Federal prosecutors are getting a terrible return on their, and our taxpayer-financed, courtroom investments
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
John Edwards, now Roger Clemens. Before that we had the reversal of the bungled corruption case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens.
The Department of Justice avoided courtroom complications but not controversy with its settlement agreement in its antitrust case against Apple and two publishers over alleged e-book price fixing.
And let's not even get into the the DOJ's oral arguments before the Supreme Court on health care. Regardless of where folks stand on this law, almost everyone agrees that the government's presentation before the justices was not one of its best moments.
So what is up with federal lawyers?
They are having a terrible time in courtrooms. And that's leading to a worse public perception about our federal justice system.
Are the Department of Justice folks simply unprepared?
When federal prosecutors have a say over litigation, are they picking cases that too complicated?
Are they falling into a pop culture celebrity cycle, opting for glitzy cases that might grab public attention instead of focusing on cases that have stronger legal foundations?
Are jurors just bored, as apparently was the case when a couple of jurors nodded off during Clemens' plodding second trial? Or are they confused by topics such as the arcane election laws in the Edwards' case?
Or could it be, as Daniel Fisher tosses out in his Forbes piece, that empaneled citizens simply are sending the federal government a message via "not guilty" decisions about what they think of the federal government?
Whatever the reasons, it's clear that federal investigators and prosecutors are spending an awful lot of time and taxpayer money without anything, at least from Uncle Sam's point of view, to show for it.
Money, of course, is not a reason to avoid making cases when laws are broken. There shouldn't be a price on justice.
And folks beyond the juries who believe Edwards, Clemens and Stevens were not guilty say that those verdicts (or subsequent government reversal in Stevens' case) produced the appropriate return on each legal investment.
But let's be honest, lawyers do not head into court on a high-profile case with the intention of losing. Yet losing seems to be all that federal prosecutors have done of late.
I suspect that it will be a while before we see another big federal case go before a jury. And that reticence might not be a bad thing.
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