September 17, 2007


Ex-Judge Is Said to Be Pick At Justice: Democrats Likely To Accept Him as Attorney General (Michael Abramowitz and Dan Eggen, 9/17/07, Washington Post)

As a federal judge, Mukasey was best known for his expertise on national security issues, in part because he presided over the trials of "blind sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman and others in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Mukasey lived under heavy federal security for years because of his connection with that case. He also handled the early case against Jose Padilla, who was declared an "enemy combatant" by Bush in 2002. Mukasey ruled that the government had the power to make the declaration but found that Padilla should have access to his lawyers.

As a prominent judge in one of the country's busiest courts, Mukasey was involved in other high-profile cases, including battles between insurance companies and a World Trade Center developer after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He dismissed in 2004 lawsuits against an Italian insurance company for policies held by Holocaust victims.

Baruch Weiss, a partner at the law firm of Arent Fox and a former federal prosecutor in New York who appeared before Mukasey, described him as a very smart, business-like judge who kept things moving quickly in his courtroom and who has a reputation for integrity.

Weiss said Mukasey's appeal to the White House most likely was his independent stature; he is not, as he put it, "someone who would simply be doing the president's bidding."

"He is thoughtful, independent, very much a person of integrity -- he's nobody's plaything," said Paul A. Engelmayer, a Democrat and former supervisor in the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. "If there is an analogy here, it's to [former FBI director] Louis Freeh -- who obviously bedeviled Clinton. He will not be a tool of the Bushies."

Some of Mukasey's public pronouncements have pleased conservatives. During one 2004 speech, excerpts of which were published by the Wall Street Journal, Mukasey strongly defended the controversial USA Patriot Act antiterrorism law and said its "Orwellian name . . . may very well be the worst thing about the statute."

He also scoffed at complaints from librarians and others that the statute gave the government too much power to spy on ordinary Americans, arguing that the allegations were not supported by evidence.

Mukasey, who was Manhattan's chief federal judge at the time, also defended a wave of terrorism-related immigration arrests by the FBI after the Sept. 11 attacks. "We should keep in mind that any investigation conducted by fallible human beings in the aftermath of an attack is bound to be either over-inclusive or under-inclusive," Mukasey said. "There are consequences both ways. The consequences of over-inclusiveness include condemnations. The consequences of under-inclusiveness include condolences."

In an op-ed article last month for the Journal, Mukasey said that the Padilla case and others underscore the shortcomings of the regular criminal justice system for terrorism defendants, and he advocated some kind of alternative system for handling such cases. That view is likely to raise eyebrows within the Justice Department, where many career attorneys pride themselves on the department's ability to try to convict terrorism suspects under traditional criminal procedures.

Bush To Tap Mukasey for Justice: Schumer Suddenly Turns Guarded (JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN, September 17, 2007, NY Sun)
President Bush's choice of Michael Mukasey, a retired judge from New York who has received the support of Senator Schumer, to be the next attorney general signals that the White House wishes to avoid a Senate confirmation battle.

Still, it is unclear whether Mr. Schumer is willing to shepherd Judge Mukasey through confirmation hearings whose main topic could shape up to be the politicization of the Justice Department during Attorney General Gonzales's tenure.

Mr. Schumer, one of the Senate's fiercest critics of Mr. Gonzales, has long touted Judge Mukasey for a position higher than the district court judgeship he held for 19 years. In 2003, the senator recommended the judge as an eventual successor to Chief Justice Rehnquist on the Supreme Court. Earlier this year, he floated Judge Mukasey's name for the attorney general position.

In a statement issued last night, the senator was somewhat guarded. "For sure we'd want to ascertain his approach on such important and sensitive issues as wiretapping and the appointment of US attorneys, but he's a lot better than some of the other names mentioned and he has the potential to become a consensus nominee," the statement said.

Can't hurt to have an AG with a personal interest in maximum surveillance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 17, 2007 7:47 AM

Poor Chuck. He's so politically twisted that if Pres. Bush were to announce that Chuck Schumer was the nominee for AG, he'd be forced to point out what a crony & political hack he himself was...

Posted by: b at September 17, 2007 12:44 PM

The righty blogs aren't happy as they wanted a brawl over Ted Olson. Then again some of the righty blogs have more BDS than the lefty ones.

Posted by: AWW at September 17, 2007 2:44 PM