Saturday, November 14, 2009

Doug Bates: The truth about tough-on-crime Josh Marquis

The truth about tough-on-crime Josh Marquis

By Doug Bates, The Oregonian

November 14, 2009, 10:37AM
The Oregonian
 Josh Marquis, Clatsop County district attorney

All three finalists for Oregon's U.S. attorney have impressive resum├ęs, and I'm sure that whoever among them is appointed by President Barack Obama will do an excellent job. [Marquis note: See 10/28/09 Main Justice article by Stephanie Woodrow.]

Personally, however, I'm pulling for Josh Marquis, the outspoken and sometimes controversial Clatsop County district attorney.

Let me confess right up front that I've never met the other two finalists who were recently named by a 13-member screening committee. They are Amanda Marshall, an Oregon Department of Justice attorney, and Kent Robinson, the acting U.S. attorney for Oregon. Both have strong credentials and both will be formidable competitors for the appointment against Marquis, in part because neither has been out there with him on the rough-and-tumble front lines of Oregon politics.

For Marquis, who has exceedingly strong credentials of his own, that creates a disadvantage. His long career as an elected DA and advocate for prosecutors has given him a reputation as a "law and order Democrat," something that's perversely resented by some on the political left. Now certain liberal bloggers in Oregon are suggesting that Marquis shouldn't get the appointment because he isn't "progressive enough" to be a good ideological fit with the Obama administration.

That's pretty silly. I've known Marquis and have worked with him off and on for nearly 30 years, since he was an exuberant young deputy DA in Lane County, and the man I know is a true-blue Oregon Democrat who happens to be tough as hell on crime.

Think of a John Kroger with a little less political cautiousness. Or maybe a lot less. Marquis' willingness to be out front on such prickly issues as mandatory sentencing has made him a bit of a lightning rod for some on Oregon's far left.

I haven't always agreed with his positions, but I know he isn't the reactionary some lefties think he is. Yes, he supports the death penalty but thinks it should be very rarely used – pretty much the same position as another progressive Democrat named Barack Obama.

At any rate, neither the death penalty nor mandatory sentencing has any significance in the federal appointment. U.S. attorneys don't make the decision to seek a death sentence, and federal sentencing guidelines, passed by Congress, make Oregon's sentencing laws look like marshmallow cookies.

Josh Marquis, a Democrat In Name Only? If he is indeed a DINO, it's interesting that he was among only four DAs in Oregon who endorsed Jeff Merkley for the Senate.

OK, I'll admit a bias here. Among prosecutors in Oregon, Marquis possesses an unusual openness to the media. It probably has something to do with his heavy journalism course work as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon. He understands the profession and genuinely likes talking with reporters -- to the extent that some accuse him of an excessive fondness for seeing his name in the paper. (News flash: Hey, he's an elected official, for crying out loud.) He's also an excellent and prolific writer, someone who would have made a good newspaper journalist if he hadn't gone off to law school instead.

Too conservative for Oregon's blue crew? That's silly, too. He's in the news all the time as a tough-on-crime prosecutor, but few people know anything about his personal commitment to civil rights, social justice, clean government and the environment.

Five years ago Marquis ticked off the Bush administration with an op-ed piece chiding the Bushies for obsessing over marijuana when meth was a much bigger problem. Last year he wrote that it was wrong to consider death sentences for people tried in Guantanamo. And as a member of the board of directors of the National District Attorneys Association, he proposed, wrote and got passed an endorsement of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, pointing out that she had been a working deputy DA in New York City.

As I said, I've never met Amanda Marshall or Kent Robinson. I'm sure both are also terrific candidates for Oregon's U.S. attorney. When the Obama administration considers the three finalists, however, I just hope Josh Marquis' candidacy is not hurt by false perceptions that he isn't a sufficiently progressive Oregon Democrat -- not that this should be a prerequisite anyway.

You can call me a DINO, if you want. (I've had my home broken into, and I kind of like it when DAs are tough on bad guys, myself.) But don't lay that not-blue-enough rap on Marquis, because it's unfair and untrue.

– Doug Bates
© 2009 All rights reserved.

Vanderbilt Law School debate

On my way home last week from my first meeting as a member of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section, I stopped off at Vanderbilt Law School. Students there had invited me to an "Oxford-style" debate in which the audience "votes" on who "won" the argument by walking out a particular door.

Over the last ten years I have been asked many times to speak about issues surrounding capital punishment. Part of the reason is that I was once a journalist and I enjoy writing, and as a litigator I enjoy a good debate. All too often my willingness to talk and debate is misinterpreted as excessive zeal for the death penalty. The truth is I think capital punishment should rarely be used and that
we -- defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges, everyone in criminal justice -- can do better. Justice is a work in progress.
Above all else I value civility in discussion of such important and often emotional issues, and have been fortunate to have been matched up (almost always) with opponents of capital punishment whom I greatly respect and with whom I've found much common ground. That was certainly true of Prof. Ken Haas, my eloquent and personable debate opponent from the University of Delaware.
Vanderbilt posted the debate online at YouTube, if you want to know from the horse's mouth why I support capital punishment:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Justice Dept. to Review Bush Policy on DNA Test Waivers

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has ordered a review of a little-known Bush administration policy requiring some defendants to waive their right to DNA testing even though that right is guaranteed in a landmark federal law, officials said.
The practice of using DNA waivers began several years ago as a response to the Innocence Protection Act of 2004, which allowed federal inmates to seek post-conviction DNA tests to prove their innocence. More than 240 wrongly convicted people have been exonerated by such tests, including 17 on death row.
The waivers are filed only in guilty pleas and bar defendants from ever requesting DNA testing, even if new evidence emerges. Prosecutors who use them, including some of the nation's most prominent U.S. attorneys, say people who have admitted guilt should not be able to file frivolous petitions for testing. They say the wave of DNA exonerations has little impact in federal court because all those found to be innocent were state prisoners, and the waivers apply only to federal charges. DNA evidence is used far more frequently in state courts.
But DNA experts say that's about to change because more sophisticated testing will soon bring biological evidence into federal courtrooms for a wider variety of crimes. Defense lawyers who have worked on DNA appeals strongly oppose the waivers, saying that innocent people sometimes plead guilty -- mainly to get lighter sentences -- and that denying them the ability to prove their innocence violates a fundamental right. One quarter of the 243 people exonerated by DNA had falsely confessed to crimes they didn't commit, and 16 of them pleaded guilty.
"It's a mean-spirited policy. Truth, ascertained by science, should trump the finality of a conviction," said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project. He said the waivers are effectively "gutting the impact" of the 2004 law because 97 percent of federal convictions result from guilty pleas.
Interviews and documents show that language allowing for DNA waivers was inserted into the law at the behest of Republican senators and that the Bush Justice Department lobbied against the measure even with the waiver provision. Soon after the law passed with bipartisan support, the department sent a secret memo to the nation's 94 U.S. attorney's offices urging them to use the waivers, several federal officials familiar with the memo said.
Holder, a former U.S. attorney in the District, has called for expanded DNA testing in federal courts. After inquiries by The Washington Post, his spokesman, Matthew Miller, said Holder "has ordered that the department review its DNA waiver policy."
"The attorney general believes that DNA testing is a crucial law enforcement tool both in solving crimes and exonerating the innocent," Miller said, adding that if new evidence arises after conviction, "prosecutors have an obligation to act."
The waivers run counter to the national movement toward post-conviction DNA testingas the forensic tool has revolutionized criminal justice. Nearly all 50 states have passed laws giving inmates the right to seek testing in state courts, and most allow for petitions after guilty pleas.
Oregon prosecutor Joshua Marquis, who sits on the executive committee of the National District Attorneys Association, said he's never heard of DNA waivers in state court and that the organization opposes the concept. "I think it's important to always leave the door open for actual proof of innocence," he said.
In federal court, the waivers are part of the standard plea agreement filed by prosecutors in the District, Alexandria and Manhattan, which are among the nation's highest-profile U.S. attorney's offices. Waivers are used in some or all pleas by at least 16 other offices, including such large ones as Chicago and Los Angeles and such smaller ones as Arkansas and West Virginia. Prosecutors in Maryland rarely use the waivers.
"It saves us a lot of spurious litigation down the pike," said G.F. Peterman III, acting U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Georgia. "All they have to do is say I'm not guilty, go to trial and they've waived nothing. It's their decision."
Defense attorneys disagree, saying prosecutors give defendants the choice of signing the waiver or not getting the benefits of a plea agreement, which usually include a lighter sentence.
"It's a horrendous provision, and I can never get them to take it out," said Christopher Amolsch, a lawyer whose client recently waived DNA testing rights in a cigarette smuggling case in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Other lawyers said they don't usually fight the waivers, considering it a losing battle.
The U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria declined to comment.
At least 24 U.S. attorneys don't use the waivers. It could not be determined how many inmates have been affected by the policy, because the remaining 50 U.S. attorney's offices did not respond to inquiries or declined to comment. It is also unclear how many federal prisoners have filed petitions seeking post-conviction DNA testing since 2004. Justice Department officials said the number is small but have also said they expect more petitions over time.
At the heart of the debate is the question of how often the innocent plead guilty. Michael Volkov, a former federal prosecutor who as counsel to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) pushed to insert waiver language into the 2004 law, said he thinks it is "extremely rare."
But experts who have studied DNA exonerations say it is more common. "The idea that people who plead guilty are always guilty is false," said Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia law professor. He said the waivers "send a terrible message: that federal prosecutors take a dim view of truth telling."
Arthur Lee Whitfield, for example, was convicted in 1982 of raping a woman in Norfolk and was about to go on trial in a second rape. Facing a possible life term, he pleaded guilty for a lighter sentence. He was exonerated of both crimes by DNA in 2004 after more than 22 years in prison.
"I figured I can put my life on the line and take a chance, or I can take the plea and have a shot at coming home to my family," Whitfield said in a recent interview. "You never know what you'd do until you're put in that situation."
Justice Department officials who favor DNA waivers say the 2004 federal law wouldn't have affected such defendants because their cases were in state courts. Violent crimes in which suspects are more likely to leave their DNA have traditionally been prosecuted locally.
But federal prosecutors have been tackling more violent crimes in recent years, especially involving gangs or drugs. And experts say the arrival in the next few years of more sophisticated DNA testing will allow DNA to be used in more federal cases both to convict and to exonerate.
For example, DNA tests can't discern whether DNA came from blood, semen or other tissues; they show only that a DNA profile is present. When that changes, said Dan Krane, a biological sciences professor at Wright State University, defendants might be able to show that they never touched key pieces of evidence in drug, gun, forgery and other cases.
These types of scientific advances were among the reasons that Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) originally proposed the Innocence Protection Act in 2000. The waiver provision emerged from intensive negotiations with Republican senators, who insisted on it as one price for their support, congressional sources said.
The language inserted into the final bill says federal judges can order post-conviction DNA testing if the inmate did not "knowingly and voluntarily waive the right to request DNA testing of that evidence in a court proceeding." The law also says the government can destroy biological evidence if there is a DNA waiver.
With the waiver provision in the law, the Justice Department in April 2004 sent a 22-page letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that said allowing any defendant who pleaded guilty to seek DNA testing would amount to "an unjustified attack on the integrity of guilty pleas which . . . are the means by which most cases are resolved."
"The purpose [of post-conviction DNA testing] is not to enable killers, rapists and other criminals to re-open old wounds of crime victims and their survivors years and decades after the normal conclusion of criminal proceedings," the letter said.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Interesting Week

On Saturday the Clatsop County Democrats held their annual picnic at Cullaby Lake, in Gearhart. Larry Taylor, the CCDCC chair, emceed the event with his usual aplomb. Lots of Democrats came to meet and greet. Special guests: Bill Bradbury, who officially announced today he'll run for governor in 2010; Peter Huhtala, challenging Brad Witt for State Rep; Rep. Brad Witt; Sen. Debbie Boone; and our indomitable Sen. Betsy Johnson. Word on the street is Betsy will soon be named co-chair of the powerful Joint Ways and Means Committee.

Attorney General John Kroger was the Keynote Speaker and was as dynamic as ever. After meeting John in 2007 I knew that he would be a great choice for A.G., and he has been. He takes no prisoners on environmental protection, civil rights, corruption investigations and consumer fraud -- the latter an area that means a lot to me because I started in the prosecution biz as a consumer fraud investigators in the mid-70s in the DA's Office in Eugene. (See the Eugene Register-Guard, August 24, 1977.)

One of the things John talked about at the picnic was the need for more treatment for people with addiction problems. I've been a long-time advocate of spending more money for intensive programs, including in-patient treatment, and also for drug treatment in our jails and prisons. During the Meth Summit (final report here, a .pdf), it was striking how many recovering addicts thanked Sheriff Tom Bergin for locking them up long enough to get sober. Jail can't be used primarily as a detox facility but for many addicts it's the only way they can get clean long enough to get motivated to get involved in treatment.

I recently attended the opening of the expansion of Astoria Pointe, the first in-patient residential substance abuse facility in Clatsop County since Serenity by the Sea went out of business a few years ago. Astoria Pointe recently bought the Rosebriar Hotel and have converted it into a treatment facility specifically for women. The owners of Astoria Pointe have very generously consistently donated one bed for local residents who could not otherwise afford the 30- to 90-day treatment program. I've worked with our judges to use that bed as an alternative to longer term incarceration, and it is standard practice for my office to agree to "day for day" credit for time spent in any certified in-patient facility. We are always looking for thoughtful, responsible ways to reduce our customer base.

Last night I had a great time at the University of Oregon's White Stag Center, on Couch Street in Portland, debating George Washington University Professor Paul Butler, who was promoting his new book Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice. The discussion was sponsored by the American Constitution Society, a progressive alternative to the more conservative Federalist Society. I made the point that we in Oregon have been ahead of the country in many ways, including, for example, by decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana; that more than 75% of felons in Oregon don't go to prison; and that, of the 25% of felons in prison, more than 70% are there for violent felonies and only 9% for drug offenses, with virtually all those for dealing, not using.

Professor Butler has some very controversial ideas, like advocating jurors should refuse to vote guilty on what he calls "non-violent" crimes even if they believe that the prosecution proved its case. I have a hard time calling Felony DUII or selling Meth a "non violent" crime, there's a reason we are, as John Adams wrote, "a nation of laws and not of men." We don't and can't allow the whims of the one -0 be that a juror, judge or DA -- to over-rule the law. I have confidence in juries and we need to make sure they get as much truthful evidence as possible.

I've added the video of the great Chris Rock bit, "How Not To Get An Ass-Whipping," to the sidebar here. It's great advice that humorously reinforces messages of personal responsibility and keeping your act together.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

As Chris Rock Says: "O-bey the Law!"

Back in the spring of 2006 some Clatsop County residents who were driving around the area where Highway 26 leaves Highway 101 to head back to Portland noticed that a number of horses at a place called "Small World Farm," just off Highway 101, looked seriously undernourished and generally miserable. The Seaside Police Department sent two officers, one of whom had been a rodeo rider and knew something about horses. He ended up calling the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office and an investigation resulted in the farm's owner, William Maxwell, getting charged with several counts of Animal Neglect.

In the fall of 2007 Mr. Maxwell's case went to trial, represented by Portland lawyer Geordie Duckler (who bills himself as "The Animal Law Practice"). The prosecution had as witnesses a number of local women I called "the angels." These women were just local residents who knew something about horses, and each took one or more of the horses in the worst shape and nursed them back to health.

The main witness for the prosecution was Dr. Jack Giesy, a veterinarian from Vancouver, Washington. Dr. Giesey is well north of 60 years of age and still practices large animal veterinary medicine. He's so beloved that the horse arena at the Clark County (WA) Fairgrounds is named after him. Dr. Giesey looked at the picture of one horse, named Goliath (pictured below in a story from the Seaside Signal), and literally broke into tears.


Photo courtesy of the Seaside Police Department. When Goliath was seized from the Small World Farm south of Seaside on April 4, 2006, he weighed 857 pounds. After being placed in foster care, the horse’s weight was recorded at 1,325 on Aug. 21, 2006 (shown).

After three days of testimony things looked so bleak for Mr. Maxwell that his lawyer asked for the plea deal I'd offered Mr. Maxwell's son. The answer was . . . "NO." He had to plead guilty, forfeit the horses to the nice women who had nursed them back to health, and pay the women (although none of them ever asked) about $15,000 in restitution. I didn't ask for jail time because I wanted him to pay the money and "O-bey the Law!" (Scroll to the end for the video from Chris Rock's website.) (Here's the full story about the horses and their angels, from the Seaside Signal.)

A few months later my office received a police report that Mr. Maxwell had slugged an arborist he'd contracted after what some call the December "Gale of '07" blew down lots of stuff. The case was postponed six times. By the latest trial date, in August 2009, the victim was broke and couldn't make it to court. Trying assault cases without the victim is dicey at best, more so in this case because the victim refused initial medical help even though he'd been sucker-punched.

So . . . back to trial with Mr. Maxwell in front of another Clatsop County jury, who heard nothing about his previous mis-deeds. Mr. Maxwell took the stand and claimed that he'd been trained as a security agent for Macy's, and that all he was trying to do was stop the arborist from leaving the bank with a check from the insurance company that was made out to both of them. I asked Mr. Maxwell if Macy's instructed him to slug people in the face as a way of detaining shoplifters. He allowed as how they didn't.

The jury, headed up by a United Airlines pilot who lives in Astoria, convicted Mr. Maxwell of Assault in the Fourth Degree, and this time he went to jail . . . on his birthday.

Judge rejects story, sends Maxwell directly to jail
‘He thinks the rules don’t apply to him,’ says DA
The Daily Astorian
Thursday, August 27, 2009

Despite his request for leniency during a sentencing hearing Tuesday, a Seaside man found guilty during a jury trial last week of fourth-degree assault is spending his 53rd birthday in the Clatsop County Jail.

"I don't believe your version of events," Judge Paula Brownhill told William Seth Maxwell, before sending him directly to jail to serve a 20-day sentence for the assault charge, with credit for time served. "Your behavior was not that of an upstanding citizen." He was also sentenced to 24 months of probation and must pay a $40 monthly monitoring fee, obey all laws and pay a $567 unitary assessment.

Tuesday's sentence stems from an incident in March 2008 at the Wells Fargo Bank branch inside the Seaside Safeway store. That's when Maxwell punched itinerant arborist Chris Wallace and knocked him to the floor during a dispute over a check from an insurance company for damage that happened during the big 2007 winter storm. Wallace had done some storm cleanup work for Maxwell and was supposed to get $3,000 of the $4,100 insurance check.

"He just intentionally clocked Mr. Wallace," District Attorney Josh Marquis told the court. "It's what people do when they have no control over their anger." The entire incident was recorded by the bank's surveillance camera and observed by witnesses including the bank manager.

Marquis said Wallace, who was not present for the trial or the sentencing, did not want medical treatment and the prosecution was not asking for restitution, just jail time. "The defendant acted like a thug. We believe he should receive a jail sentence of 30 to 60 days," Marquis continued, adding that Maxwell should also receive anger management counseling.

"Obviously I made a mistake in my relationship with Mr. Wallace," Maxwell told Judge Brownhill. He also described himself as an outstanding citizen, who started a water polo team and is active in the PTO, a parent-teacher organization.

Maxwell said he was fearful during the encounter at the bank because Wallace had a knife and had pushed him and knocked his wife down. But Brownhill said the surveillance video showed otherwise and there was no way Maxwell could have seen a knife.

Defense attorney Don Haller argued that Wallace was an "extremely difficult contractor," whom Maxwell had been dealing with for several months. Haller also said Wallace was wanted on warrants in Washington and Oregon.

"So Mr. Wallace deserved it?" Brownhill asked Haller.

Haller said no, but he asserted that the victim had helped create the situation that led to the incident. And Haller said Maxwell was not a thug, but was in desperate financial straits and unable to find employment. "The man made a mistake - it was a momentary mistake," Haller said.

Maxwell's money troubles stem from his October 2007 conviction for animal neglect at his Small World Farm in Seaside. His herd of nine horses had been seized in 2006 by Seaside police officers, the county sheriff, the county posse and volunteers.

During that trial, Maxwell had pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree animal neglect for failing to provide minimal care for his horse, Goliath, and one count of second-degree animal neglect of a mare named QT. He gave up ownership of the horses.

In January 2008, Maxwell was sentenced to 48 months probation, but did not receive jail time. He was also ordered to pay $14,800 in restitution to the group of women who volunteered to take in the neglected horses and nurse them back to health.

But Marquis said in court Tuesday that Maxwell has not made any restitution payments since October 2008. That violated the terms of his probation, and as a result, Marquis has filed a "show cause" amendment. A hearing is set for Tuesday.

"Maxwell just doesn't get it," Marquis said after the sentencing hearing Tuesday. "He thinks he's a middle-class citizen and the rules don't apply to him."


Thursday, August 27, 2009

American Constitution Society Event

The Oregon Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society presents:
Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice


Paul Butler, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Carville Dickinson Benson Research; Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School;
and Author, Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice


Josh Marquis, District Attorney, Clatsop County; UO Honors '77, JD '80; former President, Oregon District Attorney's Association; and Member, Board of Directors, National District Attorneys Association

Thursday, September 17, 2009
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
University of Oregon
White Stag Building
70 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR

There is no charge to attend this event. Please RSVP here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Greetings

A blog is by its nature an attempt to communicate in the language of the blogger, so it will come as no surprise that I enjoy posting the positive things happen to me and within my professional world. Negative and/or hateful comments from Anonymous (posted here and elsewhere) can be hurtful, but mostly they're just trash. As if spitting at someone is going to make them change their point of view. Those of us who are thoughtfully engaged in policy understand that it takes a long time -- sometimes a very, very long time -- to effect change, and that keeping a cool head and playing well with others is necessary most of the time.

There's a scene in the movie Philadelphia that speaks to me. Tom Hanks' character is on the witness stand and is asked what he likes about being a lawyer. He says:
Well... many things. But I think the thing I love the most,
is that every once in a while, not that often, but occasionally...
you get to be part of justice being done.
It's really quite a thrill when that happens.
Ever since I arrived in Astoria as the appointed DA in March of 1994, there were many who said I'd soon leap to some higher office. Sixteen years later, I continue to agree with my friends and colleagues on the Board of Directors of the National District Attorneys Association who say that being the DA is one of the best jobs in America. It's not the fabulous pay (hah!) or the massive power (checked by intelligence, empathy, the legislative and judicial branches of government, and the voters). It's that I get paid to do the right thing, to be a part of justice being done every day.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, that does not mean putting every wrongdoer in jail or prison. It means prosecuting those who need to be prosecuted, and having the wisdom to know the difference. This is especially important in a little town, a lightly-populated county, where there is little distance between me, the victims and their families, the defendants and their families, and even the jurors. We run into each other at the coffee shop where I like to eat lunch, at the supermarket, the Post Office, the Rotary luncheons.

One of the great people I've gotten to know through the NDAA Board is Charles (Joe) Hynes, the DA of Brooklyn (technically Kings County, New York). I was surprised and flattered when Joe called few months ago and asked if I would serve on the American Bar Association's 30-member Criminal Justice Section leadership council. I have publicly disagreed, often on the pages of their own magazine, with some of the positions the ABA has taken, and am viewed at best as a rowdy iconoclast by a good many of their members.

I'm a WYSIWYG kind of guy. What you see is what you get, and you can find me in the Archives section of this site. Looking through those earlier essays I find they continue to reflect my beliefs and interests, are fairly well-written, and sometimes come with photos of myself that make me cringe.

Occasionally you can find me on stage, and not while giving a speech at a state prosecutors association meeting somewhere around the country. This month marks my 16th consecutive season in the role of the Sheriff in the Astor Street Opry production of Shanghaied in Astoria. I had just arrived in Astoria when the Astoria Police Chief suggested I make a cameo appearance in the play. It is a VERY small role, just two lines, and I'm honored and pleased to be in rotation with some of the real actors and do eight or ten shows a year. It's one of the many reasons that I find Astoria a very special place, all the more so after traveling around the United States. Living in a little town is about a lot of little things that combined make big things -- like belonging to Rotary (and trying to live by their Four-Way Test) and working towards a four-gallon pin for the Red Cross.

Thankya, Constant Reader.*
(*borrowed from Stephen King)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

For jurors in Michigan, no tweeting (or texting or Googling) allowed

Tresa Baldas
July 1, 2009

Call it the silencing of the tweets.

The Michigan Supreme Court has laid the hammer down on gadget-happy jurors in banning all electronic communications by jurors during trial, including tweets on Twitter, text messages and Google searches.

The ruling, which takes effect Sept. 1, will require Michigan judges for the first time to instruct jurors not to use any handheld device, such as iPhones or Blackberrys, while in the jury box or during deliberations.

The state's high court issued the new rule on Tuesday in response to prosecutors' complaints that jurors were getting distracted by their cell phones, smart phones and PDAs, in some cases texting during trial or digging up their own information about a case and potentially tainting the judicial process.

Wouldn't common sense suggest that's wrong? "I don't think jurors go out and Google stuff thinking it's wrong. Sometimes it just doesn't click," said Charles Koop, immediate past president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, which pushed for the new rule. "I think it brings home to the conscientious jurors -- which most jurors are -- that I'm not supposed to do this.' "

The new rule also helps older judges, who might not be tech-savvy, stop jurors from doing things in their courtroom that they are unaware of, said Koop, prosecuting attorney in Antrim County, Mich. "Judges of an older age may not be in tune as much as younger judges as to what's going on out there," Koop said, adding the constantly evolving PDAs are especially problematic for the courts. "It's a new technology. We're playing catch-up."

Michigan's new rule follows a wave of recent cases in which jurors have blogged, posted Tweets or sent text messages during trials, infuriating judges and triggering mistrials.

In Florida, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Scott Silverman in May declared a mistrial in a civil fraud case after discovering a witness -- a company executive -- was texting his boss on the stand during a side bar conference. "I never had this happen before," Silverman stated. "This is completely outrageous."

On the flipside, an Arkansas judge in April ruled that a juror's Twitter postings during a trial won't affect a $12.6 million judgment issued against a buildings products company. Lawyers for that company had argued that the juror's Tweets during trial showed he was biased against the company, including one that said, "just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else's money." But the judge upheld the verdict, finding that the tweets were in bad taste but not improper.

A Pennsylvania judge delivered a similar blow recently to defense lawyers in the corruption trial of a former state senator who requested a mistrial because a juror posted updates about the case on Twitter and Facebook, telling readers that a "big announcement" was coming. The judge, however, let the deliberations continue and a guilty verdict was issued. An appeal is in the works.

Looks like more states should consider following Michigan's suit, said Josh Marquis, who sits on the Board of Directors for the National District Attorney's Association and believes technology is wreaking havoc on the justice system.

"The potential for jury tampering is unbelievable. All you have to know is a person's cell number," said Marquis, district attorney in Clatsop County, Oregon, who has seen text messages and Google searches by jurors taint his own cases.

"One thing that will almost always cause a mistrial is extrinsic material coming into the jury room. In the pre-electronic age, that meant a dictionary or encyclopedia," Marquis said.

Those days are over. Now there's Google, Twitter, Facebook and a host of other cyberspace message boards for jurors to play on, and potentially kill a case.

"It almost invites people to do extrinsic research," Marquis said of the Internet and hand-held technology. "The problem is -- technology has far outpaced the court rules."

Next week, Marquis is going to the annual NDAA conference in Florida. He is counting on his Michigan colleagues to talk about their new rule, and the directive judges are now under to tell jurors that no electronic communications are allowed during trial. "The first thing I'm going to do is call them and say, 'bring this up,'" Marquis said.

According to the National Center for State Courts, a number of states have grappled with the problem of allowing jurors to bring cell phones to the courtroom. A recent questionnaire sent to court administrators across the country showed that many courts are addressing the problem of potential juror misconduct through hand-held devices.

For example, courts in Ramsey County, Minn. recently issued a new cell phone policy that prohibits jurors from brining any wireless communication device to court after two mistrials were declared when jurors used cell phones during deliberation against the court's order.

New Jersey, however, allows jurors to bring cell phones to court, but they must be turned off during trial. Cumberland County, Penn. has a similar phone policy. In Malheur County, Ore., jurors are not allowed to bring cell phones to court at all.

"This has been a hot topic," said Gregory Hurley, an analyst with the NCSC who studies trends in the courts.. "It's a funny balance that a court has to do. On the one hand, common sense says, 'get all the cell phones out of there. Sanitize the environment." But in this day and age, with people who have kids, you have to have a little compassion for the jurors."

He added: "If you want to take the cell phones out, you have to be extra careful to have phones around for people to use."

Tresa Baldas can be reached at

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NDAA endorses Sotomayor

On June 8th, the NDAA sent the following letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, and Senator Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member, of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary:

". . . [W]e offer our full support for the nomination of the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor to become the next Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. . . .

"Judge Sotomayor's depth of experience with all aspects of the law -- as a prosecutor, a private litigator, a Judge and as a Federal Judge -- has made her into an exemplary judge and an outstanding nominee to serve on our nation's highest court. She possesses wisdom, intelligence and a real-world training that would bring important insight to Supreme Court decisions. The National District Attorneys Association believes that Judge Sotomayor would be a welcome addition to the Supreme Court.

"We are happy to offer our full support for Judge Sotomayor's nomination to serve as a Supreme Court Associate Justice and encourage her swift nomination by the Senate."

the full text of the letter (.pdf file) is here

Friday, June 12, 2009

Miki Dora* -- not.

Honolulu D.A. Peter Carlisle is a tough negotiator. Need proof? During our recent meeting in Waikiki of the Executive Committee of the National District Attorney's Association, he convinced me to try surfing.

I brought home an exotic collection of reef rash.

*A great read: All For a Few Perfect Waves: The Audacious Life and Legend of Rebel Surfer Miki Dora, by David Rensin. My wife, Cindy Price, worked with David on the book.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Alejandro Escalante-Franco Sentenced

News Release
Clatsop County District Attorney's Office:
Alejandro Escalante-Franco Sentenced
May 29, 2009
On Friday, May 29, Clatsop County Circuit Judge Phil Nelson sentenced 35-year-old Alejandro Escalante-Franco to a prison term of just under three years under the new and tougher Measure 57 sentencing law.

Escanatle-Franco had been arrested after an investigation by the Clatsop County Inter-Agency Drug Task Force, after they served a search warrant on his home in Astoria on April 7 and recovered 105 grams of cocaine and 27 grams of methamphetamine, and over $2,000 in cash. He also was in possession of a forged social security card and was originally charged with Identity Theft as well. That charge was dismissed and Escalante-Francio pled guilty to charges of Delivery of Cocaine and Methamphetamine.

District Attorney Josh Marquis commended the Drug Task Force led by deputies from Sheriff Tom Bergin’s Office. “Meth and cocaine continue to be the scourge of our North Coast community,” Marquis said. “This arrest of a mid-level dealer is a good start to making our county an unfriendly place for drug dealers. If it were not for Measure 57, the defendant’s sentence would have been 16 to 18 months in prison instead of the 34 months to which he pled guilty.”

Measure 57 was one of two “get tough on property and drug crime” initiatives on the November 2008 ballot. Voters chose Measure 57, which had been backed by a broad coalition of district attorneys, unions, and defense attorneys, as a more balanced reaction to Oregon’s high rate of property crime. Measure 57 creates mandatory sentences for dealers of large amounts of drugs and gives judges the authority to sentence repeat property offenders (burglars, car and identity thieves) to prison time, and mandates treatment.

Marquis pointed out that, under Oregon law before Measure 57, a man with a prior felony record who stole and cut up the bronze statute of Sacagawea at Fort Clatsop National Park could only receive a maximum of 20 days in jail. If that crime were committed today, the judge could give up to three years in prison.

“More than 70% of felons do not go to prison, and first-time property offenders never go to prison in Oregon.” Marquis said. “We should give people struggling with drug addiction who commit non-violent crimes the chance to get clean, but need the stick of possible prison if they refuse to co-operate with probation and treatment.”

For more information, call 503-791-0012 or 503-338-3614.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Measure 57: the best way forward in this fiscal crisis

Guest opinion by Bradley Berry, John Foote, Josh Marquis and Michael Schrunk, guest opinion May 24, 2009
Last November, Oregon voters overwhelmingly enacted Ballot Measure 57, which enhances penalties for repeat property offenders and provides drug and alcohol treatment for addicted offenders.
In passing the measure, voters embraced a balanced system of justice with incentives for those willing to change and the power to sanction those who abuse the rights of others. Based on the balance between accountability and access to treatment, Oregon's 36 district attorneys joined a broad coalition of partners to vigorously support the measure.

Measure 57 was carefully crafted to give judges the power to incapacitate repeat property offenders for a time sufficient to ensure they can obtain treatment during their time in prison. Eligible offenders who successfully complete treatment programs are entitled to significant sentence reductions. The measure, which has been in effect for six months and impacted 125 offenders, is fair and balanced.
Unfortunately, since the implementation of the measure, the state and many of its citizens are confronting an unprecedented fiscal crisis. The economy makes it impossible for the state to conduct business as usual. As a result, some are questioning the wisdom of implementing a measure that may place an additional burden on the budget. Of course, it is precisely during these difficult budget times that we must most ardently protect our personal possessions. Oregonians cannot afford to have their identities appropriated, their cars stolen or their homes burglarized.
We must, nevertheless, find a way to balance our state budget. Oregon's district attorneys are committed to working with state lawmakers to find a financially responsible solution that does not erode the public safety successes achieved over the past 20 years -- Oregon's violent crime rate has decreased by 46 percent and our property crime rates have declined from a high of fourth worst in the nation down to 18th.
Oregon's district attorneys and crime victims groups have suggested the Legislature make reductions to our public safety system based on four core principles. Foremost, we must protect the public and minimize victimization. Second, any policy changes intended to save system costs must be one-time, reversible adjustments. Third, any cuts to the public safety sector must be balanced. Disproportionate reductions to any one sector, be it the courts, public defenders or the front-line officers, can cause the entire system to collapse. Finally, the public expects transparency in our sentencing policies. If we must cut sentences, victims and our citizens deserve to know at the outset the extent to which our budget crisis will reduce accountability for criminals.
To achieve a balanced budget, the district attorneys and crime victims groups have proposed that the Legislature enact a system of targeted reductions for nonviolent offenders who are nearing the end of their sentences. We would rather no prisoner get out early. However, by targeting those offenders who are low- and medium-risk, we believe it is possible to maximize cost savings while minimizing the risk of reoffending.
To further reduce revictimization, we support using federal stimulus dollars and, possibly, a modest reinvestment of the savings to create new re-entry programs or enhance existing community services. Small reductions in our recidivism rates can generate substantial long-term savings.
It is not a politically expedient proposal. No legislator wants to be responsible for opening the back doors of our prisons. Yet the unprecedented shortfall will mean hard votes across the budget -- larger class sizes, reduced services for the vulnerable and more. While unpleasant, there is simply no way to cut $250 million from the public safety budget without letting people who belong in prison out early.
Sometimes the hard way is the right way. A one-time sentence reduction for Oregon's nonviolent criminals will allow us to maintain a functional court system, an operational public defense network, and most importantly, an adequate state police presence with sufficient forensic capabilities.
It will also allow us to enact Measure 57, which was endorsed by a wide swath of politicians and advocates. We need to stand by those promises. The criminals affected by Measure 57 are repeat burglars and repeat identity thieves, not first-time offenders. These are people often in the throes of drug addiction and at the height of their criminal behavior. It makes more sense to hold them accountable now and hope to use treatment programs that have been shown to work. If we have to reduce our prison population, let's do it using those less dangerous felons who have hopefully learned something from their stay in prison.
Bradley Berry is Yamhill County district attorney, John Foote is Clackamas County district attorney, Josh Marquis is Clatsop County district attorney and Michael Schrunk is Multnomah County district attorney.
See also:
"Let's suspend Measure 57," guest opinion by Chuck Sheketoff, The Oregonian, June 24, 2009
"Oregon's in a box on prison spending", by the Oregonian Editorial Board, June 24, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Guns v. Butter = Hungry and Defenseless

Guest Column
For The Daily Astorian
A recent editorial claimed that "Incarceration is an Oregonian's only entitlement" and went on say that "convicted criminals will get immediate seating in fully-funded accommodations," and that these luxuries all come at the cost of Oregon - our children's - education.

Let's look at the facts, once again.

Oregonians spend about 57 cents of every state tax dollar on education and about 7 cents on prisons and probation.

Oregon incarcerates its criminals at a rate far lower than most states. The average sentence served is just over three years for serious felonies, and about 75 percent of con'victed felons aren't given any prison sentence at all. That rate has actually decreased over the last 18 years, contrary to the conventional wisdom. The sentence in Clatsop County for a third-time drunk driver is usually 30 days or less in jail.

Anyone who thinks Clatsop County is sending the wrong people to jail or to prison is invited to come to the Clatsop County Courthouse for what we call "one-fifteens." Since neither the county, which runs the jail, nor the state, which funds the court, can afford a release officer, it is at 1:15 p.m. every day that I appear in court and recommend the judge release people with lengthy felony records because I know there are only 60 available beds and they must go to the worst of the worst. County taxpayers have spent tens of thousands of dollars on studies that tell us we need at least twice that jail space, and yet ...

During the campaign for the third judgeship two years ago, one of the (unelected) candidates claimed that "the wrong people are in jail. I'd asked him to identify a single person in the Clatsop County jail who did not belong there. He couldn't, even upon reflection. Anyone: Examine any of the 40 people Clatsop County sent to state prison in 2003 and make a case that the person doesn't belong there.

Judge Phil Nelson's drug court does not work without an empty jail bed as the last resort for someone who refuses to work the court's plan. The woman who is beaten by her boyfriend needs the protection of a jail bed to keep him away from her.

Our judges are not jailing the wrong people. They are not sending the wrong people to prison. Our choice is not jail or treatment, it's often jail and treatment. Unfortunately there is not enough of either available in either Clatsop County or the state of Oregon.

I am never going to run out of customers. I'd like to have fewer of them, because that would mean fewer people are robbed, beaten, maimed or killed by drunk drivers, raped or murdered. But we do not live in a prison state that denies children what they need in order to lock up those who would prey on them.

We need adequate funds at both ends of the system. We shouldn't short educational needs, neither should we short programs and facilities that prevent crime. It is a false economy that seeks to deny the necessity of holding those few members of the community who victimize the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens.

In this time of economic distress it is all the more important that your tax dollars are wisely spent. Let's not get drawn into the "guns or butter" argument that leaves us both hungry and defenseless.

#### END

Related story from Willamette Week
issue #35.23, published April 15, 2009

Prisoners Dilemma
Crime and punishment—and how state budget problems may bring huge changes in both.


Amid all the gloomy news around Oregon’s projected $3.1 billion state budget gap, there is potentially a bright side for liberals who have fought for years to reform how the state deals with criminals.
Those advocates for judicial reform are pitted against the state’s district attorneys in a high-stakes debate on how best to cut the state’s $1.6 billion biennial prison bill.
At the same time the state is considering releasing potentially thousands of prisoners, advocates are using the budget maw to push a rewrite of some of the controversial minimum sentences set when state voters passed Measure 11 in 1994.
With each prisoner costing the state $78 a day, sentencing reforms that in past years have died a quiet death in Salem now have new life. At the center of that revival is Rep. Chip Shields (D-North Portland), a point man on public safety in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Before he was elected to the Oregon House in 2004, Shields worked as a volunteer to pass Measure 94, a failed effort in 2000 to overturn Measure 11.
Now he’s leading the effort in Salem to reshape the state’s strategy on fighting crime—one he and others say puts too much emphasis on incarceration.
Along with such allies as Sen. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Northeast Portland) and Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Northwest Portland), Shields is fighting to gut Measure 11 from the inside out. And the need for massive prison cuts has provided a rare opportunity.
“The budget crisis forces us to get serious about solutions,” Shields says. “It has definitely forced us to deal with this in the short term. The question is if we will also have the courage to balance things out in the long term.”
That’s where the Oregon District Attorneys Association comes in.
Given the state’s dire budget projections, the DAs reluctantly agree with the need to release prisoners. The issue is who should get out.
Asked to cut up to 30 percent of its budget, the Oregon Department of Corrections has floated a plan to close 10 of the state’s 14 prisons and free 4,100 of 13,800 inmates. In the end, the Legislature and Gov. Ted Kulongoski will decide how many people get released, and who they are.
The DAs resist freeing violent criminals sentenced under Measure 11. But Shields and his allies say some Measure 11 convicts should get consideration.
As the DAs are quick to point out, releasing prisoners will probably mean an uptick in crime. But their opponents say that won’t necessarily happen, and that investing in treatment and community corrections can help any increase.
The larger fight is over Measure 11 sentences—the DAs are adamant they shouldn’t be changed just to save money. Faced with the need to reduce prison populations, they prefer to do so by releasing prisoners early out the back door now, rather than admitting fewer through the front gate in the future.
“Let’s stick with a one-time event for what hopefully is a one-time problem, rather than an unprecedented change in our sentencing structure that will be very hard to reverse,” says Kevin Neely, lobbyist for the district attorneys association.
It’s a battle the DAs aren’t used to waging—in the past, almost any attempt to change Measure 11 that they didn’t support was dead on arrival in Salem. With Democrats enjoying large majorities in the House and Senate, that’s no longer the case.
The DAs are using the debate to correct what they call a widespread myth: that all Measure 11 sentences are mandatory. In fact, due to past reforms in the Legislature, judges often have leeway in sentencing and can even give probation in some cases if the defendant qualifies.
Nonetheless, Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis says he now expects a “wholesale attack on Measure 11 as a means of reducing the cost of corrections.”
What Shields and his allies have introduced so far falls short of that. They’re sponsoring bills, all opposed by the DAs, that would:
  • Make courts inform juries of mandatory minimums.
  • Reduce sentences for some crimes such as second-degree assault and second-degree robbery, but increase sentences for more serious offenses like first-degree rape.
  • Give judges power to release juvenile offenders who were tried as adults after they complete half their sentence.
Matters were further complicated by Measure 57, which state voters approved last fall. The measure stiffened sentences and mandated treatment for some drug and property crimes. But some lawmakers say there’s no way the state can afford to do that. They want to repeal or delay Measure 57. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission puts Measure 57’s price tag at about $150 million for the biennium, but some DAs believe that estimate is too high.
Also in the mix is a bill from Dingfelder that would make all Measure 11 sentences discretionary. Neely says its success seems unlikely. However, advocates are still pushing for widespread reforms in the coming weeks.
“We’d like to see efforts that take a broader approach at Measure 11 reform, rather than just doing it piecemeal,” says David Rogers, head of the Portland-based Partnership for Safety and Justice.
But DAs insist Measure 11 helped reduce violent crime in the state by half.
“You are substantially safer in Oregon,” says Neely, “because of Measure 11.”
FACT: Oregon spends a higher portion of its general fund on corrections than any other state—10.9 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Center.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Keep The Oregon State Flag

An idea that is expensive, unnecessary and an insult to a proud and important history.

Oregon's 150th birthday is this Valentine's Day, February 14th. Last October, admittedly before the financial crisis in the state and in the nation was acknowledged as the worst since the Great Depression, the Oregonian came up with the idea that, as a birthday gift to ourselves, we Oregonians should re-design our State Flag because, among other things, (1) the state seal looks like "a bunch of others"; 2) it is expensive to produce and heavy because it sports a design on both sides; (3) the beaver on the reverse side resembles "a blob of butterscotch pudding"; and (4) altogether the flag doesn't represent the essence of Oregon. Judge for yourself:

The Oregonian says a change wouldn’t cost much because the thousands of state flags that are displayed in offices like my own and fly from state buildings would be replaced only when they wear out. The one in my office is over 50 years old and shows no signs of wear at all, so it could be the next sesquicenntenial before Oregon actually has one state flag.

The editors held a contest. There were many submissions, many from schoolkids who got their first lesson in civics. They were admittedly fun to look at. The thousands were narrowed to ten finalists, and finally, the winner: None of the above. In other words: The current flag will do just fine, thanks. In second place:

It's the blob of butterscotch, which designer R.C. Gray of West Linn retained to honor -- yes, you guessed it -- the current flag.

I'm going to leave aside the pedestrian issue of money -- not so easy to leave aside when, among other essential services on the chopping block, home care is slated to be taken away from dependent seniors. My real gripe is with the appalling lack of understanding of our flag’s symbolism.

When I attended grade school in Eugene, we were taught the state flower -- Mahonia, the Oregon grape -- and the state song, “Oregon, My Oregon”:
Land of the Empire Builders, Land of the Golden West;
Conquered and held by free men, Fairest and the best.
On-ward and upward ever, Forward and on, and on;
Hail to thee, Land of the Heroes, My Oregon.
Land of the rose and sunshine, Land of the summer's breeze;
Laden with health and vigor, Fresh from the western seas.
Blest by the blood of martyrs, Land of the setting sun;
Hail to thee, Land of Promise, My Oregon.

And we were taught the meaning of the symbols on the state flag. Here's the official description of the state seal:
. . . an escutcheon, supported by 33 stars [the number of states in 1859], and divided by an ordinary, with the inscription, "The Union." In chief mountains, an elk with branching antlers, a wagon, the Pacific Ocean, on which there are a British man-of-war departing and an American steamer arriving. The second quartering with a sheaf, plow and a pickax. Crest The American eagle. Legend - State of Oregon, 1859.
 As a resident of Astoria it's interesting to me that much of the state's seal reflects important events at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. The British Man-of-War, sails unfurled, is leaving Fort George (first and afterwards Astoria) after President Polk had negotiated the full transfer of the Oregon Territory from Britain in 1846. The American frigate, sails furled, is entering the harbor as the sun sets on the British Empire, symbolizing a new day for Oregon.

The flag also sports symbols for the wheat fields of eastern Oregon and the wagon trains of the Oregon Trail.

Perhaps most importantly, the seal includes the the words “The Union.” Oregon was admitted to the Union in 1859. What was happening in America then?

Only the greatest debate in American history: Whether America would be a slave nation or a free nation. Oregon chose the motto “The Union” to make forever clear that it stood with the anti-slavery forces and against the idea of a nation divided. The notion carries forward to the present day, and has particular poignance with the recent election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Many buildings in our nation's capitol display all the flags of our united states. The Oregon flag is easy to spot. It has our name on it. Yes, there are some graphically hip flags like Arizona and New Mexico;the Mississippi and Alabama flags are controversial because they have yet to be purged of the symbols of slavery.

Was Oregon’s history so noble? No. The Klan held much sway for many decades, and Native Americans, along with Americans of Chinese, African and Japanese descent, were treated abominably.

But, at a critical moment in Oregon history, Oregonians lined up with the angels of the nation’s better nature. So, as the OSU Admissions blog says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Keep the Flag. Don't bother our legislators, who surely have more important work, with this falderal.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Eric Holder for US Attorney General

President-elect Barack Obama has nominated Eric Holder to be his (and our) Attorney General. Holder is remarkably well qualified for this job, having served as a judge, the chief federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia, and as Deputy Attorney General, the number two job in the DoJ, during the Clinton Administration.

Some Republicans may try to make his appointment difficult, even though it seems impossible that they could block his confirmation. Here's a bit from Scott Helman's report for The Boston Globe, "Holder's hearings might be rocky," Dec. 29, 2008:
"Judiciary Committee staff members have pulled more than 150 boxes from their archives and have been poring over internal memos and transcripts from Holder's tenure at the Department of Justice.
Republicans have also asked the Justice Department and the Clinton Presidential Library for documents relating to, among other things, Clinton's impeachment, former vice president Al Gore's fund-raising activities during the 1996 presidential campaign, the 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, and the pardon of financier Marc Rich.
And on Dec. 17, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Holder asking him to account for "apparent omissions" in his questionnaire, including work on gaming that Holder did in 2004 for Rod Blagojevich, the beleaguered Illinois governor."
I serve on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the National District Attorneys Association, its governing body. I share the belief of my fellow prosecutors that Holder will make an excellent Attorney General and bring a bright new day to the United States Department of Justice, and I helped craft an endorsing statement signed by every member of the Executive Committee, both Democrats and Republicans. (click to view 2-page .pdf file of the letter)

(See also "Prosecutors for Obama," September 28, 2008.)