18 Nov 2004 Letters on the House GOP Caucus Rule Change Debate
Two letters on the House GOP rule change debate:
With all due respect, Ms. Ridenour’s rationalization for changing her point of view on the recent change in the Republican rule on leaders who get indicted is exceedingly weak. Despite her pride at “running a D.C. think tank for 22 years” it seems to me that her argument reflects very little thought but is flush with an abundance of ideology. Her argument envelops itself in a legitimate concern for the perils and price of an inappropriate or politically motivated investigation. However, it is a thin envelope indeed, one whose commemorative stamp bears the image of the Great North American Red Herring.
The rule that has been discarded, no doubt through the efforts, influence and, I submit, arm twisting of Mr. DeLay, disqualified one from a leadership position, upon indictment — not upon the initiation of a criminal investigation. Prosecutors often launch investigations, in D.C. and elsewhere, that do not result in indictment. Such investigations may be launched for political reasons or public relations reasons or other reprehensible reasons, as well as legitimate ones. As one who has been a criminal defense lawyer and a prosecutor for 30 years, I can assure Ms. Ridenour that the nation’s capital does not have the market cornered on investigations motivated by less than legitimate criminal justice reasons.
In our system, the grand jury is supposed to act as bulwark against improperly motivated prosecutors. The way things were designed to work, when the grand jury acts, by finding that probable cause exists to charge someone through an indictment, it does so after hearing and deliberating upon some of the evidence that has been amassed, or not, by the government. Of course, an old trial lawyer like me is neither idealistic nor naive enough to ignore that famous dictum to the effect that a skilled prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich, if he/she so chose. Notwithstanding that sage and accurate observation, the grand jury does still represent an initial hurdle that a prosecutor must leap to bring a criminal charge. A hurdle that DOES NOT have to be negotiated to initiate an investigation.
Thus, a group of at least 12 people who are not prosecutors must agree with a prosecutor that probable cause exists that a crime was committed and the accused committed it.
Many public officials, police officers most readily come to mind, are relieved of their duties, if not their incomes, upon indictment. Why should the likes of Mr. De Lay enjoy a privilege that others given the public trust do not?
The reason, plain and simple, why it happened is RAW POWER. Neither justice, fairness, nor any other laudable reason was the cause. Too bad Ms. Ridenour chooses to serve as an apologist for it.
My comment: It seems to me that Mr. Zarrillo’s argument comes down this: Other public officials suffer if they are unjustly indicted, so why shouldn’t Tom DeLay? But isn’t it better to stop injustice when we can?
I agree with Amy about DeLay, despite my great respect for Prof. Bainbridge. If we allow a positive benefit as reward for bringing up trumped-up charges, we will soon have nothing but.
In Minnesota, the Democrat AG, Mike Hatch, has been desperately trying to position himself to run for governor for about 10 years. Now that it is “his turn” (the other pretenders have lost big in the last two elections), he is facing a personable incumbent, Tim Pawlenty, who has a 60% approval rating. His response was to invent a charge and get an obscure local Democrat DA in a rural district to file an indictment against the highly effective head of the Minnesota GOP, for the sole purpose of generating a headline in leftist Star Tribune newspaper. After which the indictment was thrown out of court by the first judge who saw it, as nonsense.
Politics of personal destruction anyone? For Dems with media sycophants at the ready, it pays. We shouldn’t reinforce their ugly instincts.