Tag Archives: U.S. Department of Justice

Invoking “Nuremberg”—Calling “Nazi,” Really—Too Flippantly in Chicago

During Chicago’s recent mayoral campaign, the Chicago Tribune published an article on the career of candidate Lori Lightfoot, a lawyer.

The article recounted, among other details, an incident when Lightfoot, serving in 1999 as an Assistant United States Attorney, allegedly misled a federal judge.  This resulted in her later reprimand by another federal judge, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner.

In her defense, Lightfoot explained that the incident occurred when she was “a junior lawyer following the advice of people who were much more experienced than me [sic],” and that a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry had determined that she had not “engaged in professional misconduct or exercised poor judgment.”

In response to the Tribune’s article, Scott Cisek, a senior aide to Lightfoot’s opponent Toni Preckwinkle, posted on Facebook a photograph of nine former Nazis sitting in the dock as defendants before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg during 1945-46.  The photo had a top caption ” ‘JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS’ ” and, at bottom, “HISTORICALLY THAT EXCUSE HASN’T WORKED OUT SO WELL.”

Cisek soon deleted his post and apologized.

Preckwinkle fired Cisek from her campaign.

Lightfoot, in the end, defeated Preckwinkle.

The enormous crimes of true Nazis, as proven and adjudicated in the Nuremberg trials, are matters to study, learn, and teach, with accuracy and a sense of proportion.

Jackson List: The Federal Prosecutor (1940)

On this date in 1940, Robert H. Jackson—age forty-eight, three months into his service as Attorney General of the United States—gave one of his most important, famous, enduring speeches:  The Federal Prosecutor.  He spoke on that Monday to the chief federal prosecutors of his day, the U.S. Attorneys then serving in each Federal Judicial District across the country.  They were assembled in the Great Hall at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., for the Second Annual Conference of U.S. Attorneys.

Attorney General Jackson had moved up to that position from having been Solicitor General of the U.S., then DOJ’s number two position.  As a new AG in 1940, he was leading a Department that had been misdirected and, as a result, badly demoralized.  This speech was part of Jackson’s work to clean up DOJ.  The speech offered his vision of proper, ethical conduct by federal prosecutors.  It was, you will note, the antithesis of an April Fool’s Day message.

Jackson’s speech is quoted often.  I recall first reading of it in Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in Morrison v. Olson (1988), which quotes from it liberally, and then getting and reading the whole Jackson speech to get a better understanding of it in full, in context.  I have read it many times since then—it was, for example, handed out as assigned reading to many attorneys by a senior DOJ official when I worked in there in the 1990s, and I completed the assignment.  I have heard or read most Attorneys General, Deputy Attorneys General, and other senior DOJ officials, including recently, quote from Jackson’s speech in their own speeches, other public remarks, and written work.

Attorney General Jackson’s speech bears rereading in full.

Jackson’s speech then bears what he hoped in 1940 that it would accomplish:  absorption and implementation by every “gentleman,” and today also every gentlewoman, who wields federal prosecutorial power.

 

*              *              *

 The Federal Prosecutor

By Robert H. Jackson

Attorney General of the United States

April 1, 1940

            It would probably be within the range of that exaggeration permitted in Washington to say that assembled in this room is one of the most powerful peace-time forces known to our country.  The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America.  His discretion is tremendous.  He can have citizens investigated and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations.  Or the prosecutor may choose a more subtle course and simply have a citizen’s friends interviewed.  The prosecutor can order arrests, present cases to the grand jury in secret session, and on the basis of his one-sided presentation of the facts, can cause the citizen to be indicted and held for trial.  He may dismiss the case before trial, in which case the defense never has a chance to be heard.  Or he may go on with a public trial.  If he obtains a conviction, the prosecutor can still make recommendations as to sentence, as to whether the prisoner should get probation or a suspended sentence, and after he is put away, as to whether he is a fit subject for parole.  While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.

These powers have been granted to our law-enforcement agencies because it seems necessary that such a power to prosecute be lodged somewhere.  This authority has been granted by people who really wanted the right thing done—wanted crime eliminated—but also wanted the best in our American traditions preserved.

Because of this immense power to strike at citizens, not with mere individual strength, but with all the force of government itself, the post of Federal District Attorney from the very beginning has been safeguard by presidential appointment, requiring confirmation of the Senate of the United States.  You are thus required to win an expression of confidence in your character by both the legislative and the executive branches of the government before assuming the responsibilities of a federal prosecutor.

Your responsibility in your several districts for law enforcement and for its methods cannot be wholly surrendered to Washington, and ought not to be assumed by a centralized Department of Justice.  It is an unusual and rare instance in which the local District Attorney should be superseded in the handling of litigation, except where he requests help of Washington.  It is also clear that with his knowledge of local sentiment and opinion, his contact with and intimate knowledge of the views of the court, and his acquaintance with the feelings of the group from which jurors are drawn, it is an unusual case in which his judgment should be overruled.

Experience, however, has demonstrated that some measure of centralized control is necessary.  In the absence of it different district attorneys were striving for different interpretations or applications of an Act, or were pursuing different conceptions of policy.  Also, to put it mildly, there were differences in the degree of diligence and zeal in different districts.  To promote uniformity of policy and action, to establish some standards of performance, and to make available specialized help, some degree of centralized administration was found necessary.

Our problem, of course, is to balance these opposing considerations.  I desire to avoid any lessening of the prestige and influence of the district attorneys in their districts.  At the same time we must proceed in all districts with that uniformity of policy which is necessary to the prestige of federal law.

Nothing better can come out of this meeting of law enforcement officers than a rededication to the spirit of fair play and decency that should animate the federal prosecutor.  Your positions are of such independence and importance that while you are being diligent, strict, and vigorous in law enforcement you can also afford to be just.  Although the government technically loses its case, it has really won if justice has been done.  The lawyer in public office is justified in seeking to leave behind him a good record.  But he must remember that his most alert and severe, but just, judges will be the members of his own profession, and that lawyers rest their good opinion of each other not merely on results accomplished but on the quality of the performance.  Reputation has been called “the shadow cast by one’s daily life.”  Any prosecutor who risks his day-to-day professional name for fair dealing to build up statistics of success has a perverted sense of practical values, as well as defects of character.  Whether one seeks promotion to a judgeship, as many prosecutors rightly do, or whether he returns to private practice, he can have no better asset than to have his profession recognize that his attitude toward those who feel his power has been dispassionate, reasonable and just.

The federal prosecutor has now been prohibited from engaging in political activities.  I am convinced that a good-faith acceptance of the spirit and letter of that doctrine will relieve many district attorneys from the embarrassment of what have heretofore been regarded as legitimate expectations of political service.  There can also be no doubt that to be closely identified with the intrigue, the money raising, and the machinery of a particular party or faction may present a prosecuting officer with embarrassing alignments and associations.  I think the Hatch Act should be utilized by federal prosecutors as a protection against demands on their time and their prestige to participate in the operation of the machinery of practical politics.

There is a most important reason why the prosecutor should have, as nearly as possible, a detached and impartial view of all groups in his community.  Law enforcement is not automatic.  It isn’t blind.  One of the greatest difficulties of the position of prosecutor is that he must pick his cases, because no prosecutor can even investigate all of the cases in which he receives complaints.  If the Department of Justice were to make even a pretense of reaching every probable violation of federal law, ten times its present staff would be inadequate.  We know that no local police force can strictly enforce the traffic laws, or it would arrest half the driving population on any given morning.  What every prosecutor is practically required to do it to select the cases for prosecution and to select those in which the offense is the most flagrant, the public harm the greatest, and the proof the most certain.

If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants.  Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor:  that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.  With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone.  In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.  It is in this realm—in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies.  It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself.

In times of fear or hysteria political, racial, religious, social, and economic groups, often from the best of motives, cry for the scalps of individuals or groups because they do not like their views.  Particularly do we need to be dispassionate and courageous in those cases which deal with so-called “subversive activities.”  They are dangerous to civil liberty because the prosecutor has no definite standards to determine what constitutes a “subversive activity,” such as we have for murder or larceny.  Activities which seem benevolent and helpful to wage earners, persons on relief, or those who are disadvantaged in the struggle for existence may be regarded as “subversive” by those whose property interests might be burdened or affected thereby.  Those who are in office are apt to regard as “subversive” the activities of any of those who would bring about a change of administration.  Some of our soundest constitutional doctrines were once punished as subversive.  We must not forget that it was not so long ago that both the term “Republican” and the term “Democrat” were epithets with sinister meaning to denote persons of radical tendencies that were “subversive” of the order of things then dominant.

In the enforcement of laws which protect our national integrity and existence, we should prosecute any and every act of violation, but only overt acts, not the expression of opinion, or activities such as the holding of meetings, petitioning of Congress, or dissemination of news or opinions.  Only by extreme care can we protect the spirit as well as the letter of our civil liberties, and to do so is a responsibility of the federal prosecutor.

Another delicate task is to distinguish between the federal and the local in law-enforcement activities.  We must bear in mind that we are concerned only with the prosecution of acts which the Congress has made federal offenses.  Those acts we should prosecute regardless of local sentiment, regardless of whether it exposes lax local enforcement, regardless of whether it makes or breaks local politicians.

But outside of federal law each locality has the right under our system of government to fix its own standards of law enforcement and of morals.  And the moral climate of the United States is as varied as its physical climate.  For example, some states legalize and permit gambling, some states prohibit it legislatively and protect it administratively, and some try to prohibit it entirely.  The same variation of attitudes towards other law-enforcement problems exists.  The federal government could not enforce one kind of law in one place and another kind elsewhere.  It could hardly adopt strict standards for loose states or loose standards for strict states without doing violence to local sentiment.  In spite of the temptation to divert our power to local conditions where they have become offensive to our sense of decency, the only long-term policy that will save federal justice from being discredited by entanglements with local politics is that it confine itself to strict and impartial enforcement of federal law, letting the chips fall in the community where they may.  Just as there should be no permitting of local considerations to stop federal enforcement, so there should be no striving to enlarge our power over local affairs and no use of federal prosecutions to exert an indirect influence that would be unlawful if exerted directly.

The qualities of a good prosecutor are as elusive and as impossible to define as those which mark a gentleman.  And those who need to be told would not understand it anyway.  A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

William P. Barr & Robert S. Mueller, Working Together in the Department of Justice, 1989-1993

(Also on Twitter–)

1/ Short thread: William P. #Barr has a history of working closely with Robert #Mueller in @TheJusticeDept. I think that their #DOJ association is a good basis to presume that Barr thinks highly of Mueller as a law enforcement professional & as a person.

2/ In the #Bush41 administration, beginning in 1989, Barr & Mueller worked under AG Dick #Thornburgh. Mueller was Thornburgh’s principal aide on criminal matters. Barr was Assistant AG heading the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

3/ In 1990, the Deputy Attorney General (Donald B. Ayer) resigned. President Bush appointed Barr to succeed Ayer as DAG.

4/ In that same time period, Asst. AG Edward S.G. Dennis, head of the Criminal Division, also resigned.

5/ President Bush appointed Mueller to succeed Dennis as AAG heading the Criminal Division.

6/ When AG Thornburgh resigned in 1991 to run for the U.S. Senate, Barr became Acting AG. President Bush soon appointed Barr to succeed Thornburgh as AG.

7/ AG Barr & AAG Mueller served together in DOJ until the Bush administration concluded in January 1993.

Jackson List: Public Life & the Pursuit of Good Information (Thanksgiving 1937)

On the evening of Wednesday, November 24, 1937, United States Assistant Attorney General Robert H. Jackson, then heading the Antitrust Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, spoke in Washington at a private gathering of young, liberal Members of Congress.  The group included Senator Sherman Minton (D.-IN), Representative Knute Hill (D.-WA), and others.

AAG Jackson spoke to these Senators and Representatives at length and powerfully.  Jackson had, by then, become a national figure.  He was a leading voice of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Its policies had led the U.S. economy to optimism and recovery following the worst of the Great Depression.  President Roosevelt had been reelected overwhelmingly—he won 46 of 48 States—just one year earlier.  But now the Administration, including Jackson, was contending with mixed economic conditions.  There were signs of a renewed downturn and, as a result, some public discontent.

Robert Jackson, in this speech—which it seems that he made from notes and papers that, alas, he did not preserve—criticized some businesses for thwarting further economic recovery.  Jackson recited statistics on recent business behavior.  He discussed manufacturers’ recent price increases, which had produced high profits for companies but not led them to raise their workers’ wages.  He showed the Members a chart depicting rises in prices and industrial profits.

*          *          *

The next day, Thursday, November 25, 1937, was Thanksgiving Day.  It seems that Robert Jackson and his wife Irene spent the holiday, with their daughter Mary (a senior at National Cathedral School for Girls) and maybe also with their son Bill (a Yale College freshman), at their home in Washington.

On that Thanksgiving morning, elsewhere in Washington, one of the young Congressmen who had heard Jackson speak the previous evening dictated this letter (which then got typed up, signed, and delivered to Jackson’s DOJ office, probably the next day)—

My dear Bob:

This Thanksgiving morning, before I tie into the things which are ahead for the day, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed and profited by your speech last night.

It was certainly an inspiration to anyone feeling his way through the maze of things as they are today.  It was informative from first to last, and the best kind of a picture I have ever seen drawn of our problems and complexities in a brief space of time.

I feel that if closer relations existed between men like you and the elected representatives of the people, we should all be a lot better off.

 With all good wishes, I am,

                                                Sincerely yours

                                                /s/ Lyndon B. Johnson

*          *          *

During the next week, Representative Johnson (D.-TX), age 29, elected to Congress in a special election the previous April, continued to think about Assistant Attorney General Jackson’s November 24 speech.  Jackson apparently did not respond promptly to Johnson’s November 25 letter.  So on Wednesday, November 30, Johnson dictated and sent a second letter to Jackson:

My dear Mr. Jackson:

The more I think of your excellent address the other evening, the more I appreciate what a wealth of material and research was in it.

I wonder if you would be so kind as to steer me a little in my efforts to educate myself more fully in the lines which you followed out.  Could you, for instance, tell me where it would be possible for me to obtain the full information concerning the increase in prices of products in the major manufacturing fields during the past few years, in their relation to increases in wages and in profits?  I was most interested in that, and related phases, of your discourse.

With all good wishes, I am,

Sincerely yours

                                 /s/ Lyndon B. Johnson

Representative Johnson—LBJ, if I may, although the fact that 1937’s Johnson would become our “LBJ” would not have been apparent then—was not alone in being interested.  Two days later, Representative Hill also wrote to Jackson:

My dear Jackson:

I was very much impressed with your talk before the Liberal bloc last Wednesday night, and particularly by the chart you presented, which showed the contrast [sic?] between the rise in prices and the rise in profits in industries.

You may recall that I asked you if it would be possible to secure a copy of this chart, which you intended to have reprinted.  I sincerely hope that this will be possible, as I am anxious to study the correlation in more detail.

                                    Sincerely yours

                                    /s/ Knute Hill

*          *          *

At the Department of Justice, Jackson’s staff moved to get him to answer the Congressmen’s queries.  Someone put a printed pink slip, reading “SPECIAL,” on Johnson’s second letter.  Jackson’s secretary Grace Stewart added a typed note:  “Is the information available?  Senator Minton also inquired.”

In mid-December, Jackson responded by dictating letters that were typed and sent back to the Congressmen.  His letter to Representative Hill, age 61 and just reelected to his third term in the House, was direct:

My dear Mr. Hill:

I have not had a chance to get the figures which I used the other night completed with sufficient accuracy so they would be suitable for being publicly used.  I understand that [Roosevelt economic adviser] Leon Henderson has some studies which are dependable, and I would suggest that you rely on his for the present.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Robert H. Jackson

To Johnson, Jackson sent basically the same letter, calling his “figures … hastily assembled and pretty rough for public use.”

And it seems that Jackson responded to Senator Minton—who a dozen years hence would become his U.S. Supreme Court colleague—by telephone.

*          *          *

As Thanksgiving Day dawns tomorrow, I hope that you wake up thinking of important topics and great people, and that you can make contact with them and get good responses.

I hope that you will “tie into” many good things throughout the day and always.

I hope that your representatives in government pursue good information diligently.

And I thank you for your interest in the Jackson List.

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: DOJ Antitrust Division Jackson-Nash Address, Sept. 20, 2018

Earlier this year, the Antitrust Division in the United States Department of Justice established the Jackson-Nash Address.

According to Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, the goal of this lecture series is “to recognize the contributions of former Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson and Nobel Laureate economist John Nash, and to honor the speaker, recognizing and celebrating the role of economics in the mission of the [Antitrust] Division.”

Robert H. Jackson headed the Antitrust Division during 1937.  As the Division explained when it announced this new lecture series, Jackson’s leadership set the stage for the expanded role of economics in antitrust, replacing vague legal standards with the “protection of competition” as the goal of antitrust law.  And Dr. John Nash’s research provides Antitrust Division economists with analytic tools necessary to protect competition.  In particular, Division economists commonly rely on Nash’s strategic theory of games and his axiomatic bargaining model to guide investigations and to help evaluate the effects of mergers, monopolization, and collusion.

On February 28, 2018, Dr. Alvin E. Roth, the McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University, delivered the inaugural Jackson-Nash lecture.  Professor Roth is the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.

*          *          *

I am pleased to announce here that the second Jackson-Nash program, open to the public, will occur on Thursday, September 20, 2018, at 3:00 p.m. in the Great Hall at the U.S. Department of Justice, The Robert F. Kennedy Building, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.  The program will consist of:

  • Introductory remarks by Department of Justice leadership; 
  • my historical lecture, Competition: Robert H. Jackson as Assistant Attorney General—Antitrust (January 21, 1937–March 5, 1938); and
  • an address by Dr. George A. Akerlof, University Professor at Georgetown University.  Dr. Akerlof is the 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for analyses of markets with asymmetric information (including his well-known article “The Market for ‘Lemons’: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism” (1970).)

A reception in the Great Hall will follow the program.

Because space is limited, anyone who is interested to attend should RSVP to ATR.AAGRSVP@USDOJ.GOVGuests should enter Main Justice at the 10th Street and Constitution Avenue entrance.

*          *          *

And some Jackson history—

Robert H. Jackson became Assistant Attorney General heading the Antitrust Division at the start of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second term in office.  Jackson already was an Assistant Attorney General of the United States—Roosevelt had nominated him to that office and the Senate had confirmed him a year earlier, and throughout 1936 AAG Jackson headed DOJ’s Tax Division.  In January 1937, U.S. Attorney General Homer S. Cummings announced a series of personnel moves in the Department, including Jackson’s transfer to head the Antitrust Division.  (Its leader was leaving government to become a law professor.)

By January 1937, Jackson had become a nationally prominent young New Dealer.  His transfer within DOJ from Tax to Antitrust thus was news.  And that triggered a wave of congratulatory messages to him.

One telegram that was particularly meaningful to Jackson came from a friend who was, at that time, a Wall Street lawyer.  “Let me congratulate you on your opportunity for doing a fine constructive job which I know you will do,” he wrote to Jackson.  “Looking forward to seeing you.”

In that busy time, Robert Jackson happened to see the friend in person before Jackson got around to acknowledging in writing the good wishes.  But within a few weeks, Jackson wrote back to thank the friend.

They were, in their life and professional paths, fellow western New Yorkers who each had practiced law in Buffalo.  Jackson’s friend also had served in the World War—with extraordinary valor, resulting in him receiving a number of the highest U.S. military awards and becoming a national hero.

After the War, the friend served in the federal government, in Buffalo and then in Washington.  He did this ahead of Jackson—the friend was almost ten years older, and his Republican Party controlled the White House throughout the 1920s, and, yes, he was famous long before most noticed Jackson.

Jackson wrote back to his friend on February 3, 1937:

My dear Colonel Donovan, 

I am just getting to answer congratulatory messages and, in spite of the fact that a meeting with you has intervened, I want to express appreciation of your telegram. 

I take the job with no delusion about its magnitude or its difficulty at this time.  Not the least of the difficulties is that of succeeding other western New York lawyers who have handled the office with such distinction. 

With best regards and good wishes, I am 

            Sincerely yours, 

            /s/ [Robert H. Jackson]

William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan, as principal assistant to U.S. Attorney General John G. Sargent, had headed the Antitrust Division, among other responsibilities, from 1925 until 1929.  Donovan  later returned to government service under President Roosevelt, including, as General Donovan, to found and run the wartime Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.).

And in May 1945, Justice Jackson, after President Truman appointed him to be the U.S. chief of counsel in the international war crimes prosecutions of surviving Nazi German leaders, recruited his old friend General Donovan to be his deputy.

During their months together in that work, which became the Nuremberg trial beginning in late 1945, Jackson and Donovan discussed many things.  One topic that was at least in the background, including as they planned and debated such things as “the Economics case” against Nazi defendants and the merits of basing criminal prosecution on documentary evidence, was their shared, formative experience of heading DOJ’s Antitrust Division.

If you are interested to walk in such footsteps, and in the kind of high ideas that motivate DOJ’s best work, please join us in the Great Hall on September 20th.

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Firing a Cabinet Officer Face-to-Face (1945)

In early 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted Robert H. Jackson, then the Solicitor General of the United States, to serve as U.S. Attorney General, a member of the President’s Cabinet.  President Roosevelt then appointed former U.S. circuit court judge Francis Biddle to succeed Jackson as Solicitor General.

Eighteen months later, Roosevelt appointed Jackson to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.  At that time, the President, at Jackson’s urging, promoted Biddle to succeed Jackson as Attorney General.

Attorney General Biddle served in Roosevelt’s Cabinet for the next four years—for all of the remainder of his presidency, and for nearly the entire period of U.S. involvement in World War II.

On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died suddenly.  Harry S. Truman became the 33rd president of the U.S.  Within two weeks, the new president recruited Justice Jackson to serve as U.S. chief of counsel for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals—the appointment that became Jackson’s position as U.S. chief prosecutor at Nuremberg.

President Truman also decided to appoint his own Cabinet officers.  In the case of Attorney General Biddle, however, Truman chose not to communicate his wishes directly.  The President had his press secretary, Stephen Early, telephone Biddle on May 16, 1945, to request his resignation.

Attorney General Biddle did not appreciate the President’s effort to fire him by emissary.  So after speaking to Early, Biddle called the White House and requested a meeting with President Truman.

They met later that morning.  As the story soon emerged in the press, Biddle told Truman that he had, immediately after Roosevelt’s death, submitted his letter of resignation for the President’s acceptance if that was his preference.  Biddle added that he quite appreciated that a president would want to have his own friends, people with whom the president was comfortable—and Biddle had reason to think that this was not Truman’s view of him—in his Cabinet.

“But,” Biddle added, “the relation between the President and his Cabinet is such that if you want to accept my resignation, it seems to me that you should tell me so yourself, not detail it to a secretary.”

President Truman, reportedly embarrassed, agreed.  He told Biddle, to his face, that he was accepting his resignation.

According to Biddle’s later memoir, the President “looked relieved; and I got up, walked over to him, and touched his shoulder.  ‘You see,’ I said, ‘it’s not so hard.’”

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

A Professional Responsibility Exam Question?

Don (“D”) serves in the District of Columbia as Counsel to the President of the United States.  On January 26, Sally (“S”), the senior federal law enforcement official, contacted D and requested a meeting.  He agreed and they met privately.

In the meeting, S explained to D that:

  • a senior adviser to the President has misled the Vice President of the U.S., and perhaps other government officials as well, about the substance of the adviser’s private communications with a foreign government official;
  • the foreign government is aware of this misleading through its public and private sources of information; and
  • this situation makes the senior adviser extremely vulnerable to influence by the foreign government.

In follow up meetings, S showed D the substantive information underlying her concerns.  D became convinced that this was a serious situation that the President needed to address, probably by dismissing the senior adviser.

During the next few weeks, D discussed this situation a number of times with the President and other officials.  (We do not know what the President responded, including whether he directed D to take any subsequent action.)

On February 17, D arranged for a local reporter to learn that, back in January, S had warned the White House through D that the senior adviser had misled the Vice President and perhaps others, and that this made him subject to influence by the foreign government.  The next day, the reporter’s newspaper published this information.  Public outcry ensued, leading the President to dismiss the senior adviser.

Assume that the foregoing comes to light, and that appropriate authorities are now working to determine if D should be subjected to professional discipline for his conduct.

The question:  Please discuss whether D should be disciplined under D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6.  Please include assessments based on various assumptions, which you should state explicitly, about what the President decided, ordered, or authorized at various times, including with regard to the D-arranged transmission of information to the reporter.

Extra credit:  If times permits, please also discuss whether, on any set of assumed facts, D and/or whoever transmitted the information to the reporter deserves recognition and praise as a patriot.

 

Respecting Respectful Janet Reno (1938-2016)

The New York Times Magazine, in its December 25th annual selection of “The Lives They Lived,” highlighted dozens of this year’s departed.

Among all the greats remembered there, only one, Janet Reno, was the subject of two reports.

One showed her rough-hewn Florida bedroom, photographed shortly after her death on the eve of Election Day last month.

The other remembered her during her 2002 near-miss campaign for Governor of Florida, two years after she had finished serving for nearly eight years as Attorney General of the United States.

In 1993 and 1994, as a Main Justice lawyer, I got to see AG Reno in action in a few big-crowd meetings.  She was decency personified, attentive to detail, and concerned only that she and everyone in the Department of Justice was doing their jobs well.

And she was charmingly not hip.  For example, at one of those meetings, held around the time when “dissing” became a word and a thing, the AG began to state her disagreement with someone’s point as follows:  “I don’t want to be ‘dis,’ but…”  (The room then froze for a second, and then exploded in laughter.  The AG, puzzled but knowing she’d said something funny, joined in.)

Janet Reno wasn’t “dis.”  She was exactly, authentically, entirely the opposite.  And her personal goodness moved and lifted people, including throughout the Department of Justice—she led the excellent people of federal law enforcement to do better, including in some hard passages, than they would have without her to follow.

Public life, in Florida and nationally, was better for it.

 

Jackson List: An Invitation to Join in Thanksgiving (1941)

In war-besieged London in September 1940, Harold Laski, a professor at the London School of Economics and a leading Socialist party official, thinker, and writer, penned a letter to Robert H. Jackson, Attorney General of the United States.  Laski knew Jackson through their mutual friend, U.S. Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter.  Laski wrote Jackson to introduce another friend, Professor Hersch Lauterpacht of the University of Cambridge:

15.ix.40

My dear Jackson,

I should like to introduce to you my

friend Professor H. Lauterpacht, the Whewell

Professor of International Law at Cambridge.

You well know of his outstanding work in

his own field.  I should like only to add

that there are few people for whom I care so

much.

I think we stand up well to our siege; and

we have complete confidence in the outcome.

Few things will help so much as a third term [for President Franklin D. Roosevelt].

                                    Yours very sincerely,

                                    Harold J. Laski

The Hon. Robert Jackson.

     Attorney-General’s Office.

          Washington. D.C.

Laski wrote his letter not to be mailed, but for Lauterpacht, who was spending Fall 1940 in the U.S., to use when he had an opportunity to introduce himself to Jackson.

That moment arrived at the end of the year.  On December 23rd, Lauterpacht, living in the Bronx, wrote to Jackson in Washington to request a meeting:

            Trinity College,

               Cambridge.

              [crossed out]

                                    5444 Arlington

                                                Avenue

                                    Riverdale on Hudson

                                         New York City

Dear Mr. Attorney-General,

I hope to be in Washington

between January 6-9, prior to my

departure for England.  If you

can spare the time, I should

very much appreciate an oppor-

tunity of calling on you

and paying my respects.

            I enclose a letter of introduction

from Professor Laski.

                                    Yours very truly,

                                    H. Lauterpacht

The Hon. Robert Jackson.

     Attorney-General’s Office.

          Washington. D.C.

Lauterpacht’s letter, with the enclosed vouching letter from Laski, worked.  Jackson wrote back promptly, telling Lauterpacht to contact Jackson’s secretary to schedule the meeting.

Robert Jackson and Hersch Lauterpacht met at the U.S. Department of Justice on January 8, 1941.  They discussed Nazi Germany’s bombing attacks on the United Kingdom, U.S. military assistance to the U.K., and domestic and international law issues.  And obviously they hit it off.

Over the next week, Lauterpacht stayed in downtown Washington and, at Jackson’s request, wrote him a thorough memorandum on international law issues.  It addressed, in twenty-one pages, what Jackson had described in their first meeting as “the philosophy, in international law, of the policy of aiding the [anti-Nazi U.S.] Allies by all means short of war.”  Lauterpacht sent the memorandum to Jackson on January 15th, and then they met the next day to discuss it.

Lauterpacht argued, then and later, that Nazi Germany’s military aggression, on the European continent and against the U.K., violated international law embodied in its own and in many nations’ treaty commitments.  These arguments fit with and advanced Jackson’s own legal thinking.  In the months ahead, Lauterpacht’s input contributed to some of Attorney General Jackson’s and then Justice Jackson’s—he joined the U.S. Supreme Court in July 1941—major public addresses attacking Nazi lawlessness.

And more than four years later, in circumstances that neither Jackson nor Lauterpacht could have envisioned when they first met in Washington, they worked together, in the U.K. and then in Nuremberg in the Allied-occupied former Germany, to hold Nazi leaders accountable for their illegal war-waging.

*          *          *

Justice Jackson and Professor Lauterpacht corresponded during the World War II years.  They also saw each other occasionally, when Lauterpacht was visiting the U.S.

One such occasion was November 19, 1941, seventy-five years ago, when Lauterpacht visited Justice Jackson at the Supreme Court.  Jackson asked Lauterpacht to stay over in Washington on that Wednesday night, and to join Jackson and his wife Irene the next day for Thanksgiving dinner at their home, Hickory Hill, in McLean, Virginia—“It will give Mrs. Jackson and me great pleasure if you will have dinner with us,” Jackson wrote when he communicated this invitation a few days beforehand, as he and Lauterpacht were finalizing their plans.

Alas, and to Lauterpacht’s regret, he could not accept this invitation.

He and Jackson did have later occasions to share meals, and to give thanks, including in Nuremberg.

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

RIP, David Margolis

Margolis

“Career federal prosecutor,” a phrase that appears in many discussions of crime, justice and law enforcement issues, is a hefty credential.  It refers to someone who was hired by the United States Department of Justice as a young or young-ish lawyer, who then, over many years, worked and was promoted up the line, assigned to and in time handling numerous, increasingly complicated, often controversial, investigations, trials, appeals, and other federal criminal law matters.

Career federal prosecutors are distinguished—descriptively, if in fact not much in their skills, honesty and dedication—from DOJ political appointees, who are appointed and selected by presidential election winners and their nominees, and who often have political party identities and stay in office only as long as their party’s president holds office.  (And “career” prosecutors are also distinguished from non-political appointees who serve as prosecutors for a while but then move on to other employment.)

David Margolis, who just died at age 76, was the quintessential career federal prosecutor.  He worked in the Department of Justice for more than 50 years.  He saw it all and did it all.  He worked closely with and was revered by hundreds, maybe thousands, of DOJ colleagues (I was once one) and others across law enforcement and other government agencies.  He worked well with political appointees from both parties.  They valued his law-smarts, his life-knowledge, and his justice-wisdom; his guidance and criticisms; his guff and his praise; his toughness and courage.  He helped all of them to stand up and perform their responsibilities, as he took the load, and sometimes the heat, of performing his own.

Margolis stories and lessons are and will be, and should be, many.  A personal one is his “death” (heart stoppage) twenty years ago in his DOJ office, and then the miracle of his fall to the floor restarting his heart—Jim McGee & Brian Duffy described that, and a lot of David’s work, in their 1996 book Main Justice.

More of David is captured in this 2011 profile in the Brown University (his alma mater) alumni magazine, and in this Washington Post profile one year ago.

And here are the statements issued today, at this sad moment, by Attorney General Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Yates.

David Margolis, a great guy in addition to being a skilled lawyer, handled big public responsibilities. He worked forward, from matter to matter, giving each his best, usually doing excellent work, maybe sometimes screwing up, staying honest and apolitical, and showing up the next day to give Justice everything he had.

I hope that public service, and especially federal prosecution, continues to see his likes.