Friday, March 30, 2007

Ethics and politics

I have a lot to say about the attorney purge scandal. I'll throw up some more comments on it over the weekend. And it looks like even the Daily Star is taking notice of the scandal, at last.

The mainstream media have been treating this scandal like it's no big deal. They've swallowed the stock Tony Snow argument that these attorneys "serve at the pleasure of the president" and they can be fired at the president's whim, even when they're in the midst of unprecedented public corruption investigations, or when they're refusing to bring bogus voter fraud prosecutions against Democrats. There's a widespread perception that it's perfectly acceptable to abuse the Justice Department for political ends.

This perception, needless to say, is completely false.

Model Rule 3.8(a) (from the ABA Model Rules which form the foundation of most state ethical rules) clearly states that prosecutors shall "refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause." So it seems the Justice Department is openly forcing its U.S. Attorneys to violate ethics rules. Despite public perception to the contrary, ethics rules apply to prosecutors just as strongly as they do to defense attorneys -- or any other lawyer.

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