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Eric Holder: Changes in Mandatory Minimum Charging

Attorney General Eric Holder will announce a sea change in policy at the Justice Department this morning in his speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco. I hope he gets a standing ovation.

“I have mandated a modification of the Justice Department’s charging policies so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences,”

Since we have had a do-nothing Congress on mandatory minimums since they were enacted in Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 under President Reagan --27 years -- Holder is going to effect change through prosecutorial discretion. Why?

[Mandatory minimum sentences] "breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. They have had a disabling effect on communities. And they are ultimately counterproductive."

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The Increasing Heat on Eric Holder

There are many predictable calls for Attorney General Eric Holder's resignation. Until the recent disclosure of mass and indiscriminate electronic surveillance of telecom records, most have been partisan attacks. There are signs that is changing.

Will Eric Holder resign? Matthew Cooper, writing in The Atlantic, has an interesting article today, What Happened to Eric Holder? It chronicles his career, past and current, and makes this observation:

Holder was never going to stay through both terms. (Reno is the only attorney general in the country's history to stay that long.) And they say he'll be gone when Susan Rice and Samantha Power get settled in with John Kerry and Chuck Hagel and after James Comey is confirmed as the new FBI Director.

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Holder Defends Aaron Swartz Prosecution

During today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Department of Justice Oversight, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the prosecution of Aaron Swartz. He said prosecutors offered him a three month sentence and later said they would seek six months. He said the charges carried a potential of 35 years in prison.

What about the overcharging? Any prosecutor can overcharge and then offer you a deal to what you should have been charged with in the first place. What kind of deal is that?

Holder said DOJ has examined the matter and determined the prosecutors acted appropriately. Their examination included talking to the prosecutors. Did they talk to defense counsel? [More...]

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Eric Holder Cleared in OIG Report on Fast and Furious

The Office of Inspector General released a 451 page report today on Fast and Furious. It specifically clears Attorney General Eric Holder of wrongdoing.

We determined that Attorney General Holder did not learn about Operation Fast and Furious until late January or early February 2011 and was not aware of allegations of “gun walking” in the investigation until February. We found no evidence that Department or ATF staff informed the Attorney General about Operation Wide Receiver or Operation Fast and Furious prior to 2011. We concluded that the Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff, the Acting Deputy Attorney General, and the leadership of the Criminal Division failed to alert the Attorney General to significant information about or flaws in those investigations.

Holder's public statement on the report is here.

Some others didn't fare so well. [More....]

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Eric Holder on Contempt Vote: I'm Getting Back to Work, Republicans Should Too

Update: Via Politico: Holder's hanging tough. He issued this statement (video here):
[The vote to hold him in contempt] "may make for good political theater in the minds of some, but it is - at base - both a crass effort and a grave disservice to the American people."

"Whatever the path that this matter will now follow, it will not distract me or the men and women of the Department of Justice from the important tasks that are our responsibility," Holder said. "A great deal of work for the American people remains to be done - I'm getting back to it. I suggest that those who orchestrated today's vote do the same."

The House has approved a civil contempt of Congress resolution against Holder. The vote was 258-95. Earlier, via Politico:

The House has voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, the latest fallout from the "Fast and Furious" scandal. The vote was 255-67, with 17 Democrats joining the majority Republicans in voting yes.
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Obama Asserts Executive Privilege: Holder Held in Contempt

Update: Holder was held in contempt. It's meaningless:

The contempt resolution will have little practical effect on Holder or the Obama administration. The Democratic-controlled Senate will not take action on a contempt resolution.
Here's part of Holder's statement calling Issa's action political "election-year tactic intended to distract attention": [More...]

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Holder Rips Disrespectul Republicans

I wrote yesterday that as I tuned in to the end of the Fast and Furious hearing yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder was castigating some Republican who had just questioned him, calling the Republican disrespectful.

Here's the text of Holder's comments in response to some of the questions. Holder isn't the only one who should be disgusted by these Republicans. Everyone should be. Good for Holder for showing some backbone and ripping into them: [More...]

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House Committee Issues "Fast and Furious" Subpoena to AG Holder

Here's the subpoena the House Oversight Committee issued to Attorney General Eric Holder over "Fast and Furious."

Purely Republican grandstanding. Holder is right to downplay it.

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House Comm. to Subpoena Holder Over "Fast and Furious"

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said today the committee will subpoena Eric Holder over the ATF's Fast and Furious program.

This is typical Republican grandstanding. If we're going to complain about Holder, let's discuss the targeting of medical marijuana businesses or the policy on targeted killings of U.S. citizens, not guns that ended up in Mexico.

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Oregon Sting Suspect's Lawyers Seek Muzzle on Eric Holder

The lawyers for Mohamed Mohamud, the 19 year-old accused of planning to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Oregon following a long FBI sting investigation, have filed a motion asking the court to order Attorney General Eric Holder to cease making prejudicial public comments about the case.

In defending the sting against allegations of entrapment, Holder has said:

"Those who characterize the FBI's activities in this case as 'entrapment' simply do not have their facts straight -- or do not have a full understanding of the law," Holder said to the group Muslim Advocates at its annual dinner.

Mohamud's lawyers point out Holder's comments violate the Code of Federal Regulations, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and their client's 5th and 6th Amendment rights. From the motion, available on PACER: [More...]

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AG Eric Holder: "I Am Not Tone Deaf"

CBS News interviews Eric Holder about criticism during his tenure as Attorney General and his decision to try the 9/11 Defendants in federal court.

"No, I'm not tone-deaf. But I understand what the nature of being Attorney General is. I don't have the same latitude that other politicians might have, to put my finger up to the wind and figure out what's going to be popular. So it's not tone deafness. It's a commitment to justice and a commitment to the law. It is not tone deafness," Holder said. "I think that is a criticism that is fundamentally unfair and political in nature," he added.

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AG Holder Expresses Commitment to New Crime Fighting Policy

Speaking in New Orleans this week, Attorney General Eric Holder said it's time to "turn the page" on our approach to crime and expressed commitment to re-entry programs.

...we can’t simply arrest our way out of the problem of violent crime. Of course, incarceration is necessary for public safety. But it’s only partially responsible for the declining crime rates we’ve seen. It’s not a sole, economically sustainable, solution.

Over the last few decades, state spending on corrections has risen faster than nearly any other budget item. Yet, at a cost of $60 billion a year, our prisons and jails do little to prepare prisoners to get jobs and “go straight” after they’re released. People who have been incarcerated are often barred from housing, shunned by potential employers and surrounded by others in similar circumstances. This is a recipe for high recidivism. And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years. It’s time for a new approach.

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Holder Supersedes Ashcroft Sentencing Directive

Via Sentencing Law and Policy, Attorney General Eric Holder has issued a new directive to prosecutors on federal sentencing. You can read it here.

Ashcroft's sentencing memo, "Department Policy Concerning Charging Criminal Offenses, Disposition of Charges, and Sentencings" directed prosecutors to charge the most serious provable offense. I posted it here back in 2003. Former Deputy AG James Comey's January 28, 2005 sentencing directive is here. Professor Berman says of today's Holder memo:

Distilled to its essence, it seems that instead of a general policy that federal prosecutors "must" charge and pursue the most serious offense and must advocate a within-guideline sentence, this new Holder memo now asserts that federal prosecutors "ordinarily should" charge and pursue the most serious offense and "should generally" continue to advocate a within-guideline sentence. In other words, in appears that this new Holder memo is a fairly subtle change in policy, but that subtle change may still prove to be very consequential in practice.

I think the memo is a welcome change. [More....]

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AG Eric Holder: No Decision Yet on 9/11 Trial Forum or Venue

Attorney General Eric Holder testified today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said no final decision has been made on where to try the 9/11 detainees. They have not ruled out New York and a decision is weeks away.

As to closing Guantanamo, Holder said it's still on the agenda but the plan cannot move forward until Congress approves funding to purchase Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois.

Here is Holder's opening statement. He also addressed the powder-cocaine disparity and confirmation lag for nominated U.S. Attorneys: [More...]

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Republicans Attack Holder Over Detainee Amicus Briefs

Don't Republicans have anything better to do? Now they are attacking Attorney General Eric Holder because he didn't disclose during his Senate confirmation hearings that he signed onto three Amicus briefs for Jose Padilla, the accused enemy combatant held for 3 1/2 years in a military brig, without access to counsel, before charges were filed.

“The briefs should have been disclosed as part of the confirmation process,” said Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman. “In preparing thousands of pages for submission, it was unfortunately and inadvertently missed. In any event, the attorney general has publicly discussed his positions on detention policy on many occasions, including at his confirmation hearing.”

The briefs challenged then-President Bush's authority to indefinitely detain enemy combatents. They were filed in the Jose Padilla case. Links to them below: [More...]

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