Tuesday, February 18, 2020

UofA Law prof defends the rule of law as critical to the survival of our Republic

Hank Shea, UofA law professor, writing in the Daily Star, explains: Why I signed the DOJ alumni letter calling on Barr to resign. Here is the article in full (with block quotes suppressed).

I am a professor of practice at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, where I have taught courses in crime and punishment, white collar crime and investigations for the last 10 years. Prior to moving to Tucson, I served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota for 20 years during the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations.

I spent most of my career with the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuting many hundreds of white collar criminals, including scores of business executives, bankers, brokers, accountants and 15 lawyers.

Those defendants were typically well-educated, often wealthy, and sometimes quite powerful and influential.

I did my job as a federal prosecutor without fear or favor of any person because I was guided by the oath I took to support and defend our Constitution and uphold the rule of law.

Further, I was bound to apply the law equally to all Americans regardless of their identity, background or status.

At times during my career, current and former elected officials attempted to influence my efforts to prosecute prominent persons. I resisted and rejected those efforts because allowing any political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution would violate my sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.

What I faced as a federal prosecutor, however, does not come anywhere close to the recent conduct of President Trump and Attorney General William Barr in attempting to improperly influence the upcoming sentencing of Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, by giving him preferential treatment.

For this reason, I joined more than 1,100 former Department of Justice officials in signing a letter calling on Barr to resign his office.

Let me quote extensively from that letter to further explain why I signed it and why it should matter to us all.

“(President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s) behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. One should not be given special treatment because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics, they are autocracies.

“We welcome Attorney General Barr’s belated acknowledgment that the DOJ’s law enforcement decisions must be independent of politics; that it is wrong for the President to interfere in specific enforcement matters either to punish his opponents or help his friends; and that the President’s public comments on DOJ matters have gravely damaged the Department’s credibility.

“But Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.

“For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department.

“Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress … We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives.

“The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.”

Hank Shea is a professor of practice at the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, where he has taught for 10 years.

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