Hundreds of career Justice Department lawyers have broken into open revolt against Attorney General Holder over his support of legislation that would drastically cut back on mandatory minimum sentences for drug pushers. The legislation Holder supports, known as the Durbin-Lee bill, would overturn the current mandatory minimum sentences not only for marijuana violations but for all drug offenses, including major and repeat trafficking in heroin, meth, PCP and other extremely dangerous, and often lethal, drugs.
This was too much for hundreds of federal prosecutors. Today, Chuck Grassley, the Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, read aloud from a letter the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys sent Holder three days ago. The portion Sen. Grassley read states:
We believe the merits of mandatory minimums are abundantly clear. They reach to only the most serious of crimes. They target the most serious criminals. They provide us leverage to secure cooperation from defendants. They help to establish uniform and consistency in sentencing. And foremost, they protect law-abiding citizens and help to hold crime in check.
As Bill Otis says, career prosecutors are not an activist political lot. For this many of them to have spoken up here, and done so publicly, is a testament to how damaging they know the Durbin-Lee bill would be.
Otis also contends that if this sort of revolt had happened during the Bush Administration, it would be page one news. He’s right. Indeed, when even one career prosecutor takes issue with a Republican administration, the mainstream media typically portrays him as a paragon of professionalism resisting the evil forces of partisan politics.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, coverage this massive revolt against Holder receives.
It should receive plenty, not only because of its unprecedented nature, but also on the merits. As the prosecutors’ letter explains, the increased use of incarceration, of which mandatory minimum sentencing has been an important part, has been a key to the tremendous gains the country has made over the last generation in suppressing crime, which is now lower than we have seen for 50 years. Bill Otis supports this contention here.
Mandatory minimum sentencing has the related but added virtue of reining in the sometimes ideological, sometimes naive, and sometimes careless decisions of sentencing judges. Criminal sentences should not rest on the extent to which a defendant draws a bleeding heart judge or a gullible one.
Durbin-Lee, and Holder’s support thereof, is another front in the war on standards. I feel indebted to the courageous career prosecutors who have called the Attorney General on it.
JOHN adds: There must be many, many lawyers and other employees of the Department of Justice who are appalled at how Eric Holder and Barack Obama have politicized the Department. This revolt may be only the tip of the iceberg.