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Archive for the ‘Department of Injustice’ Category

Scott Horton puts names to the dysfunction in Justice

Posted by Charles II on January 11, 2013

David Margolis
(Photograph of David Margolis from Joe Palazzolo, Main Justice)

Ronald L. Rodgers (Photograph of Lt. Col. Ronald L. Rodgers from Dafna Linzner, ProPublica)

Everytime there’s a broken system, there are people inside it, breaking it. If they can be named, confronted, and (ideally) ejected, the system can be fixed. Scott Horton took a long step toward naming the dysfunction in DoJ:

The IG’s report focuses on the case of Clarence Aaron, a black athlete who played an indirect role in a minor drug transaction and who became the victim of hyperaggressive prosecution and sentencing. While handling the case, [Lt. Col. Ronald L.] Rodgers misrepresented the views of both the United States attorney who made a pardon recommendation and the judge who seconded it, resulting in the pardon’s being denied. Aaron continues to languish in federal prison.

In the report, the inspector general’s office also flagged manipulations of the pardons process by the DOJ’s senior career staffer, associate deputy attorney general David Margolis. A master political triangulator, Margolis is said by alumni of the pardons office to have intervened routinely to block pardons because he believed they would reflect poorly on the department’s prosecutions record. Margolis is also the man who stood by and allowed the politicization of the appointments and removal process that led to the U.S. attorneys scandal; who blocked efforts to obtain an internal review of the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman (a prosecution that sprang largely from Margolis’s own mistaken judgments); and who reversed recommendations by the DOJ’s professional-responsibility section to discipline the authors of the department’s torture memoranda. (emphasis added)

Injustice in the short run is all too common. But there can’t be injustice in the long run without someone to prevent fair case review. Now, at least, you have two names and two faces.

Posted in abuse of power, Department of Injustice, Don Siegelman | Comments Off on Scott Horton puts names to the dysfunction in Justice

Support Don Siegelman

Posted by Charles II on September 11, 2012

Andrew Gumbel, The Guardian:

The magazine of the American Trial Lawyers Association has described him as “America’s No 1 political prisoner”, and his well-connected friends and supporters include more than 100 former state attorneys general and former Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore and John Kerry.

The basic story is that a healthcare executive, who had served on a (non-paying) state hospital regulatory board for three administrations, was appointed to the board a fourth time by Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. That healthcare executive had donated to the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation which was seeking to promote a lottery initiative (to support education) that Siegelman supported (and was opposed by powerful interests represented by Jack Abramoff). Despite the fact that appointing contributors to positions is a normal political practice (and Siegelman had not received a dime), the courts–in the person of Dubya appointee Judge Mark Fuller— called this bribery.

You can sign a petition supporting Don Siegelman’s search for justice here. This is the message I included in my signature:

If someone as senior as Don Siegelman can be jailed on such flimsy charges and with the assent of figures including the Attorney General and the Supreme Court, then I can have no faith in the American justice system. Why should any of us serve on juries or otherwise support the system when it has become simply a tool of political power?

Our courts are deeply corrupt. Until they are reformed, until all of the political appointees are shaken out of the system and replaced by people with a passion to see justice done, this nation will continue to decline. And shame on Barack Obama for refusing to take a stand on this case and Eric Holder for standing on the wrong side.

The full megillah follows below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Department of Injustice, Karl Rove, Obama Administration, Supreme Court, The smear industry | Comments Off on Support Don Siegelman

Obama Admin. asserts right to impunity

Posted by Charles II on August 10, 2012

Tangerine Bolen, The Guardian (reprinted from The Daily Cloudt):

I am one of the lead plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit against the National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the president the power to hold any US citizen anywhere for as long as he wants, without charge or trial.

In a May hearing, Judge Katherine Forrest issued an injunction against it; this week, in a final hearing in New York City, US government lawyers asserted even more extreme powers – the right to disregard entirely the judge and the law.

In the earlier March hearing, US government lawyers had confirmed that, yes, the NDAA does give the president the power to lock up people like journalist Chris Hedges and peaceful activists like myself and other plaintiffs. Government attorneys stated on record that even war correspondents could be locked up indefinitely under the NDAA.

twice the government has refused to define what it means to be an “associated force”, and it claimed the right to refrain from offering any clear definition of this term, or clear boundaries of power under this law.

Obama’s attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA’s section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the US government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest’s injunction. In other words, they were telling a US federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama’s government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them.

I’m with Hedges et al. on this one. The powers claimed in the NDAA are so vague and sweeping that they cannot be considered law. If, as claimed by Bolen, the Administration is refusing to admit that it has to comply with a court order, then it is acting lawlessly.

Posted in abuse of power, Department of Injustice, impunity, terrorism | 1 Comment »

Yet another political show trial crashes and burns

Posted by Charles II on June 1, 2012

Michael Biesecker, HuffPo:

A jury’s refusal to convict John Edwards was less a redemption of the former White House hopeful than a rejection of the Justice Department’s boldest attempt to make an example of someone in the name of enforcing campaign finance laws.

“As noted by nearly every campaign finance lawyer who considered the matter, this was a lousy case,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director for the campaign finance watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “All the salacious details prosecutors offered up to prove that Edwards is, indeed, despicable, were not enough to persuade the jury to convict him.”

Several jurors said there just wasn’t enough evidence. On network talk shows Friday, even jurors who thought Edwards was guilty on at least some counts said the prosecution wasn’t able to prove it.

Being a scoundrel is not a crime. Sometimes one wishes it were, but not enough to waste a lot of money on it.

Posted in Democrats, Department of Injustice, John Edwards | 9 Comments »

Wise Words on John Edwards

Posted by Charles II on May 6, 2012

Scott Horton:

The Edwards prosecutors may well win their case, but not because any crime was involved. Rather, they’re likely to win because John Edwards is one of the most reviled politicians in the United States, and so a choice target. No doubt his affair, undertaken while his heroic wife was dying of cancer, makes him the definition of a cad, but while he may be morally unsuited for high office, that is not the question in this trial. If Edwards can be imprisoned for using campaign funds to try to cover up his flaws, then few politicians could fairly escape prison. The Justice Department appears instead to be engaged in statutory vandalism, and it is awarding itself exceptional power to intrude into the electoral process—a power that is ripe for abuse, as the Edwards case demonstrates.

One more partisan Bush U.S. state attorney is allowed to apply a wrecking ball to the legal system by one of the most cowardly Attorney Generals the USDoJ has even had. In support of which claim, two words: Don Siegelman.

Posted in Democrat-bashing, Department of Injustice, John Edwards, Republicans as cancer | 3 Comments »

My war on debt collectors

Posted by Charles II on December 24, 2011

This account is slightly fictionalized for privacy reasons, but is accurate in the major details.
I hate debt.

I am what the credit card industry calls a “deadbeat.” That is to say, I pay my credit cards every month, no exceptions. If I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it. They have gotten me for late fees exactly once over many, many years.

I don’t have a mortgage, and wouldn’t get one under present conditions. In a nation where employees are disposable and the idea of a “career” is an anachronism, it’s a mistake to put oneself at the mercy of employers. Put the money you save in the bank.

I don’t have much sympathy for people who run up credit cards, imagining that they’ll be rescued by the Rapture or whatever. Yes, on the other end of the spectrum are those who get into debt over medical bills; for them I have plenty of sympathy, but don’t see the solution as taking it out on creditors. People need reliable work at decent pay, and insurance against illness. People who end up in debt as a result of unemployment or medical expenses are simply doing what they have to in order to survive. People who end up in debt for (almost) any other reason are placing the yoke around their own necks.

Given my dislike of debt and the fact I don’t have any, it might surprise you that I am on the harassment list of a very large number of debt collectors–perhaps several dozen, though they engage me singly rather than as a horde. How it came about is a bit of a mystery.

My guess is that it has to do with how debt collectors go about finding their victims. Since genuine deadbeats generally make themselves scarce, debt collectors apparently go about finding the responsible party with all the finesse that Katherine Harris used in barring ineligible voters from the 2000 Florida election, which is to say, with none at all. Utwater, Atwater, Outwater, McMillan– it doesn’t matter. Call them all! Who cares if the first name is wrong or if it’s in another state or if you call six hundred times and they never answer?

Now there are some gaps in this theory. Utwater is not a common name, nor are any of the probable variants. So why would several dozen debt collectors pour hundreds of hours of effort into annoying someone from whom they won’t get any money? Meanwhile, the delinquent Atwater or Outwater or McMillan remains at large, probably running up even more debts in expectation of the Rapture.

Some mysteries will probably only be answered after our demise.

I have tried almost every means possible of getting rid of these people. I tried to talk with them, but the first experience cured me of that. The debt collector claimed to be searching for a person with my name at an address that would be in a park if it existed. On being told the correct address he was calling (something he might easily determined by looking at the phone book) the collector sent a claim for debt. The claim had no information about where or when or by whom or for what the debt had been incurred–just the amount. The original, eh, creditor was a shady outfit that ended up dancing with Eliot Spitzer, though I think it escaped judgement thanks to his personal indiscretion. I referred the matter to the State Attorney General of the debt collector’s state at which point the debt collector lost interest.

But the saga continued. Other debt collectors called, offering as evidence four digits of a Social Security number that were not mine. I copied the response to my state attorney general and the debt collector decided that perhaps discretion was the better part of valor.

More calls poured in, for Carlos Utwater, and Cameron Outwater, and Cinnamon Utwhistle. I gradually realized that answering the phone was not helpful. I got caller blocking, which allows one to prevent a particular number from calling, which definitely helped with the woman who used robocalling.

And debt collectors got more clever. They didn’t leave recorded messages. They blocked transmission of caller ID information, so that numbers came up as “Toll Free” or “Out of Area.” They spoofed their telephone number to make it seem as if the call were local.

And I got more clever. I started keeping a phone log. I learned to look up who was calling at sites like I read the law on debt collection. I started filing complaints with the FTC and writing cease communication letters.

As described by some of the references given below, we are in an era where debt collectors– with no evidence whatsoever– can go to a court and get judgment entered against you. Many times the “debt” they are trying to collect is from lists of uncollectable debt that are sold hand to hand for pennies on the hundred dollars.

Debt collectors can and do lie to claim that they called you, that they sent notice of debt owed to you, that they served process against you. They can and do call your neighbors and your employer. For some employers, notably those who require security clearance, unpaid debt can get you fired. And most important, they can do all of this even if they just invented the debt.

Yes, that’s right. You can be sent to debtor’s hell even if you don’t have any debt whatsoever.

I could probably end my little annoyance fairly easily. At some point, I may do so, since I, not the debt collectors, are in control of this. But I recognize that what is going on is not my battle, but as our battle to keep this country from further degradation. As someone with no debt whatsoever, I am the perfect person to expose the criminality of this industry. The whole business of debt collection is profitable increasingly because it uses extortion, blackmail, and fraud.

Fraudulent collection is often not directed against genuine debtors–they don’t have any money! Fraudulent collection is being deployed against people who do have money, and therefore don’t have any debt. Yes, they are coming for you, comfortable, secure Mr. “Government IS The Problem.” Thanks to decades of assault against consumer protection, the federal response has been weak. Most states are even worse. There have been a few crackdowns on companies that threaten to break your legs. But the industry continues to become more and more the province of outright criminals.

Citizens, to metaphorical arms.

The legal situation

1. Debt collection agencies are required under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to provide written notice of debt upon demand. Congress, of course, couldn’t just require them to send a certified, return receipt statement to begin with. The consumer has to demand it. And, unfortunately, penalties are relatively small.

2. FDCPA forbids “the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.” This has been amplified by the Truth in Caller ID Act, with a $10,000 per instance fine.

3. The most serious tool is perhaps in the hands of the state attorneys general. Many debt collectors are engaged in fraud. They buy lists of uncollectable debt for 25 cents on the hundred dollars. That uncollectable debt may very well be completely fictitious. So the incentives to try to squeeze people in the hope that someone will cave– someone elderly, someone whose English is poor, someone unfamiliar with his/her rights, someone who needs to keep their credit record clear to, say, keep a security clearance. All of these people are vulnerable to being defrauded.

4. The federal government could pursue systemic fraud through its powers to regulate interstate commerce. We have seen how vigorously they have pursued investment banks.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, even on TV. This is the result of personal research, and does not constitute legal advice.
Some articles on debt collection

Liz Pulliam Weston, MSN Money:

Lisa Burk isn’t Lisa Sterns, but Allied Interstate refused to believe her.

The Minneapolis collection agency repeatedly called Lisa and her husband, Michael, according to a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota attorney general, and demanded that the couple pay a debt owed by one Lisa Sterns. The couple, just as repeatedly, told the collector they didn’t know any Lisa Sterns and asked the company to stop calling.

Allied ignored the couple’s requests.

Because the old liabilities cost collectors as little as 25 cents for each $100 in face value, companies can make a profit if they can get debtors to repay even a tiny fraction. Along the way, some collectors realized they also could squeeze money from people who didn’t even owe it.

Some consumers pay because their finances are so disorganized they don’t realize the debt isn’t theirs. Others are coerced into paying by illegal threats of lawsuits or ruined credit.

Patricia Sabatini, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Ms. Hillebrand said one of the most serious problems involves people not finding out they’ve been sued for repayment until the case is over.

While many consumers don’t respond to lawsuits, Consumers Union found that in many cases they did not receive the required notice from debt collectors that a lawsuit was pending.

When consumers fail to appear in court, the debt collector wins a default judgment, which “frequently requires little more than the name, address and alleged balance of the consumer,” according to the report, produced in conjunction with the East Bay Community Law Center in California.

To keep up with an explosion of lawsuits they are filing, debt buyers employ “robo-signers” who sign affidavits attesting that they have reviewed and verified debtors’ records, when in fact they may have only looked at basic account information on a computer screen, according to the report.

“An increasing number of consumers are being hounded by debt collectors for unsubstantiated debt,” Consumers Union said.

Posted in corruption, credit cards, Department of Injustice, Eliot Spitzer, The Plunderbund | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

I didn’t want to say anything, but… (the Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador)

Posted by Charles II on October 13, 2011

Juan Cole is apparently not completely convinced that the alleged plot by Iranian Manssor Arbabsiar to hire a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador was for real:

I am frankly shocked that Eric Holder should have brought us this steaming crock, which is now being used to make policy at the highest levels. That a Mexican former drug runner being paid by the US taxpayers might have thought he could advance his career by playing mind games with a somewhat crazy Iranian expatriate is no surprise. That you could put fantastic schemes in Arbabsiar’s mind if you worked at it seems obvious. That anyone in the DOJ or the US foreign policy establishment would take all this seriously is not plausible. I conclude that they are being dishonest, and that this is Obama’s turn to wag the dog as he faces defeat at Romney’s well-manicured hands next year this time.

I was skeptical about this, as I am of any news that portrays Iran as a threat. Iran, because of its geographical position in between the Russian, Ottoman, and Babylonian empires (not to mention miscellaneous Romans, Macedonians, British etc.), tend to be cautious. To a fault. Yes, they did seize the American embassy 30 years ago. Yes, some of their politicians are nutty (though they’d blend in well at a GOP debate). But it’s very uncharacteristic of the Iranians to do anything likely to provoke a serious response, especially over relatively small stakes like an ambassador, especially when there’s such a high probability of being caught.

Now that Juan Cole has said it, I think the question ought to be on everyone’s lips: is this yet another example of our Justice Department entrapping marginal people into crimes they would never have contemplated without substantial coaxing?

Posted in Department of Injustice, Iran, Obama Administration, terrorism | 4 Comments »

Support the Fourth Amendment

Posted by Charles II on April 28, 2011

From Cornell Law:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Thomas Tamm, who acted to defend the Fourth Amendment, had his home invaded with agents with drawn weapons, had his phone tapped and his e-mail read, and was subjected to investigation for four years, at which time the government concluded that he had behaved entirely legally in telling the New York Times of criminal–i.e., illegal– wiretaps by the Bush Administration. The Holder Justice Department, rather than drop the harassment promptly and with an apology–and recompense– waited over a year and has issued neither an apology nor helped Tamm with his enormous legal bills.

Support the Fourth Amendment. Help Thomas Tamm:

[Edit, 5/2/11Thomas Tamm Legal Defense Fund
Bank of Georgetown
5236 44th Street
Washington, DC 20015

I understand that this account has been closed. I am seeking updated information].

Posted in BushCo malfeasance, Department of Injustice, heroes, NSA eavesdropping | 2 Comments »

1. Corruption in the National Guard and 2. Justice DeLayed

Posted by Charles II on November 15, 2010

The Washington Spectator is an itty bitty four page semi-monthly (Lou Dubose, editor) that you can get for $15.

It’s worth a lot more.

From their lead story about corruption in government contracting, by Shawn Martin and Lou Dubose (by subscription):

“It’s a closed society, run from inside,” said a National Guard source who has been involved with the Guard for more than 20 years. “It’s the rabbits watching the lettuce. [Whistleblower Thomas Ubl’s] suit cracked it open….That’s why I am talking. The only thing that has the potential to change this right now is the [qui tam] lawsuit. It’s money. It would sting them. It’s reporters looking at a corrupt system.”

Basically, contractors hire retiring National Guard officers involved in procurement at extraordinary salaries, as well as their family members. For example, the wife of a procurement officer was hired at almost $60/hour.

Thomas Ubl filed a qui tam suit for false claims. The firm had agreed to settle with Ubl for $11M. But the DoJ forced the case to trial, where it managed to lose, despite the fact that there were some pretty obvious examples of false claims. The company, for example, produced a statutorily-required sheet for labor rates dated 2000, but conceded in court that the sheet was backdated. The company also had some interesting labor practices, paying the daughter of the owner for 394 hours of work she did not perform “to max out [her] 401(k).” The son was paid as a college graduate even though his only post-high school training was a five month National Guard course. The judge, Liam O’Grady, is of course a Bush appointee.

And, one would guess from his rulings, on the gravy train.

The other story of interest is that DeLay’s trial began in early November in Austin. He was indicted in 2005.

What was that saying about justice DeLayed is justice denied?

Posted in activist judges, Busheviks, corruption, Department of Injustice | 1 Comment »

Some good news on Paul Minor and others

Posted by Charles II on December 15, 2009

Scott Horton writes:

Federal prosecutors who brought a controversial corruption prosecution against trial lawyer Paul Minor and two Mississippi judges, Wes Teel and John Whitfield, suffered a one-two punch in federal courts this week. The result is that Minor, Teel, and Whitfield are now all likely to be freed.

An opinion handed down in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans struck down convictions for bribery, finding that the charges, even if true, did not actually constitute a crime….The charges took the novel view that campaign contributions and campaign finance assistance can be viewed as bribes paid to judges. But this rationale was applied to only one side of the political ledger.

This is how despicable the Republican-controlled justice system became. Democrats were judged to have accepted bribes simply for accepting campaign contributions, even though they could not be said to have done anything in return. Republicans were never similarly charged, as of course they should not be.

The Southern courts are heavily stacked with Republicans, so the Appeals Court that is rectifying this case, as well as the Supreme Court which is likely to throw out other charges as unconstitutional, are Republican. Nor are the hands of the Obama Justice Department clean, though whether that is due to Monica Goodling hires or to Eric Holder is unclear.

But the wrongful charges were brought by Republicans, tried by Republicans and wrongfully judged by Republicans. Paul Minor spent time in jail. His wife died while he was there, and he was prevented from being with her, even briefly, near the end by Republicans. There is a deep evil in what was done to him.

By Republicans.

Posted in activist judges, corruption, Department of Injustice, Don Siegelman, evil | 11 Comments »

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