Sunday, July 10, 2005


Digby's Got Your Back, Fitz!

I've been wondering for the past few days what could possibly be going through "Tex" Sensenbrenner's head to be pulling off a move as crazy-dumb as this:

In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee privately demanded last month that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago change its decision in a narcotics case because he didn't believe a drug courier got a harsh enough prison term. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), in a five-page letter dated June 23 to Chief Judge Joel Flaum, asserted that a June 16 decision by a three-judge appeals court panel was wrong. [...] Apperson, who is chief counsel of a House Judiciary subcommittee, argues that Sensenbrenner is simply exercising his judicial oversight responsibilities. But some legal experts believe the action by the Judiciary Committee chairman, who is an attorney, is a violation of House ethics rules, which prohibit communicating privately with judges on legal matters, as well as court rules that bar such contact with judges without contacting all parties. Further, the letter may be an intrusion on the Constitution's separation-of-powers doctrine, or, at least, the latest encroachment by Congress upon the judiciary, analysts said. David Zlotnick, a law professor at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island and an expert on federal sentencing law, said, "I think it's completely inappropriate for a congressman to send a letter to a court telling them to change a ruling." Contrary to court rules, Sensenbrenner's letter was not sent to Rivera's appellate attorney, Steve Shobat, who received a copy only after the letter was placed in the official court file. "To try to influence a pending case is totally inappropriate," Shobat said. "My client had a very small role in this case, and to think that she is the focus of the head of the House Judiciary Committee? It is intimidating."
This is unethical as hell, and if Sen-Sen pushes it could put his ass in hot water. So why the hell is he doing it? He should know better. To answer my unvoiced question, Digby points out something from that article that I missed:
Sensenbrenner also wrote a letter to Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, demanding that the decision be appealed further and that he investigate why the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago did not appeal Rivera's sentence. Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said Sensenbrenner's letter was being reviewed. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald, declined to comment.
In other words, this is part of the strategy to smear Fitzgerald. The only thing that can save Karl Rove's hide at this point is for Fitz to be removed from the picture somehow. I suspect they're going to claim that he's a partisan Democrat, even though he's a registered independent. This is good news: It means that Fitz has got them on the run. Or rather, the hop. Ribbit ribbit ribbit.

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