrote President Barack Obama to complain that while Obama last May heralded settlement of the suit brought by the African-American farmers, “thousands of Hispanic farmers and ranchers, many of whom are our constituents, continue to suffer from precisely the same discrimination and have seen no recourse thus far.”
The case features an intense clash of federal budget constraints and identity politics — as Obama and congressional Democrats head for tough re-election campaigns. Then there’s the fact that the courts have arguably rejected the notion of a global settlement.
Stephen Hill of Howrey LLP, lead counsel in the case, said the class-action denial that separates the Hispanic farmers’ case from that of the African-American farmers amounts to “a different judge in the same courthouse. It’s as simple as that.” Hill said that despite such a denial, “any case can be settled on a class basis if the parties are willing to do so…. What we’re trying to do is bring justice that’s long overdue to these farmers.”
Hill said he’s seeking to identify Hispanic farmers who could be part of a settlement. He said the 2007 agriculture census showed there are 82,000 Hispanic farmers but would not estimate how many of these might claim discrimination.
“We remain in negotiations and we’ll just have to see how they unfold,” Hill said. He said there’s no specific deadline for the next development and that Menendez has led talks with the White House on the matter.
The White House and Agriculture Department referred questions to the Justice Department. Justice spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said court denial of class action status means “claims will be litigated on an individual basis.” She added: “Because of the court’s actions, we will not be able to negotiate a class-wide settlement.”
The Justice Department position has advocates for the farmers fuming — and talks on a deal akin to a class settlement are nonetheless underway, according to officials in Congress and the Obama administration and private attorneys familiar with the matter.
“The African Americans with the identical problems, the identical agency, they had a class certified. So why not do the Hispanic farmers? It’s always been about treating everybody equally,” said Eugene Sullivan, a former judge whose firm, Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan LLP, joined lead law firm Howrey last year as co-counsel.
Sullivan said class-status denial was technical and the Hispanic farmers’ case should not suffer because of “the technicality and the randomness of which judge gets it.”
Referring to the settlement with black farmers, Sullivan added:“If the United States government is settling with a particular race plaintiff they should settle with another race plaintiff who got the identical discrimination.”
Sullivan’s partner, Freeh, brought up the case with then-White House Counsel Craig at a White House reception for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor last August.
“We sat next to each other at the event,” Craig said in an interview, adding that Freeh gave him his business card and said he was working on the case. “I said this was being handled at the Justice Department.”
Craig said he took no action in the case. “This is a Justice Department case under litigation. I’m not going to get involved.” Craig added that enjoyed seeing Freeh, whom he hadn’t met before.
Vilsack has been urging a settlement similar to Pigford’s per-plaintiff amount. He is said to be in tune with the politics of the case. Pleasing the Latino constituency is a top priority for both parties.
Vilsack is a former governor of Iowa who briefly ran for president before withdrawing in 2007 to endorse Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
Around the time Freeh mentioned the case to Craig in the White House, U.S. District Judge James Robertson of the District of Colombia and a Justice Department lawyer confirmed in an exchange in the August court hearing that the case is not to be handled as a class action.
In a March 2006 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit wrote that it decided to “affirm the district court’s denial of a class certification because the appellants failed to show a common facially neutral USDA farm loan policy, resulting in the disparate effect on them and the putative class of Hispanic farmers.”
The lawyers, who have been working pro-bono, could make substantial fees if there is a global settlement.
Hill, of Howrey, said he’s concentrating on the litigation and that the “compensation will take care of itself…. I don’t have a figure off the top of my head” of expenses his firm has incurred or what it stands to make if it prevails. Expenses thus far are “substantial,” he said, with more than eight years of work poured into it.
“We will probably seek to recover our costs and investments in this case and if the court sees fit to reward our efforts additionally, it will do so,” Hill said.
Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor, will join the Justice Department next week as a senior counselor for the the Access to Justice initiative, two federal sources told The Washington Post. The new initiative is a response to concerns that the poor often have difficulties retaining counsel. (See Main Justice’s previous story on that issue here.)
Tribe, who would not comment on the appointment, has been a professor at Harvard since 1968 and has long been viewed as a potential Democratic Supreme Court nominee, according to The Post. The newspaper reports that he will take a leave of absence in order to join DOJ. Among his students at Harvard was President Barack Obama, who Tribe has called his most impressive student in his 30 years at the university, The Post reports.
In addition to his years as a professor, Tribe has extensive courtroom experience, serving as lead counsel in 35 cases before the Supreme Court. An expert on constitutional law, he also has been an expert witness in testimony before Congress on numerous occasions, The Post reports. Two years ago, the university reported that Tribe had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, from which he has since fully recovered, a source familiar with his health told the newspaper.
According to The Post, news of Tribe’s appointment has circulated in legal circles for weeks and raised some concerns about the role he might play in hot-button areas, such as national security and international issues. On Thursday, DOJ officials told The Post that Tribe would be focused on domestic affairs and would report to Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, also a Harvard Law School graduate.
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Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli told members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Thursday that funding for law enforcement programs in American Indian communities “must be broad and across the board.”
The proposed fiscal 2011 DOJ budget includes nearly $450 million to fund initiatives in American Indian tribal lands. The department received more than $237 million in its fiscal 2010 budget for Indian country prosecutions and criminal investigations. The DOJ also made millions of dollars in grant money available to America Indian tribes, especially for programs that fight violence against women.
“While we will continue to implement changes that do not cost American tax dollars, the reality is that resources make a difference,” Perrelli told the committee. “We are working to put resources in place quickly and efficiently to help American Indian and Alaska Native communities help themselves.” (Read his prepared remarks here.)
Perrelli noted that the DOJ would be able to hire 45 new FBI agents for Indian Country with funds from the requested fiscal year 2011 budget. The proposed budget also would allow the DOJ to support more tribal police and assistant U.S. attorneys in Indian Country, he said.
Panel chairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said at the hearing today that he is pleased to see the proposed increases to address Indian Country public safety.
“Let me say, this committee has fully documented and described at great length the long-standing unmet needs for increased funding in many areas of public policy dealing with American Indians,” Dorgan said.
The DOJ has made American Indian issues a top priority. Over the last year, the department has rolled out a number of new policies and plans to address Indian Country crime, which former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said last month has hit “unacceptable levels” and is diminishing the quality of life for American Indians.
The department also intends to make the Office of Tribal Justice a separate component within the DOJ. Currently, the office is under the purview of the Deputy Attorney General but is not a permanent entity within the DOJ structure.
In his “In the Loop Column” today, The Washington Post’s Al Kamen notes a new candidate for Deputy Attorney General: American University law school professor Dan Marcus, who was general counsel to the 9/11 Commission.
During the Clinton administration, he held several senior positions in the Justice Department, including Associate Attorney General. He appears to be something of a consensus candidate — a former senior counsel in the White House who is well-received in the law enforcement community.
Other hopefuls, according to Kamen and our own reporting, include acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, current Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris.
Grindler’s front-office experience gives him a leg up, and he’s more than proven his law enforcement chops. Kris, too, is a well-regarded manager and, inarguably, one the department’s top minds on national security — an obvious strength in the current climate (or any climate, for that matter). But the White House is said to favor someone with more political savvy.
Perrelli is a popular manager with strong ties to the White House. His candidacy apparently suffers for the reason above, only flipped: He may be too close to Obama, and coupled with Holder’s proximity to the President, the Justice Department could have an appearance problem.
Our dark horse: Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust. She’s also said to be an internal candidate, and she’s very ambitious. On the merits, she also has strong management experience and a lot of political clout, but her lack of law enforcement bona fides is an obvious strike.
Honorable mention: B. Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota. (And also a name uttered on the Fifth Floor.) He was U.S. Attorney during the Clinton administration, which makes him a more traditional pick: It’s a long-standing practice to pluck DAGs from the 94 prosecutor offices. And he’s chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorney, a key policy role.
Tips are welcomed. Vote below for your pick on our current batch of candidates.
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The Justice Department will implement new policies in American Indian tribal lands in an effort to combat the high level of crime there, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today.
According to a DOJ news release, the Attorney General ordered the 44 U.S. Attorneys who serve in districts that have tribal lands to:
- “meet and consult with tribes in their district annually.”
- “develop an operational plan addressing public safety in Indian Country”
- “work closely with law enforcement to pay particular attention to violence against women in Indian Country and make these crimes a priority.”
- “to provide summaries of their operational plans to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General and make those summaries available to the tribes in their districts.”
The DOJ received more than $237 million in its fiscal year 2010 budget for Indian Country prosecutions and criminal investigations, according to a DOJ spokesperson. The Justice Department will use $6 million of the funds to hire at least 35 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 12 FBI victim specialists to handle American Indian cases, according to the news release.
“The public safety challenges we face in Indian Country will not be solved by a single grant or a single piece of legislation. There is no quick fix,” Holder said in a statement. “While today’s directive is significant progress, we need to continue our efforts with federal, state and tribal partners to identify solutions to the challenges we face, and work to implement them.”
Top DOJ officials including Holder, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli met with American Indian leaders during a listening tour last year. Ogden said in a memo to the U.S. Attorneys that crime in tribal lands has hit “unacceptable levels” and is diminishing the quality of life in Indian Country.
“The Attorney General is depending upon you, as leaders of the Justice Department in your respective districts, to craft individual tribal assessments and action plans that respond to the unique challenges facing tribal communities in your district,” Ogden said in the memo.
South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, who chairs an American Indian issues subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, told Main Justice that the policies are an “important step” toward improving the Justice Department’s relationship with tribes. He said he will hold a listening session in February with his state’s tribes, with an eye toward developing a plan for reducing Indian Country crime in his district.
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Attorneys for former UBS AG banker Bradley Birkenfeld have filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, asking the internal department ethics watchdog to investigate the handling of his case.
Birkenfeld, who exposed alleged widespread tax evasion of Americans with accounts at the Swiss bank, has been on a PR offensive, arguing he should not serve a three-year prison sentence he’s been ordered to begin on Friday.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Birkenfeld’s attorney’s attacked statements made by Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli on “60 Minutes” Sunday and a federal judge as ”inaccurate, misleading and incomplete,” the New York Times reported.
“These statements had a material impact on Mr. Birkenfeld, and caused the Department of Justice to improperly seek jail time for one of the most important tax whistleblowers in American history,” Birkenfeld attorneys Stephen Kohn and Dean Zerbe said in the complaint, according to The Associated Press.
Despite a high-profile public relations blitz to argue for his freedom, the American banker-turned-informant who tipped prosecutors to alleged widespread tax evasion among clients of Swiss banking giant UBS AG must report to prison on Friday.
Bradley Birkenfeld, who faces a sentence of three years and four months after pleading guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge, had asked U.S. District Judge William Zloch to postpone his surrender date and to hold a hearing to consider a lower sentence. In an order Monday, Zloch refused both requests, The Associated Press reported.
The judge’s order came on the same day the New York Times reported that the Justice Department was considering asking the judge to reduce Birkenfeld’s sentence.
On “60 Minutes” Sunday, Birkenfeld said he didn’t think it is fair that he is the only person in the alleged tax evasion scheme to be sent to prison. ”I gave them the biggest tax fraud case in the world. I exposed 19,000 international criminals. And I’m going to jail for that?” Birkenfeld asked.
But Birkenfeld didn’t tell the government about tax evasion by his biggest client, California real estate developer Igor Olenicoff, who eventually paid $52 million in fines and back taxes. Olenicoff, however, didn’t serve any prision time.
Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli on 60 Minutes Sunday said of Birkenfeld: “If he had come in with everything he knew, including his own conduct, we think there’s a very good chance he wouldn’t have been prosecuted at all.”
Birkenfeld’s lawyer, Stephen Kohn, said on the same program that “putting Bradley Birkenfeld in jail will be one of the biggest mistakes the United States can make, and it will hurt every taxpayer because you will lose access to other Bradley Birkenfeld’s who will bring to our treasury billions and billions of dollars both immediately and in the future.”
Birkenfeld is seeking a multi-million dollar award for his assistance in the UBS case. Under a 2006 law meant to encourage tax informants to come forward, whistleblowers can reap rewards of 15 to 30 percent of the taxes, fines, penalties and interest ultimately collected by the IRS.
The reward, Kohn said, was a necessary incentive. ”How are you going to get other international bankers, particpants, to come forawrd and tell us about these schemes?” he said.
Prosecutors credited Birkenfeld, who was based in Switzerland, with pointing investigators to thousands of suspected American tax evaders who allegedly concealed assets in UBS’s Swiss bank accounts. More than 14,700 offshore tax evaders have come forward under an I.R.S. amnesty program, and the names and account details of about 4,450 UBS clients were turned over to U.S. authorities under a settlement with the bank.
Below are video clips of Birkenfeld and Perrelli on 60 Minutes: