Eric Holder Resigns, Continues Progressive Reforms

Attorney General Eric Holder is resigning. But he is still initiating long overdue policies that have immediate welcome effect.

Yesterday he issued a memo to U.S. attorneys telling them not to use recidivist charges (called 851 charges after the statute number) as a leverage tool or a hammer:

Holder sent a memo to U.S. attorneys Wednesday urging them not to use sentencing enhancements known as "851" tools to gain leverage in plea negotiations with defendants — in essence, threatening defendants into avoiding trial with huge amounts of prison time.

He is also in the process of issuing a memo telling prosecutors not to put appeal waivers for ineffective assistance of counsel in plea agreements (something many districts have banned as unconstitutional). He will issue new racial profiling guidelines that "will make clear that sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion are not legitimate bases for law enforcement." suspicion.


In other Holder news, the Justice Department today issued support for a class action ACLU lawsuit set for trial next month that accuses New York of denying legal services to the poor.
The NYCLU claims that Gov. Cuomo and the state government havenít adequately funded the program that provides defense lawyers for the poor. The NYCLU wants lighter attorney caseloads, better funding and state control over the county-run system.
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    If he wanted any real legacy (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Chuck0 on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 02:02:44 PM EST
    he would have done more to get marijuana off Schedule 1.

    He has 4 months (none / 0) (#2)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 02:14:36 PM EST
    It's not really (none / 0) (#4)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 02:21:06 PM EST
    solely his call, which has been discussed ad nauseam.

    He and O are both leaving (none / 0) (#5)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 02:27:43 PM EST
    they might see it as the perfect FU to the right wing.

    Still not up to just them (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 02:32:48 PM EST
    Congress has to be involved.  Even if they could sidestep Congress, their are still lots of steps to accomplish this.

    What does it take to reschedule a drug?

    Congress could pass a law that changes or restricts a drug's schedule. But Congress mostly leaves scheduling to federal agencies like the DEA. One exception: Congress previously passed the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prevention Act of 2000 and added gamma hydroxybutyric acid, a date rape drug, to the scheduling system.

    The White House can also initiate a review process that would look at the available evidence and potentially change a drug's schedule. The review includes several steps:

    1. The DEA, US Department of Health and Human Services, or a public petition initiate a review.
    2. The DEA requests HHS to review the medical and scientific evidence regarding a drug's schedule.
    3. HHS, through the FDA, evaluates the drug and its schedule through an analysis based on eight factors. Among the factors: a drug's potential for abuse, the scientific evidence for a drug's pharmacological effects, and the scientific evidence for a drug's medical use.
    4. HHS recommends a schedule based on the scientific evidence.
    5. The DEA conducts its own review, with the HHS's determination in mind, and sets the final schedule.

    Although very rigorous, this process has been successfully carried out in the past. For example, the DEA on August 21 announced it rescheduled hydrocodone combination products, or opioid-based prescription painkillers, from schedule 3 to schedule 2. "Almost 7 million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement. "Today's action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available."

    Can a drug be unscheduled?

    It's possible, but it's much more difficult than simply rescheduling a drug.

    The big hurdle is international treaties. The US is party to international agreements that effectively require some drugs, including marijuana, to remain within the scheduling system.

    Proving that a drug has no potential for abuse is also very difficult, if not impossible. An American Scientist analysis, for instance, found even relatively safe marijuana has some potential for dependence; it's less addictive than heroin, meth, cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol, but more addictive than hallucinogens such as LSD, which doesn't cause much, if any, dependence.

    The two drugs not on the scheduling system -- alcohol and tobacco -- required a specific exemption in the Controlled Substances Act. Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at UCLA, argues both would be marked schedule 1 if they were evaluated today, since they're highly abused, addictive, detrimental to one's health and society, and even deadly.

    I don't think Congress is doing (none / 0) (#8)
    by Anne on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 03:12:58 PM EST
    diddly-squat for the remainder of the year - especially if it's something this administration supports.

    Sounds too much like actual work, and Congress seems to have an anaphylactic reaction to even the suggesting that they, you know, do their jobs.

    It's like they don't even care enough to pretend anymore.


    And with the Republicans in charge in the House (none / 0) (#9)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 03:14:13 PM EST
    (and probably soon to be the Senate as well), I don't see this issue going any further any time soon.

    Almost everything I've read, or, (none / 0) (#10)
    by NYShooter on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 03:30:00 PM EST
    seen on TV suggests the new, presumably, Democratic President, will be better off with a wholly Republican Congress. I think they're saying that even with holding one House of Congress they've been able to stymy anything this Presidents been trying to accomplish.

    While I'm not completely sure what the pundits mean by that, I believe they're saying it would, most probably, result in a Democratic Congress for the President's second term.


    It would be better for PR purposes (none / 0) (#11)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 03:36:03 PM EST
    But for actually implementing policy, that may be a different story.

    I think the idea is (none / 0) (#12)
    by CST on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 03:38:44 PM EST
    that it would be so terrible that eventually they'll be replaced with Democrats and then policy would actually be implemented.

    Not sure I buy it, but that seems to be what the theory is.


    The only (none / 0) (#15)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 05:54:35 PM EST
    benefit I can see from having a GOP senate is that crackpot legislation is going to make it through the senate and die there but apparently the GOP doesn't really care about that anyway. Their main goal is bottle neck up the judiciary. They really don't care if anything gets done.

    Of course, come 2016 the GOP is going to get a major shellacking should they continue down this road. But they laid in the bed with the fleas so now they are going to have to get up with them.


    I hope so (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 06:07:46 PM EST
    You're GOP outcomes lens usually works well.

    But then...there's this stuff: (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Anne on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 02:18:32 PM EST
    ...he has been under fire for attacking the First Amendment rights of the media and is widely seen as having given his friends and former clients on Wall Street a complete pass on the criminal conduct that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Holder's involvement with the war on whistleblowers, tracking and intimidating reporters, killing Americans without judicial review, and the abysmal failure to enforce the law against criminals in the financial services industry has left America a more divided and unjust society. Not a particularly good legacy to leave behind.


    There's more to the equation than drug laws and sentencing guidelines.  A lot more. Yes, we have too many people in prison, and too many of them are there because they ran afoul of antiquated laws.  But I expect the attorney general to have more respect for the Constitution than Holder has shown, and I expect him to do more than reducing the crimes of the financial industry to something that can be paid for with a big check and some creative "programs."  Too many people had their lives ruined by greedy banksters who were never held accountable.

    He gets a C- from me.  And if the investigation in Ferguson goes away now that Holder's on short time, that goes to a D.

    As with most public officials (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by KeysDan on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 03:55:34 PM EST
    their tenure in office has to be judged on overall performance.  This is a particularly  onerous proposition in the case of an Attorney General-a presidential appointee and member of the cabinet  who is the chief law enforcement officer of the US government.

    A shining accomplishment of Attorney General Holder was his, essentially, instant application of US v Windsor to protection under the law in words and action: Holder, in a speech on human rights said; "in every Courthouse, in every proceeding and in every place where a member of the DOJ stands on behalf of the US, they will strive to ensure that same sex marriages  receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite sex marriages under federal law. Just as in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the stakes in the current generation over same sex marriage rights could not be higher." Holder acted in the broad sense and in special cases such as Utah and Michigan.

    And, then it was the same Eric Holder who has been criticized for the DOJ's sparing prosecutions of Wall Street, including his "too big to jail" comment intended to convey the impact of a few firms on the national and world economy.  Not a shiny point here.

    Overall, it is only fair to assess Eric holder in the context of the performance of his predecessors--those who suffered similar institutional constraints in wielding authority.

    In that sense, he compares, in my view, favorably with those of recent Democratic Administrations--Clinton (janet Reno, who, along with her deputy, Eric Holder, was euchred or deceived into expanding the scope of the Whitewater Special Prosecutor, Ken Starr,  to deal with Linda Tripp's cunning), and Carter's good old boy, Griffin Bell.

    Of course, there is no value in attempting to assess against the likes of Republican AG's, such as Alberto Gonzales,  Michael Mukasey, or  John Ashcroft (Bush), or Reagan's Edwin Meese, the master of corruption disguised as incompetence.  And, then their is Nixon's AG, John Mitchell, who came to know justice both in and out.

    Rescheduling a drug (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 05:28:04 PM EST
    from US News-

    President Barack Obama said Thursday it's not his administration's job to reschedule marijuana, but supporters of rescinding the drug's federal classification as one of the most dangerous narcotics say the president is confused and should act immediately.

    "What is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," Obama told Jake Tapper of CNN. "It's not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws under - undergirding those determinations."

    Marijuana advocates point to the U.S. Code and say that's not entirely accurate.

    The 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which created five tiers of restricted drugs, says the attorney general may "remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule."

    If a substance is banned by international treaties - as marijuana is - the law grants the attorney general the power to place it "under the schedule he deems most appropriate."

    [READ: Kofi Annan Urges 'Rising Up' Against Drug Prohibition]

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., tells U.S. News it's "very clear" that the law "actually permits reclassification administratively."

    "I don't dispute that Congress could and should make the change, but it's also something the administration could do in a matter of days and I hope they will consider it," says Blumenauer, who is currently circulating a letter among colleagues asking Obama to do so. Eight members of Congress have signed the letter so far.

    Schedule I drugs are deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value.

    Blumenauer says it's clear marijuana doesn't belong in the highest schedule alongside heroin and LSD. He says it does have accepted medical value in 20 states and Washington, D.C., where its use for certain conditions is permitted, and that it's relatively safe compared to other drugs - notably cocaine and methamphetamine, which are ranked Schedule II.


    Darrell Issa press release (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 07:53:20 PM EST
    "Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House Members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives," said Chairman Issa. "Time and again, Eric Holder administered justice as the political activist he describes himself as instead of an unbiased law enforcement official.  By needlessly injecting politics into law enforcement, Attorney General Holder's legacy has eroded more confidence in our legal system than any Attorney General before him. Through strong arming reporters, practically ignoring high level wrongdoing, blocking his own agency Inspector General's access to information, and overseeing a Department that attempted to stonewall Congressional oversight with denials of what is now established fact, Attorney General Holder abused his office and failed to uphold the values of our Constitution.  While President Obama and the Senate should work expeditiously to find a replacement, time and care must be taken to ensure that our next Attorney General recognizes and does not repeat Mr. Holder's mistakes."

    If you can read that (5.00 / 3) (#18)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 07:55:56 PM EST
    all the way through without laughing out loud you are a better man that I am.

    I can't read it all the way thru at all. (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by desertswine on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 10:50:11 PM EST
    In honor of Holder's scatalogical (none / 0) (#7)
    by fishcamp on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 02:54:17 PM EST
    resignation this afternoon the  thunder, lightning, and rain have arrived.  Yep here come the cats speeding around the corner to escape the tannasgeach (spirits) from the sky.  Is it a wee bit early for a nip of the grape?   Nae.

    Scatalogical? (none / 0) (#19)
    by Peter G on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 08:13:28 PM EST
    I don't get it.  What do you mean by that, fishcamp?

    To clarify my question for FC (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Peter G on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 08:53:11 PM EST
    I know what the word means.  I am asking how it applies, from fc's perspective.

    Yes (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by squeaky on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 09:23:19 PM EST
    I did not get it either.. wrote it off as poetic inspiration.

    Or (none / 0) (#22)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Sep 25, 2014 at 09:45:45 PM EST
    a Scottish thing

    I wrote it off (none / 0) (#24)
    by ragebot on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 01:25:11 AM EST
    to it not being a wee bit early for a nip of the grape.

    It represents to me (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by fishcamp on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 05:59:28 AM EST
    the two thousand guns he allowed to be released to Mexico in the failed let's follow the guns to catch the bad guys.  He refused to turn over the records of this event which shows arrogance.  Naturally he did well with many difficult situations but certainly could have cracked down more on the banking and Wall street problems that affected many of us.

    While I applaud Eric Holder's (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by fishcamp on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 07:42:56 AM EST
    continuation of efforts towards the fifty year old civil rights problems and his visit to Ferguson, Mo. which may not have the effect we have hoped for I now realize it was his "Americans are Cowards" speech that began my doubts.

    "There's glory for you!" (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 12:24:32 PM EST
    Well Not As Obscure as Humpty Dumpty (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by squeaky on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 12:28:27 PM EST
    More a euphemism (synonym) for Holder talking Sh!t...

    Peter,thank you for your kind reply. (none / 0) (#30)
    by fishcamp on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 02:52:56 PM EST
    Didn't mean to hurt any feelings (none / 0) (#32)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 04:50:10 PM EST
    Just having some fun with the big word and my favorite passage from "Through the Looking Glass." I hope you didn't take offense, fc.

    No offense taken at all Peter, (none / 0) (#33)
    by fishcamp on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 07:36:57 PM EST
    and I have never used that before but just felt like using it as your extraordinary story pointed out.  Probably none of us would have learned that about Humpty Dumpty had I not slipped into one of my berserk moods.  Thank you again for your kind thoughts.

    According to eitiher... (none / 0) (#29)
    by unitron on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 02:51:18 PM EST
    ...Clarence Page or Eugene Robinson (I've got the printed column around here somewhere), Fast and Furious was actually the third time BATF (or whatever it is these days) did that, with similar failure the first two times.

    Both of which occurred during the Bush administration.

    I wonder if they even informed him (Holder) before the fact.


    Here's a (none / 0) (#31)
    by jbindc on Fri Sep 26, 2014 at 03:00:04 PM EST