Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Senior Barack Obama advisor and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said today the presumptive Democratic nominee would “consider a lot of options” for addressing the partisan nature of judicial nominations in recent years if he is elected president.
Daschle, who famously lost his South Dakota seat in 2004 in part due to his role in obstructing President Bush’s judicial nominees, stressed that the problems that have arisen during the current administration has been caused largely by the lack of “good communication and consultation” on the part of the White House.
He noted that President Bill Clinton regularly consulted with senior Republican senators, such as then Minority Leader Sen. Bob Dole, of Kansas, and senior judiciary committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch, of Utah, when choosing nominees.
“When Bill Clinton was president he did a lot of outreach and communicating,” Daschle, a co-chair of Obama's campaign, said at a briefing for reporters this morning in Washington.
He added that the Bush administration “rarely consulted – they just demanded.”
Daschle conceded, however, that improvements could be made in the nomination process in general.
He noted, for example, that in the past many more nominees, both for the judiciary and executive branch positions, were not considered political at all.
Daschle declined to comment on whether Obama would endorse suggestions that each state should have a bipartisan commission that would make recommendations to the president.
It’s a proposal that the American Bar Association endorsed at its annual meeting earlier this week.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Speaking at the ABA annual meeting in New York this morning, Attorney General Michael Mukasey outlined in detail his response to the two recent inspector general reports into allegations of selecting hiring and firing before he took office.
He admitted that the department's reputation had been harmed by the scandals under previous Attorney General Alberto Gonzales but insisted that under his leadership there has been a return to impartiality in hiring decisions.
"Professionalism is alive and well at the Justice Department today,” he said to applause from ABA members.
The department has new policies for hiring, and Mukasey insisted that employees would be encouraged in future to raise concerns if they feared that political considerations were being taken into account.
“The good news is that much has changed," Mukasey said. "It’s neither permissible or acceptable to consider political affiliation in the hiring and firing of employees."
He also revealed that candidates that had been rejected under the previous regime, possibly because of their political leanings, would be contacted and given another chance to apply to department positions.
Although Mukasey admitted that some department critics were keen for former officials, such as former White House liaison Monica Goodling, to face possible criminal prosecution for their acts, he believed they had already been sufficiently punished.
“Their misconduct has been laid bear by the Justice Department for all to see," Mukasey said. "I doubt if anyone in this room would want to trade places with those people.”
Monday, August 4, 2008
Aspiring attorneys who would like to become public defenders or local prosecutors but are put off by low pay and crushing law school debt are in for some respite.
Last week, before rushing off for their summer vacations, lawmakers approved legislation that includes a payment assistance program for young lawyers seeking to work in the public sector.
Eligible candidates would have up to $30,000 of debt wiped out if they stay in their jobs for three years, and a further $30,000 if they stay for another three years.
The American Bar Association is very pleased, as is Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.(pictured), one of the key sponsors.
The legislation was included in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which President Bush is expected to sign into law.