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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Could Delay on Alabama U.S. Attorney Have a Happy Ending?

A number of Democrats are getting impatient with the Obama administration's attempts to name a U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, based in Montgomery. Some are concerned that indecision and confusion will lead to the appointment of an individual who is not suited for the post.

That is particularly troubling when you consider that Montgomery, home to the Don Siegelman prosecution, was one of the primary outposts for justice-related sleaze during the George W. Bush administration. The federal prosecutor's office there desperately needs a tough, principled leader to clean up the substantial mess left by Bush appointee Leura Canary.

We've seen one sign in recent days that the delay in Montgomery could wind up having a happy ending. And if that happens, some Alabama Republicans could be staining their tighty whities.

The hopeful sign comes from an article about the Montgomery appointment at the Alabama-based blog Doc's Political Parlor. After noting that the names of Montgomery lawyers Joseph Van Heest and George Beck have been prominently floated, Doc closes with this passage:

Our source familiar with the process believes that there is a very good chance that the matter will be resolved in a matter of weeks in one of three ways in this order of likelihood: 1) Shelby will release the hold on Van Heest, 2) George Beck will be nominated, or 3) the Obama Justice Deparment will send in a career person from outside the state, similar to what George W. Bush’s Justice Department did when it sent Deborah Rhodes to the Southern District of Alabama.

Option No. 3 is what gives us hope. A person from outside of Alabama is exactly what the Middle District needs. A Justice Department source even has given us the name of an excellent external candidate--Christa Deegan of Columbus, Ohio.

Deegan served briefly in the Middle District of Alabama, and our source said she resisted the toxic culture in Canary's office and wound up being replaced by Anna Clark Morris, who was more than happy to go along with the dysfunctional status quo. Ironically, Morris has family ties to prominent Democrats, and her name has been floated as the possible new U.S. attorney in Montgomery. Our source says such a choice would be "disastrous."

But Deegan, according to our source, is exactly what the office needs. Here is what we wrote about Deegan in an earlier post:

Christa D. Deegan, who had 16 years as a federal prosecutor in Cleveland, Ohio, moved to the Montgomery office in March 2007. "She was an excellent prosecutor, a mover and a shaker, very competent--too competent for such a mediocre office," the source says. "More importantly, she conducted herself in a professional manner and worked very hard. She immediately opposed the hostile work environment, refused to participate in the afternoon gossip sessions, and refused to conform to the toxic culture of the office."

After about seven months on the job, Deegan was fired because she "didn't fit in." Said our source: "She was replaced by Clark Morris, who was more than willing to conform, even embrace the culture."

Deegan now is Ohio's director of industrial relations, where she took over an office that was plagued with allegations of racial discrimination and retaliation. Deegan has vowed to restore staff morale in the Ohio agency. "Except for her experience in Montgomery, Alabama, she has a spotless record for competency, ethical conduct, and professionalism," the source said.

Could the Obama administration be pulling a fast one on Alabama Republicans? Could it be letting the state's U.S. Senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, block several nominees, planning all along to bring in an outsider to be the serious "new kid in town"?

We've seen little sign that Obama intends to play such a crafty version of political hardball. And we've seen no sign that Alabama Republicans fear the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But progressives, and folks interested in seeing that justice is served, can dream can't we?

Who might be extremely nervous if Christa Deegan, or someone like her, were appointed as U.S. attorney in Montgomery, Alabama? The list would start with Leura Canary herself and her husband Bill Canary, who according to the sworn statements of Alabama attorney and whistleblower Jill Simpson, ramrodded the bogus Siegelman prosecution. The list also would include Governor Bob Riley, and various staff and family members, who have been involved in a number of questionable activities.

And here is perhaps the most interesting name that would be on the list: Richard Shelby.

Alabama's senior senator reportedly has curious ties to Doss Aviation, the firm of which U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller (who handled the Siegelman case) is an owner. Scott Horton, legal affairs contributor at Harper's magazine, has written about the Shelby/Doss Aviation ties:

So now let’s look at another prominent Alabama government contractor with a recent streak of politically-linked successes: Doss Aviation. On Shelby’s own website, there’s a press release from February 2006 in which Shelby says “I am disappointed that the Air Force did not choose Selma as the site for their Introductory Flight Training program . . . ” It sounds like the story of an earmark gone wrong. But there at the end of the press release there’s this: “It was announced today that the program was awarded to Pueblo, Colorado, teamed with Doss Aviation.”

Horton goes on to note some curious connections between Fuller, the judge in the Siegelman case, and Richard Shelby:

Today, Fuller and Shelby even have offices in the same building–One Church St. in Montgomery. That’s also where Doss Aviation was registered, with Mark Fuller listed as the company’s president, from 1999-2002.

Sure, it was peculiar that Fuller listed a government building as the registered address of a private company that contracts with the government. But what’s also peculiar is that the offices for Fuller’s previous gig as District Attorney for the 12th Circuit, were at 98 North Edwards in Enterprise (see also). I have no idea why Doss Aviation, with Fuller as president, was registered at One Church Street (the home of numerous government offices including the office of Senator Shelby) years before Fuller became a federal judge. But it does raise a very curious question: who, exactly, was picking up that mail?

Indeed, who was picking up that mail? And here's an even better question: Was Richard Shelby using his power in the Senate to steer contracts to a company in which he held a financial interest? If that is ever proven, could the senator be in some serious doo-doo? Is that why he's so concerned about who becomes U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama?

This sounds like a job for Christa Deegan--or someone just like her. Could the Obama administration be thinking along those lines?

3 comments:

Chris Posey said...

Someone from out of town is just the ticket to clean up the Canary droppings which have been allowed to accumulate for too long!! Christa Deegan already knows the system. She is a career federal prosecutor, a successful manager of a government agency in her home state of Ohio and most importantly, she has personally experienced the selective prosecutions in the Middle District of Alabama under Canary rule.

rkelly said...

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Tx Biloxi

Matt Osborne said...

You really ought to write a book about all this one day.