A high-powered panel of lawyers and former prosecutors was appointed by U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., last week to recommend candidates for the politically sensitive position of U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Chaired by trial lawyer Michael E. Mone, the 12-member advisory committee will sift through resumes over the next month and file a recommendation with the Bay State’s senior senator. Kennedy will then pass on the name to President Barack Obama and newly named U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for final selection.
The U.S. attorney post has in the past served as a political steppingstone, launching the career, among others, of William F. Weld, who rode his success in prosecuting drug gangs and white-collar criminals into the Massachusetts governor’s office.
The search for a chief prosecutor for the U.S. District Court in Boston comes as current U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, a Bush administration appointee, has withstood a barrage of criticism for his handling of the corruption prosecutions of former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and City Councilor Chuck Turner. Sullivan took the unusual step of releasing surveillance images of the African American lawmakers allegedly accepting payoffs before seeking indictments.
More recently, the chief of the federal district court in Boston, Mark L. Wolf, issued a 42-page memorandum blasting Sullivan and his predecessors for a pattern of hiding exculpatory evidence from defense counsel.
Reached by phone, Mone said the recommendation panel would not screen candidates according to their willingness to review current and past cases.
“We want to find the best candidate for the job,” Mone said. “The role of this committee is to look at the future, not dredge over the past.”
Turner strongly disagreed.
“A willingness to review cases is a strong criterion, not only here, but in offices across the country,” the councilor said.
“When you have nine U.S. attorneys dismissed for political reasons to be replaced by more compliant prosecutors willing to bend the law, it certainly warrants someone coming in who is willing to look over the case files,” he added, citing alleged Justice Department abuses. “It does make sense that the question of review be raised, not just in Sen. Wilkerson’s case and in my case, but in any cases where prosecutorial misconduct has been raised.”
The search panel includes such prominent black lawyers as former Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II, who served as a federal prosecutor under Weld; Harvard Law School Professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr.; and former U.S. Magistrate Joyce London Alexander Ford.
The committee will also recommend a new U.S. marshal for Massachusetts, an office also under an ethical cloud after dispatching deputy marshals to escort Fox TV broadcasters to the 2007 World Series in Boston.
In appointing the panel, Kennedy said he was confident it “will identify people with the integrity, independence and sound judgment to make certain that our system of justice works for all of the people of Massachusetts.”
In an interview with the Banner on Monday after sending a letter to his supporters, City Councilor Chuck Turner said, “Here’s a federal judge saying that this U.S. prosecutor lied in a case he was involved in, but other prosecutors under [Michael] Sullivan’s jurisdiction have lied and concealed evidence that would have helped the defendant prove his innocence.” More »
U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said it was coincidental that the complaint against state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was filed a week before the election for her Second Suffolk District seat in the state Senate. More »
U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said defense attorney Max D. Stern is tireless when pushing for a client. "He can be very strong-willed, in terms of his position," Sullivan
said. "He does it in a way that does not offend people. He's just a
very passionate individual, and when he feels strongly about a point,
he feels very confident about it." More »
U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said defense attorney Max D. Stern is tireless when pushing for a client. "He can be very strong-willed, in terms of his position," Sullivan said. "He does it in a way that does not offend people. He's just a very passionate individual, and when he feels strongly about a point, he feels very confident about it." More »