More High Broderism and the Judiciary
February 8, 2009, 7:01 pm
Filed under: Ian | Tags: ,

Following up on my last post, the L.A. Times advises President Obama to show his “bipartisanship” by following the same failed judicial policies of George W. Bush:

Obama should follow the advice of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and renominate three Bush nominees whose appointments have languished in the Senate but who have been highly rated by the ABA and received bipartisan support. Specter notes that there is a precedent: Bush renominated — and the Senate confirmed — one of Clinton’s unsuccessful nominees to a federal appeals court.

One of the three candidates mentioned by Specter, former Assistant Atty. Gen. Peter Keisler, would take the seat formerly occupied by Roberts on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Keisler was praised by the Justice Department’s inspector general for opposing the Bush administration’s politicization of hiring in the department. Renominating Keisler could signal the beginning of a long overdue truce in the judge wars.

Reading this, you’d think that Peter Keisler was some couragous official who, at the height of Monica Goodling Madness stood up for truth and justice and almighty centrism.  The truth, however, is that Keisler is one of the founding members of the Federalist Society, who even once sat on the FedSoc’s board of directors.  After helping found the nation’s leading organization of ultra-conservative lawyers, Keisler went on to a prestigious clerkship with then-Judge Robert Bork.

Yup, that Robert Bork.

Perhaps most damning, however, are the very serious abuse of power allegations which were raised against Peter Keisler while he worked in the Bush Justice Department:

According to the Washington Post, Keisler was one of a trio of Bush political appointees who ordered career attorneys to intentially weaken their $130 billion racketeering case against the tobacco industry:

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

“The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said,” Eubanks said. “And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public.”

Eubanks, who served for 22 years as a lawyer at Justice, said three political appointees were responsible for the last-minute shifts in the government’s tobacco case in June 2005: then-Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, then-Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and Keisler’s deputy at the time, Dan Meron.

News reports on the strategy changes at the time caused an uproar in Congress and sparked an inquiry by the Justice Department. Government witnesses said they had been asked to change testimony, and one expert withdrew from the case. Government lawyers also announced that they were scaling back a proposed penalty against the industry from $130 billion to $10 billion.

Because of Keisler, the tobacco industry saved $120 billion, not because their actions didn’t warrant a $130 billion damages award, but because Peter Keisler and his fellow political appointees unilaterally decided to weaken DOJ’s case against the industry.  Now that’s bipartiasanship we can believe in!

Asking President Obama to renominate Peter Keisler to the D.C. Circuit is a bit like asking him to choose Dick Cheney as his running mate.  Shame on the L.A. Times for publishing such a poorly researched editorial.


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