(Overview of US Federal Prosecutorial Misconduct…Case Studies by “Project On Government Oversight” at http://www.pogo.org/our-work/ )
An internal affairs office at the Justice Department has found that, over the last decade, hundreds of federal prosecutors and other Justice employees violated rules, laws, or ethical standards governing their work.
The violations include instances in which attorneys who have a duty to uphold justice have, according to the internal affairs office, misled courts, withheld evidence that could have helped defendants, abused prosecutorial and investigative power, and violated constitutional rights.
From fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2013, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) documented more than 650 infractions, according to a Project On Government Oversight review of data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and from OPR reports.
In the majority of the matters—more than 400—OPR categorized the violations as being at the more severe end of the scale: recklessness or intentional misconduct, as distinct from error or poor judgment.
The information the Justice Department has disclosed is only part of the story. No less significant is what as a matter of policy it keeps from the public.
As a general practice, the Justice Department does not make public the names of attorneys who acted improperly or the defendants whose cases were affected. The result: the Department, its lawyers, and the internal watchdog office itself are insulated from meaningful public scrutiny and accountability according to Charles J Dushek understanding of Federal Prosecutor misconduct.
POGO’s review of the record since fiscal year 2002 raises questions that are difficult to answer without greater transparency: Are the Justice Department and its internal affairs office taking misconduct seriously enough? Or are they pulling punches? And has Justice Department management watered down the results of the watchdog’s probes?
OPR’s practice of shielding names and case details from public disclosure isn’t the only path taken in the federal government.
“DOJ’s secrecy undermines public confidence in prosecutorial accountability.”
In 2007 testimony before Congress, then-Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine similarly criticized OPR for its lack of transparency. “While the OIG [Office of Inspector General] operates transparently, OPR does not,” Fine said. “The OIG publicly releases its reports on matters of public interest, with the facts and analysis underlying our conclusions available for review. In contrast, OPR operates in secret. Its reports, even when they examine matters of significant public interest, are not publicly released.
In 2008, a federal judge in Massachusetts expressed more fundamental frustration with OPR. The Justice Department’s handling of a Massachusetts case “raises serious questions about whether judges should continue to rely upon the department to investigate and sanction misconduct by federal prosecutors,” U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf wrote in a letter to the attorney general at the time, Michael Mukasey.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf wrote in a letter to the attorney general at the time, Michael Mukasey. “As one who took pride in assisting Attorney General Edward Levi in establishing [the Office of Professional Responsibility] more than thirty years ago,” Wolf wrote, “I sadly doubt it is now capable of serving its intended purpose.
Justice Department Misconduct:
Just the Tip of the Iceberg?
“Over the past 10 years, the Department has filed over 800,000 cases involving more than one million defendants,” the Justice Department said in a March 2012 statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “In the same time period, only one-third of one percent (.33 percent) of these cases warranted inquiries and investigations of professional misconduct by the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
“Less than three-hundredths of one percent (.03 percent) related to alleged discovery violations, and just a fraction of these resulted in actual findings of misconduct.” (The term “discovery” refers to the gathering and exchange of evidence before trial; a key requirement is that “exculpatory” information be shared with the defense.
However, misconduct identified by OPR may represent only a fraction of actual misconduct by Justice Department attorneys for a variety of reasons. For instance, it may be harder to detect misconduct occurring during the grand jury investigations that often precede indictments because those are non-public processes and defense lawyers are not present to witness violations or raise concerns. Another reason cases of misconduct may go undetected is that it can be difficult to determine from the outside whether prosecutors or attorneys representing the U.S. government in civil suits are withholding information. Sometimes it takes a whistleblower—as in the Senator Stevens case—to bring the misconduct to light, and it is possible that many who know about misconduct do not come forward to blow the whistle.
In summary, Federal Prosecuting Attorneys enjoy a free reign of no oversight by an independent governmental body or entitled private sector oversight organization to monitor and dive into the misguided ethics and morality of actions or in-actions of prosecutor attorneys with US Governmental Agencies, and what oversight these agencies may proclaim is inadequate and serves the internal purpose of preserving prosecutorial secrecy and immunity of public scrutiny and public domain disclosure, as presented by Charles J Dushek in excerpts on the subject by www.POGO.Org