AG: “Not…every violation of the law is a crime.”

While running an errand this afternoon, I found myself guffawing in a waiting room when I read this AP article on my iPhone:

No criminal prosecutions are planned for former Justice Department officials accused of allowing politics to influence the hiring of prosecutors, immigration judges and other career government lawyers, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Tuesday.

But, he told delegates to the American Bar Association annual meeting, “Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws.”

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

15 replies on “AG: “Not…every violation of the law is a crime.””

  1. He was commenting on a case involving less than qualified people being hired for positions based on their ideological beliefs.

    The irony dripping from his statement is astounding!

  2. Where are our champions?

    We have a legislature stuffed full of lawyers, legal experts, and committee councils – isn’t there a warrior amongst them? Mukasey should have been found in contempt of Congress / violation of the law, dragged from the chamber, chained to a pipe in the basement and given time to reconsider his duties. THAT is how you deal with a criminal Executive.

  3. In todays news:

    The Bush Administration has ruled that foxes can guard henhouses, and that Henhouse Warming (which a near-unanimous consensus within the scientific community attributes to respiration emissions from foxes) can be directly linked neither to the recent Mysterious Hen Disappearance Syndrome nor to recent cases of fox obesity.

    Unrelated: Halliburton invests $1 billion in egg futures.

  4. “Not…every violation of the law is a crime.”

    True enough. Just not applicable this situation, I think.

  5. That’s really interesting, Jon. Other than a literal parsing of the statement (i.e., everything that civil courts deal with), could you explain that a bit? I’d like to learn more about this concept.

  6. I’m pretty sure the literal parsing (“not all violations of a statute or regulation is a felony or misdemeanor; in some cases it is a tort”) was what Jon was alluding to. However, the OSC website states that there are guidelines and laws in place which impart to the government the ability to address and impose penalties and fines for prohibited personnel practices. So while there is a literal truth that can be parsed out of Mukasey’s statement, that happens to be merely coincidental but unrelated to the matter at hand. He *could* start proceedings to address this matter, he simply isn’t going to.

    Furthermore, I’d add this man is a douche. Saying “I *could* do something, but I’m not gonna” places him only one rung on the ladder above Alberto Gonzales, who thought that saying “Mistakes were made and I will be accountable for them so long as everyone promises that no one will be held accountable” was enough to correct the situation.

  7. I’m pretty sure the literal parsing (”not all violations of a statute or regulation is a felony or misdemeanor; in some cases it is a tort”) was what Jon was alluding to.

    Yep, what Sam said. If it’s accidental and doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s not (shouldn’t be) a crime. I don’t this this case meets those criteria.

  8. Heh. That’s actually not exactly what I said. If you weren’t paying attention to the speedometer and were pulled over for traveling 8 miles per hour over the speedlimit on the freeway, the officer is probably not going to think “but I wasn’t doing it on purpose and I didn’t hurt anyone!” as a sufficient reason to not give you a traffic citation. He’d be right. On the other hand, if you accidentally back into a parked car while trying to parallel park, you haven’t committed a criminal violation (unless you were drunk), but you are clearly liable for any damages and should probably stop trying to parallel park.

  9. Sorry, didn’t mean to endorse your whole comment — just the part I quoted. And, of course, you’re right about the officer and traffic violations.

  10. Of course Mukasey is correct in that statement, but it certainly sounds funny to non-lawyers. Maybe that’s why he said it to the ABA.

    For those (Sam & Jon) who agree with the statement, but don’t think it applies here, perhaps you can point out which laws were broken and what the statutory penalties are. I’m sure AG Mukasey would appreciate being enlightened by you two renowned jurists.

  11. 5 USC Sec 2302 defines prohibited personnel practices to included descrimination against an employee based on his political affiliation. 5 USC Sec 1214 grants investigative authority over such matters to the Office of Special Counsel. 5 CFR 1201 Subpart D grants jurisdiction to the Merit Systems Protection Board and describes the process for reviewing the complaints filed by the OSC and the applicable penalties, which include possible fines not to exceed $1,100 per violation.

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