Spotlight on John McKay, Western Washington

Original Publication Date: 
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The saga of the purge of US Attorneys continues to unfold and this "spotlight" features the resignation of US Attorney John McKay of Washington's Western District, and his "interim" replacement, Jeffrey Sullivan. Mc Kay was nominated by President Bush and approved by the Senate in 2001 and has served the citizens of Western Washington for the last five years.

Typically, US Attorneys change with a change in the White House, not in the middle of a presidential term. McKay was asked to resign on December 7th, 2006 and announced his resignation effective January 26th, 2007. "I have nothing but respect and pride in having worked for President Bush," he said. He will be joining the faculty of Seattle University Law School.

So why was McKay asked to resign?

Spotlight on Kevin Ryan, Northern California

Original Publication Date: 
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
On January 16th 2007, Kevin Ryan, US Attorney for California's Northern District, announced his resignation. Mr. Ryan, who had served Northern California for the last 4 1/2 years, is one of the victims of the "Pearl Harbor Day Massacre" of US Attorneys (6-7 were asked to step down on December 7th 2006).

Ryan spokesman Luke Macaulay was quoted as saying that Ryan reached a "mutually agreeable decision with Washington" to step down (Associated Press).

Kevin Ryan was nominated by President George W. Bush on May 15th 2002, approved by the US Senate on July 26th and took office on July 31st 2002. Mr. Ryan, a San Fransisco native,

[...] graduated from Saint Ignatius College Preparatory, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Dartmouth College, and received his Juris Doctor from the University of San Francisco School of Law. Mr. Ryan began his legal career in California as a prosecutor with the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. While in the District Attorney's Office, he handled a variety of cases including homicides and violent gang prosecutions. In 1996, while serving as a member of the Violent Gang Suppression Unit, Mr. Ryan was appointed by Governor Pete Wilson to serve as a Judge on the San Francisco Municipal Court. In 1998, he was elected overwhelmingly to the Court by the voters of San Francisco, and in 1999, he became a member of the San Francisco Superior Court. Mr. Ryan was serving as the Presiding Judge, Criminal Division, for the San Francisco Superior Court when President Bush nominated him to be the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California.

Spotlight on Paul Charlton, Arizona

Original Publication Date: 
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Curious Tale of Paul Charlton

While serving the state of Arizona as US Attorney, Paul Charlton garnered a good reputation with many organizations, from the local to the national level. Nominated by George W. Bush and approved by the Senate in 2001, Charlton spent five years creating a reputation that had the FBI calling him supportive and proactive, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) calling him outstanding and dedicated, and local officials said he was responsive and diplomatic.

During his tenure as the Arizona U.S. Attorney, Charlton established the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC), a program that has improved communication and coordination between law enforcement agencies; a National Security Division within the U.S. Attorney' s Office to actively work with law enforcement agencies on terrorism related criminal cases, and expanded the Victim Advocate staff in his office to better serve crime victims. In 2002, the U.S. Attorney' s Office Victim Witness Program was awarded the Federal Service Award, and this December the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office would serve as a national "Model Program."1

Not bad work for a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Attorney's office, and clearly not the kind of person you'd expect to make waves or cause trouble for his superiors. So it's surprising to discover that Charlton was one of seven US Attorneys that were asked to resign by the Administration on December 7th, 2006.

Pair-a-dice...Guam's DOJ Gamble

Original Publication Date: 
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Previous articles in our continuing series on the US Attorneys: The Gonzales Seven; The Alberto Gonzales Appointments: How the Process Has Changed and Why this is so Important; Alberto Gonzales: Gaming the System Again in Arizona?

guam gambleLong before the public was familiar with Kyle Sampson and his role in the firing of U.S. Attorneys Ryan, Lam, Charlton, Cummins, Iglesias, McKay, Bogden or Chiara by the Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department, his name surfaces in the shakeup that brewed thousands of miles away in the Territory of Guam. In light of what has surfaced with the recent U.S. Attorney firings, was the Bush administration testing the waters on that tiny island four years ago and pushing the envelope to see just how far it could go injecting politics into the U.S. justice system?

In 2002, President G.W. Bush's Administration abruptly removed the Acting U.S. Attorney in Guam, U.S. Attorney Frederick A. Black from his post. Black had been the Acting U.S. Attorney for Guam since 1991 when he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, the current President's father.

Margaret Chiara

Original Publication Date: 
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Recently, an eighth name was added to the list of the Gonzales Seven, the U.S. Attorneys forced to resign since the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in March of 2006.  It now appears Margaret Chiara can also be added to the list of attorneys receiving their phone calls on December 7th, 2006 -- Pearl Harbor Day. In his opening remarks to the House committee hearings, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella stated that there are 18 who have resigned since March 2006.

The U.S. Attorney story to date:

On Tuesday March 6th, 2007, under oath in front of Congress, six recently fired US Attorneys gave testimony compelled by subpoenas issued on Friday, March 2nd. H.E. "Bud" Cummins, Paul Charlton, Daniel Bogden, David Iglesias, Carol Lam and John McKay testified in front of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, with Lam, McKay, Iglesias and Cummins also testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier the same day.

The Case of the Absentee Attorney, William Mercer, Montana

Original Publication Date: 
Monday, March 26, 2007

Notably, Mercer has served the public sans Senate Confirmation before.

US Attorney Portfolio

Original Publication Date: 
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ePluribus Media's on-going series on US Attorneys will bring background stories on many US Attorneys ... we started with US Attorneys: Kevin Ryan, Carol Lam, Paul Charlton, HE Cummins, David Iglesias, John McKay and Daniel Bogden. With the exception of Bud Cummins, these attorneys were all "resigned" on December 7, 2006. In addition to those six, it has been learned that Margaret Chiara was also "resigned" during the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre.

Academic Freedom on the Rock(s): The Failures of Faculty in Tough Times - Part II

Original Publication Date: 
Saturday, January 20, 2007

What I am not saying, politely ...

I am not arguing that all faculty members must commit themselves to my politics or my style of public political engagement.

I am not bitter. Given the contemporary political landscape, I do not expect support from faculty members for my political activities.

I am not disappointed. As a class, faculty members act in ways that one would expect a privileged class to act.

I am not overly optimistic that these conditions -- either in the political culture generally or in academia specifically -- will change in the short term. The struggle is best understood as a long-term effort on all fronts. I am not spending a lot of time worrying about this, given the myriad other ways I can spend my time and energy in political engagement in the world. Academic freedom matters, but not to the exclusion of other pressing issues.

And, I am not trying to paint with too broad a brush. I am aware that throughout the United States there are faculty members who take academic freedom seriously and are diligent in attempts to defend it.

What I am saying, bluntly ...

The AAUP's 1915 Declaration of Principles -- freedom of (1) inquiry and research, (2) teaching within the university, and (3) extramural utterance or action -- is worth defending, but not because most faculty members can be expected to make serious use of these privileges to challenge power, and not because at this moment in history the university is a space where most faculty members pursue truly critical, independent inquiry. I find much of the university with which I am familiar (the humanities and the social sciences) to be populated with self-important and self-indulgent caricatures. Much of the intellectual work is trivial, irrelevant, and/or flabby. Most components of the contemporary U.S. university have been bought off, and bought off fairly cheaply. As a result it is, in the words of my friend Abe Osheroff, the institution is generally 'a fucking dead rock.'

Academic Freedom on the Rock(s): The Failures of Faculty in Tough Times - Part I

Original Publication Date: 
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Faculty responses to the watch list: Chicken Little

Rather than focus on the threats posed by administrator condemnations or student campaigns aimed at left/liberal biases, I want to focus on the responses I have seen and heard from faculty members on my campus. Again, I don't pretend that the University of Texas is representative. Rather than claim this is the way most faculty in the United States act, I want to highlight what I consider to be the problems in some faculty members' reactions where I work. I'll begin with the watch list.

In informal conversations as these political campaigns have gained prominence, I have heard far too many of what I believed to be overly dramatic responses, including references to these student efforts as McCarthyism or a suppression of academic freedom. Yes, these student initiatives are part of a broader goal of shutting down some of the remaining institutional spaces left for critical, independent inquiry. But it is inaccurate and counterproductive to compare a student-initiated endeavor (even if the inspiration for it comes from right-wing political operatives) to the use of state power to fire professors and destroy people's lives on a large scale. Could we someday return to the suppression of the two major Red Scares of the 20th century? Of course it's possible, but it's not happening now. And to talk in those terms is to invite being labeled by the public as over-reactive, whiny, self-indulgent intellectuals who are cut off from the day-to-day reality of most people's struggles in the employment world, where job protection on the order of academic tenure is the stuff of dreams. The public is quick to label us that way, in part because it is so often an apt description of so many faculty members. Professorial rhetoric that bolsters the perception is not strategically helpful.

For example, one of my UT colleagues said in a television news story about the watch list: "I feel like they [students observing his class for potential inclusion on the watch list] were put there to watch me. And this watch list or my position on this watch list is a result of that. So, do I feel like I'm under surveillance? I am under surveillance."

Academic Freedom on the Rock(s)

Original Publication Date: 
Saturday, January 20, 2007

Threats to academic freedom -- direct and indirect, subtle and not so subtle -- come from a variety of sources: Politicians, the general public, news media, administrators, corporations, and students. In my academic career, I have been criticized from all of those quarters. Though these attacks have been relatively easy to fend off in my particular case, the threats are real and should trouble us; they require of us sharper analysis and a strategic plan to fend off attempts to constrain inquiry. But, even with that understanding of the seriousness of these external threats, I will argue that the most important aspect of the current controversies is how they mark the complacency and timidity of faculty members themselves. I will focus on two specific incidents in my career -- one involving administrators and the other students -- that illustrate these threats. Then, I will examine the responses of faculty members on my campus to the events, and offer suggestions for analysis and action. Throughout I will remain rooted in my own experience at the University of Texas at Austin. While Texas may in some ways be idiosyncratic, I do not believe my experience at that university is radically different from others around the United States. My concern with this issue is not rooted in optimism for the short term. While I would like to see U.S. academics, as a class, take a leading role in movements to assert radical humanistic values that have the possibility of transforming society; I don't believe it is likely, or even possible, in the near future. In fact, I assume that in the short term there is very little progressive political change likely in the United States, with or without the assistance of university-based academics. Instead, I will argue we should work to hold onto what protections for academic freedom exist to provide some space for critical thinking in an otherwise paved-over intellectual culture, with an eye on the long term. Toward that goal, I will suggest ways to approach these threats to academic freedom and attempt to assess realistically the conditions under which such defenses go forward.


Original Publication Date: 
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Editors' Note: On the first year anniversary of Katrina, Louisiana resident and writer, Polydactyl reflects on her in-the-moment journals and diaries to remind us of what it was like in the eye of the storm.

about the author: Polydactyl dons her blogger's hat in Central Louisiana between shifts as a wife, mom, cat-herder and computer healer.