Fine, 54 and pictured above, will step down as DOJ's inspector general effective Jan. 28, according to copies of letters addressed to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. The letters are dated today.
His tenure has been marked recently by high-profile investigations into allegations of misconduct by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his staff. Together with DOJ’s other internal watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility, Fine’s staff dug into the firings of U.S. attorneys, the shifts in the department’s Civil Rights Division and other topics.
Even aside from those scandals, the position of DOJ inspector general is highly sensitive. The office oversees audits and investigations of potential waste, fraud and abuse amid the billions of dollars the department spends each year.
“The Department, the Congress, and the public have received great value from the work of the OIG over the years, and it has been the high point of my professional career to work with so many dedicated public servants in the OIG,” Fine wrote to Holder (PDF). “I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have served as the Inspector General at the Department of Justice.”
Obama is expected to nominate a successor, who will need Senate confirmation. No acting inspector general has been named. Cynthia Schnedar is Fine’s deputy, and he praised her as a “strong” deputy in his letter to Holder.
In a statement, Holder said that Fine “has embodied the Justice Department’s highest ideals and greatest traditions of service.”
“In the Justice Department’s most critical operations and practices, especially our efforts to combat corruption, fraud, waste and abuse, the work done by the Office of the Inspector General is essential. Thanks to Glenn’s outstanding leadership, this Office has never been stronger,” Holder said.
The resignation comes at the same time that some leadership is turning over on the congressional committees that communicate often with Fine's office. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has a particular interest in DOJ oversight, is in line to become the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, while Sen. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is set to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Fine set an “impressive example.”
“I particularly applaud his work to shed light on improper political influence in hiring and prosecutions, which helped bring the Department through a particularly dark chapter in its history,” Leahy said. He also highlighted Fine’s audits of surveillance under the Patriot Act that Leahy said led to greater public accountability in the use of what are known as “national security letters.”
Fine has been inspector general since December 2000, when the Senate confirmed his nomination by President Bill Clinton. He previously directed the office’s special investigations and review unit. He succeeded Michael Bromwich, who became a partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.
Earlier in his career, Fine was an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia.
Updated with additional background and reporting. Last update at 1:31 p.m. National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.