Addressing a group of chief judges of federal district courts last week, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. vowed the Justice Department will take seriously failures of prosecutors to perform their duties, according to a judge who participated in the conference.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf of Massachusetts, who has pressed the Justice Department to be more aggressive in confronting allegations of attorney misconduct, wrote Holder on April 23 “with a renewed hope” that he will tackle misbehavior. Wolf’s letter was disclosed today in a mob racketeering case in Boston in which Wolf cited a prosecutor for misconduct.
Wolf wrote that former Attorneys General Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey did not respond to letters in recent years concerning allegations of misconduct in criminal cases in Massachusetts. In his letter to Holder, Wolf thanked him for his remarks to the chief judges.
“We appreciate your determination to assure that Department of Justice attorneys perform their duties honorably and ably, and to take seriously any failure to do so,” Wolf wrote in the five-page letter. Holder had asked the judges, Wolf said in the letter, to report to him directly when the judges encounter a problem.
Wolf noted the recent decision of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of misconduct in the Ted Stevens case in the District of Columbia. The special counsel is investigating whether six prosecutors deliberately violated court orders and rules in the Stevens case. At Holder’s request, the judge tossed Stevens’ conviction earlier this month.
Sullivan’s action in the Stevens case, Wolf wrote in the letter, “confirms that other judges share my concern” about prosecution misconduct. “As the Stevens case also indicates, prosecutorial misconduct is neither a rare nor merely historical problem,” Wolf wrote.