Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Yet another example of why the US Attorney General should be popularly elected

For more than 10 years, from time to time I write a post recommending that the US Attorney General, head of the Department of Justice, be popularly elected, and that the Department of Justice and its constituent units should be an executive branch agency independent of the President, because "law, fairness, due process, and justice" belong to the people.

There are myriad examples in recent history of the need for an independent attorney general, to act in the breach, in the face of executive branch malfeasance and overreach.

A separation of the justice agency from the rest of the executive branch through popularly electing its head happens in a majority of states, and often at the local level too, with popularly elected "prosecutors" although at the local level, such officials are mostly focused on prosecuting criminals not creating a fair justice system.

Progressive local justice.  The tension between prosecution and justice is why there is a movement about to elect "progressive" local prosecutors, although this agenda is controversial wrt reducing charges, bail, etc. ("Progressives Are Winning DA Races But Face Pushback," Governing Magazine); "Criminal justice: Police, progressive prosecutors battle over reform," USA Today).  From the USA Today article:
Boston-based Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney Rachael Rollins, the first woman of color to hold a DA post in the state, acknowledges that pushing a reformist agenda “is an uphill slog, but we are deeply committed.”

Rollins, who calls herself “smart on crime,” says a hallmark of the progressive wave is relying “on numbers, not anecdotes.” She is busy hiring “technologists and data experts so we can document all this and show how these policies are making a difference.”
Executive branch/Presidential tampering.  The way that President Trump is tampering with justice, in pardoning people associated with his biddings who have been found guilty of crimes, in appointing a bagman as leader of the agency--William Barr, aiming the agency at investigating his opponents and perceived enemies, and now with the latest happenings in the Roger Stone case, asking the Department of Justice to go easy on him, in the face of previous recommendations by people running the case, is a perfect example of why this split should occur.

The Roger Stone debacle.  The Washington Post ("Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone") and other media are reporting on the latest developments in the Roger Stone matter, which is the subject of a twitter thread by the President. From the article:
The timing of Tuesday’s online attack prompted many to accuse Trump, who has a long history mounting public crusades against judges and courts over unfavorable rulings, of attempting to intimidate Jackson and secure a more lenient sentence for Stone. ...

Trump’s fusillade of tweets came shortly after news broke that the Justice Department had overruled the sentencing recommendation for Stone submitted by federal prosecutors, an action that followed Trump blasting the recommendations as too harsh.
This action led the prosecutors handling the case to resign in protest ("Prosecutors quit amid escalating Justice Dept. fight over Roger Stone’s prison term").

Plenty of AGs are happy to tamper.  OTOH, there is no guarantee in this day and age that whoever ran for the office would not be as mendacious as William Barr ("What to do with an attorney general who disdains justice?," op-ed, Washington Post).

But Elliott Richardson, Ramsey Clark ... But definitely in the past, there have been great, honorable people who served as the US Attorney General.

Probably, were this change to be made, I'd also recommend shifting the role of Inspector General within the executive branch agencies too, having them report to the AG as well.

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At 11:03 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

In DC, the federal govt. (DOJ) retains the authority and system to prosecute adult crimes. Local DC created an AG office more recently, and this office prosecutes juvenile crimes, represents the govt., etc. The aim is that eventually DC would get the authority to take over prosecution of adult crimes.

In Travis County, Texas, and maybe across Texas, responsibilities for prosecution are split anyway, between a District Attorney's office and a County Attorney's office.

I presume in most other states these functions are combined into one office.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Post columnist compares current situation to South America when he was a writer there in the late 1980s/early 1990s.


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