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U.S. Attorneys quit; senator blames Bush

By Carolyn E. Price     Jan 17, 2007 in Politics
Alleged political pressure pushing federal prosecutors out of their jobs.
Kevin Ryan, chief federal prosecutor for California's Northern District, and Carol Lam, who headed it's Southern District, both announced they would be leaving. These two join another nine top federal prosecutors who have resigned in recent months.
The resignations seem to stem from an obscure provision in the Patriots Act that allows the US Attorney General to appoint federal prosecutors without holding a Senate confirmation.
As would be expected, a California Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, has complained on the floor of the Senate that the White House is using the Patriots Act as a roundabout way to get rid of "liberal" prosecutors and replace them with Republican ones.
"The Bush administration is pushing out U.S. attorneys from across the country under the cloak of secrecy and then appointing indefinite replacements," Feinstein said.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied the claim, saying administration officials "in no way politicize these decisions."
Mr. Ryan was appointed to his job in 2002 replacing now-FBI director Robert Meuller. During his time in the prosecutor's office, Mr. Ryan oversaw high profile prosecutions on stock options fraud and steriod abuse in sports. Criticism of his tenure has been non-political and is focused more on how he administered the office. A Justice Department audit questioned his management style and revealed that staff morale was low.
Ms Lam was also appointed in 2002. During her time in the prosecutor's office she made prosecutions on political corruption and health care fraud a priority and did not make smuggling and gun cases a very high priority. She oversaw the government's case against Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the former Republican congressman who pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes, and her office won corruption convictions of two San Diego city councilmen.
The defense community's take on her leaving office: "She has shown a certain tunnel vision in her prosecutions and has exercised an appalling lack of discretion in terms of the individuals she has targeted for prosecution and the classes of crimes that she has chosen to direct her resources at," said criminal defense attorney Geoffrey C. Morrison, who represented a defendant in the City Hall corruption case prosecuted by Lam's office. Having somebody with a more broad-minded approach and a greater sense of fairness and justice will do the legal community a tremendous justice," he said.
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