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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Alice Martin: Bad to the Bone

Is it possible that Alice Martin is the worst U.S. attorney in American history?

To answer that question definitively, of course, would require major research. But I think it's safe to say that Queen Alice, right here in the Northern District of Alabama, deserves a place in the pantheon of truly wretched U.S. attorneys. In fact, she seems to be doing her best to work her way to the top of the hideous heap.

Consider this for a moment: What two qualities, at a minimum, should we look for in a federal prosecutor?

I would suggest the following:

* An ability to consistently tell the truth and seek the truth

* An empathy for the victims of crime

How badly does Alice Martin miss the mark in these areas? Scott Horton, of Harper's, shines considerable light on that question in a recent post titled "Justice in Birmingham."

Horton writes about the case of Huntsville defense contractor Alex Latifi, who was charged with violations of arms-export laws. Martin brought the case against Latifi, but a federal judge dismissed it and then awarded Latifi damages (expected to be about $500,000) based on the misconduct of the U.S. attorney.

Martin at first opposed the reimbursement. But she had a quick change of heart:

She appears to have withdrawn opposition to the claims for reimbursement in an effort to avoid being forced to give testimony in a case in which she is accused of being motivated by improper, possibly racist, motives.

The government withdrew its request for a certification from the court endorsing the asset seizure as having had a reasonable cause. That prevented Latifi's lawyers from demanding a hearing to examine the Justice Department's internal documents and investigative methods. Very crafty on the Queen's part.

It looks to me as if Alice Martin was concerned about the prospect that she would be placed under oath. Martin filed a motion to quash the subpoena issued against her, which was denied, then a motion to reconsider. These documents reflect a slithering invocation of prosecutional discretion to cloak misconduct and threaten the court with the involvement of Solicitor General Paul D. Clement–the sole senior Department official to survive the recent scandals over politically abusive conduct–in the matter. The court record reflects an extraordinary seven days of hearings and argument related to Martin’s efforts to avoid being forced to testify under oath. When these efforts failed, Martin withdrew her request for a finding that she had acted with reasonable cause and agreed to an award of damages under the claimant’s most aggressive theory. The only upside of this for Martin was that it would bolster her arguments against being forced to testify about her management of the case. However, although the current procedural setting of the case is complex, it appears that Martin and some of her associates may still be required to testify.

In sum: the taxpayers may be out $500,000 or more on account of prosecutorial misconduct (not taking into account the taxpayer’s funds expended on bringing a bogus case, which was probably several million), and Martin’s handling of the case now appears to be driven by her fear of being forced to account for her own conduct under oath. This case cries out for an internal Justice Department probe.

So we know that Alice Martin miserably fails the truth test. What about the empathy-for-crime-victims test?

Well, we know about that firsthand here at Legal Schnauzer. I've been the victim of repeated federal crimes in Alice Martin's district. And how did she handle the information I sent her about those crimes? She intentionally tried to cover up the wrongdoing, committed by members of the Republican "home team," and then lied to me about what she was doing.

Details are coming soon on my interactions with Queen Alice. And you will see just how badly she fails the empathy test, too.

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