The Justice Department is fighting an administrative judge's reversal of the suspensions imposed against two prosecutors who were accused of ethical lapses in the corruption case against the late Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.
The judge, Benjamin Gutman, who hears Merit Systems Protection Board disputes, concluded in April that the Justice Department violated internal procedure in the disciplinary action against assistant U.S. attorneys Joseph Bottini and James Goeke.
The Justice Department on June 10 filed a petition asking the merit board to reverse Gutman's decision. DOJ lawyers, including Charles Kersten, assistant general counsel, argue that Gutman "erroneously interpreted the facts" and "substituted his own judgment" for that of the department. Here's a copy of the petition.
Stevens was charged in 2008 in Washington federal district court with filing false Senate financial disclosure forms, omitting gifts and other items to hide his relationship with a prom
A jury found Stevens guilty later that year, but the case soon fell apart amid allegations that prosecutors withheld information that would have benefited his defense lawyers at Williams & Connolly. At the request of Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., a federal trial judge in Washington in April 2009 threw out the case against Stevens.
The department's Office of Professional Responsibility concluded Goeke and Bottini committed professional misconduct in the prosecution of Stevens.
At issue in the fight over the disciplinary action against Goeke and Bottini are the procedures that govern ethics cases against prosecutors. Justice Department lawyers, in their petition to the merit systems board, defend those procedures.
Attorneys for Goeke and Bottini contend the Justice Department improperly overruled a longtime attorney, Terrence Berg, who'd determined the two prosecutors had not committed professional misconduct but, rather, exercised poor judgment.
Kenneth Wainstein, who represents Bottini, said in April that Berg "was dead right when he concluded that Joe had made honest mistakes that were not professional misconduct, and MSPB Judge Gutnam was equally right to find a procedural violation when the Justice Department ignored that conclusion."