South Dakota connection in US Attorney/Patriot Act Revision Uproar

I had an observant reader pass this one on to me.

Apparently, there is a pretty significant uproar in Washington because a law was changed to make it easier to remove seated US Attorneys. And what was the explanation? It was because of what happened in South Dakota. Check out this article from Slate:
U.S. attorneys are well aware that they serve at the president's pleasure, but new wording in the Patriot Act made it worth the president's while to fire a big, fat lot of them and hire a group of new ones. And while certainly half the scandal is that the Justice Department did that—let eight U.S. attorneys go, seemingly for no reason—we seem to have forgotten that even without the mass firings, this law had been changed in the sneakiest way imaginable.


Specter added that he only looked into how the provision was altered after Feinstein told him about it. As he explained, "I then contacted my very able chief counsel, Michael O'Neill, to find out exactly what had happened. And Mr. O'Neill advised me that the requested change had come from the Department of Justice, that it had been handled by Brett Tolman, who is now the U.S. attorney for Utah, and that the change had been requested by the Department of Justice because there had been difficulty with the replacement of a U.S. attorney in South Dakota."

Thus, at least according to Specter, O'Neill had merely been following orders from the Department of Justice when he snuck new language into the Patriot Act that would consolidate executive branch authority.
Read it all here.


Anonymous said…
this all started with Judge Piersol, a long-time Daschle friend and Daschle attorney (whose wife is a big liberal activist and fundraiser), tried to put one of his buddies in as US Attorney...of course the liberal media in SD always protects Piersol so this hasn't been reported
Anonymous said…
USA TODAY, Nov. 2, 2004:

Daschle sues opponent: U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., sued his opponent, John Thune, and the Republican Party in federal court Monday. He asked a judge to stop what Democrats call intimidation of Native American voters in today's election.The Senate Democratic leader is depending on heavy turnout from American Indian voters to win what may be a close race. Daschle has been endorsed by the nine tribal chairmen in South Dakota.

In his complaint, Daschle asked U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol to keep 200 Republican monitors from engaging in a list of activities at polling places across South Dakota, including writing down license plate numbers and taking notes. Daschle recommended Piersol for the federal bench. Aides to Thune, a former congressman, said the lawsuit was an outrage. “Unbelievably, they are trying to exclude Republican poll watchers from watching the process,” said Dick Wadhams, Thune's campaign manager. Posted at 6:43 a.m. ET.
documents said…
Thomas A. Daschle v. John Thune, et al.

Hearing Transcript (PDF) (U.S. District Court) (Nov. 1, 2004)
Memorandum of Law (PDF) (U.S. District Court) (Nov. 1, 2004)
Complaint (PDF) (U.S. District Court) (Nov. 1, 2004)
Anonymous said…
"Did Daschle's lawyers have to make their candidate a laughing-stock by filing the case with Judge Lawrence Piersol--a strong personal friend who was Daschle's own lawyer in the court contests during the 1978 election and who only four days before had given a radio interview praising Daschle? Did they have to call as their only witness a professional Democrat who had helped out with Howard Dean's triumphant disaster in the primaries and had been in the state of South Dakota for only 48 hours? And did they really have to insist that one of the early Republican poll watchers had--wait for it, now, it's gonna be a measure of human depravity--actually rolled his eyes to another poll watcher? Did they have to name the Republican candidate John Thune as the lead defendant, despite their utter lack of evidence or even claims about the candidate himself--thereby enshrining the case in the public record as Daschle v. Thune?"
DaJudge said…
"The complaint and its attachments confirm that, before coming to the bench, the judge [Piersol] was a long-time personal friend and political ally of one of the candidate litigants, the incumbent office holder [Daschle]."

Anonymous said…
Rapid City Journal:

"The president’s action appears to have settled the disagreement between the Department of Justice and Piersol, Schreier and U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann of Aberdeen over the interim U.S. attorney. But it doesn’t end discussion about whether politics was involved.

All three judges are Democrats with long and extensive connections to the party. They were all recommended for the federal bench by former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, a Democrat. Piersol had in the past served as Daschle’s attorney. Schreier is a past chairwoman of the South Dakota Democratic Party and once served as U.S. attorney, with Daschle’s recommendation. Kornmann has served as executive director of the state Democratic Party."
Anonymous said…

Legal eagles tussle over US attorney appointment.

The appointment of an interim U.S. attorney in South Dakota is caught in a jurisdictional struggle between three Democratic U.S. district court judges and the Justice Department of Republican President George W. Bush.

The battle already has led to an unusual situation in which two different lawyers -- one of them from Sioux Falls, the other from Oklahoma -- have been appointed acting interim U.S. attorney for South Dakota, a temporary job allowing the office to operate until Bush makes a permanent nomination that can be approved by the U.S. Senate.

On Dec. 22, the Justice Department named Steven Mullins, then assistant U.S. Attorney for the western district of Oklahoma, as interim U.S. attorney in South Dakota. Mullins was sworn in the same day that former interim U.S. attorney Michelle Tapken officially resigned, according to court documents.

But U.S. District Judge Larry Piersol of Sioux Falls challenged that appointment. Piersol already had signed an order two days earlier -- on Dec. 20 -- appointing Mark Meierhenry, a Sioux Falls lawyer and former South Dakota attorney general, as interim U.S. attorney.

The wrangle was the talk of the legal community in South Dakota on Wednesday. And it is schedule to land in federal court in Rapid City at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 17, under an order issued Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier.

Schreier is ordering Mullins to show why he and not Meierhenry should serve in that position.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann of Aberdeen is questioning the validity of criminal matters currently being handled by the U.S. Attorney's office, if they occur under Mullins' name. In a document filed Wednesday in Aberdeen, Kornmann warned lawyers in criminal matters that the Justice Department's appointment of Mullins might not be valid.

"All this brings into play some uncertainty," Kornmann wrote. "It is entirely possible that the purported appointment of Mr. Mullins is not valid and that he has no legal authority to act as acting U.S. attorney in South Dakota."

If Mullins' appointment is not valid, it could compromise criminal matters handled by the U.S. attorney's office under his name, Kornmann said.
Spike said…
well, someone is busy doing there research tonight aren't they? as far as i can tell this thing started when these 3 liberal judges tried to appoint the US Attorney. is that what you are getting at PP?
SandMan said…
this appears to be another case of people finding the connection they can to blame Daschle. which is fun, and often correct. but GOOD FIND PP! interesting how this whole controversy started here in little old SD!
Anonymous said…
once again, the clowns in the south dakota "media" are asleep at the switch

if it wasn't for the blogs we wouldn't now anything
HB said…
HMMM, that is an interesting connection. i can't believe we haven't heard about any of this before now...
Anonymous said…
for those who don't know, Meierhenry is about as Republican as Ted Kennedy, which is why Piersol thought it was so clever to pick a "Republican" (it helped that Meierhenry loves Daschle and hates Thune and worshiped Janklow, who was Daschle's ally in attacking Thune)

people in South Dakota don't want to know how inbred and incestuous the state's legal circles are

Meierhenry's wife was appointed by Janklow to be on the Supreme Court
Anonymous said…
the Daschle lawsuit judge rides again!!
Anonymous said…
Anyone ever notice that Education Chair Phyllis Heineman doesn't know what the education clause of the State Constitution says?

She quotes it wrong every time. Not very stately.
Anonymous said…
they better hope that Judge Piersol doesn't get booted because all the liberal lawyers run to his courtroom whenever they want a win!
Anonymous said…
DEMOCRATIC judges playing politics from the bench?!? say it isn't so
Douglas said…
Looks like a lot of irrelevant smoke and mirrors has been posted in comments that have little to do with much of anything.

When Tapkin resigned, the position was vacant. How long was it vacant?
Apparently a federal judge has the power to appoint a TEMPORARY US attorney in a situation where the position sits vacant.

The President apparently can also make TEMPORARY appointments without Senate approval or during Senate recess periods. If the President has diddled around to the point a federal judge has an opportunity to make a TEMPORARY appointment, the position is not longer vacant. So, where is there then the Presidential power to make a TEMPORARY appointment?

Sneaking in a change via the PATRIOT act is just another despicable partisan act by an administration intent on maintaining partisan control in the guise of anti-terrorism.

Real conservatives who are not just partisan hacks should be concerned with threats to the constitution and the separation and balance of powers even when the damage is being done by a Republican administration.

Reading the comments about the judges past party involvment would seem to suggest that no judge who was ever involved with partisan politics should ever be appointed...or is it just if they were involved with Democratic politics?

In any case, why would anybody believe a Bush administration statement regarding why they did anything? They have lied about reasons for going to war. They have lied about support for veterans. They have lied about leaving no child behind.
Anonymous said…
Just look at the mess caused because Thune and the Bush administration couldn't get their arses in gear and get a US Attorney in place in SD in reasonable time.

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