A new memo released from the Department of Justice (DOJ) by Attorney General Merrick Garland makes policy changes that have the potential to endanger the lives of federal agents, as well as the limit the seizure of criminal evidence. According to the memo released September 14th, 2021, the DOJ is changing policy effective immediately regarding the use of chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants. The change appears inspired by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of causing Floyd’s death by using a form of a chokehold to pin him down after he resisted arrest. Breonna Taylor died in a shootout which began when her current boyfriend shot at police executing a “no-knock” warrant to arrest her former boyfriend, drug dealer Jamarcus Glover. Continue reading . . .
Attorney General Merrick Garland yesterday announced that he is suspending use of the federal death penalty:
“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” said Attorney General Garland. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”
What to make of this announcement, and of its timing?
Yesterday, I wrote that the stench of politics had taken hold at the Justice Department when, at the last minute, it decided to deep-six a brief supporting the sound analysis of the Eleventh Circuit in a crack cocaine sentencing case and argue instead that the overall “intent” of two leniency-oriented statutes, the Fair Sentencing Act and the First Step Act, should displace their plain text. A unanimous SCOTUS made short work of DOJ’s lame appeal to duck the words Congress chose in favor of a more Oprah Winfrey-like approach. The only conceivable reason for the Department’s unprincipled, embarrassing and (fortunately) futile action was politics — specifically, that pro-drug and pro-criminal elements in the President’s political base simply wanted what they wanted. That DOJ at its highest levels would so easily be chased away from a sober approach to its legal obligations is alarming.
I’m happy to report that, today, we saw a different face.
Remember all the stuff we were hearing during the Presidential campaign about how we needed to make a change in order to get politics out of the Justice Department? It was all a joke — on us. Ed Whelan has the story today of what would surely be a scandal if Bill Barr tried it, and is a scandal today, squarely on the plate of Merrick Garland — a man I’m sure knows better.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the same conduct — the killing of George Floyd — for which a Minnesota state jury convicted him of murder. Contrary to the wailing of a goodly portion of the defense bar, such a successive prosecution by a different sovereign is permitted by the Constitution, as SCOTUS reaffirmed in its 7-2 opinion two years ago in Gamble v. United States. But that does not end the inquiry: Although the prosecution is permitted, is it wise? Is it fair? Does it serve a distinct federal interest sufficient to be worth the cost and risks?
I have considerable doubts about all those things, as explained below. But I want to say one thing by way of preface. This should not become yet another “oh-the-government-is-so-bad” festival. The trouble here started with Chauvin, not the government. If he had shown more restraint, judgment and professional care, we wouldn’t be in this situation. The best way to avoid having to deal with the outcroppings of criminal behavior is to avoid the behavior to begin with. In Chauvin’s case, as in most, it’s just not that hard.
One might think the question answers itself. On the other hand, when a major corporation openly urges its employees to be “less white,” we have entered a world where once obvious answers now seem as fraught as trying to do geometry while you’re on LSD.
President Biden’s nominee to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Ms. Kristen Clarke, is on record as carrying the flag for cop killers. This was not while she was in high school or even college. It was when she was holding forth at Columbia Law School. Among others whose cause she championed was Mumia Abu-Jamal, who gunned down Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner 40 years ago and has yet to apologize.
This was not a problem for Ms. Clarke, and evidently is not one for President Biden either. Paul Mirengoff of PowerLine has the story.
President Biden has nominated Vanita Gupta to be Associate Attorney General, the third highest position in the Justice Department. Gupta was Assistant AG for Civil Rights under Obama. As such, she was asked by the Attorney General, then Loretta Lynch, for a recommendation whether DOJ should seek the death penalty against the mass killer of black worshipers, Dylann Roof. Gupta recommended against it on the preposterous grounds that mitigating factors outweighed aggravating ones.
She was asked about her role in making that recommendation at her Senate confirmation hearing. Instead of telling the truth, she did a fancy dance designed to mislead the Judiciary Committee. It was a deception worthy of a pickpocket, not someone who hopes to get a job overseeing the prosecution of criminals. For her flagrant deceit alone, she should be rejected (indeed, her nomination should be withdrawn).
Sarah Lynch at U.S. News and World Report reports on a spat between the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat and Republican over scheduling the confirmation hearing for AG-Nominee Merrick Garland. Incoming Chairman Dick Durbin wants the hearing February 8 for one day, but outgoing Chairman Lindsay Graham says one day is not enough. Continue reading . . .
Joe Biden has chosen Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Circuit to be the new Attorney General, numerous reports say. Among those being mentioned (Sen. Doug Jones, former Acting AG Sally Yates, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick), Garland is easily the best choice. He’s liberal — make no mistake — but he believes in law, and believes there is a difference between law and politics. He is a gracious person and a man of integrity. He also has considerable experience as a prosecutor, having, among other things, led the capital prosecution of Timothy McVeigh as Principal Deputy AG in the Clinton years. Biden deserves credit for this choice. Now that the Senate will be controlled by his party, he could have gotten away with a lot worse.
The country will miss the determined and law-driven leadership of Bill Barr, who left a millionaire’s practice to put up with a boatload of headaches from his superior and an even bigger boatload of brickbats from his grossly partisan critics. Many thanks are due him for his focused and courageous service.