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February 11, 2008

The winds of prosecutorial power

Ben%20kuehne.jpgWhen the Department of Justice decided to prosecute Arthur Andersen out of business despite a manifestly weak case, that confirmed that the creation of enormous wealth for thousands of employees and an impeccable reputation built over decades of fine work provide no insulation these days from the excesses of an rapacious prosecutor's judgment.

Then, the DOJ decided to misapply a criminal law to prosecute several former executives of the social pariah Enron, which a vacuous mainstream media applauded without nary a mention of the dreadful implications that such a misuse of the state's overwhelming prosecutorial power portends.

Given this backdrop, it was not particularly surprising that the government threatened to put large employers out of business unless they served up a few employees for the government to prosecute. Or that the government turned its prosecutorial power on the business news media as well as almost everything else. In the meantime, some of the leading purveyors of this prosecutorial campaign of abuse were being rewarded for their actions and competing for the highest offices in the land.

But now the government is turning its prosecutorial power toward pillars of the legal profession, first with regard to a Mayer Brown partner who performed work for Refco and more recently with regard to Ben Kuehne, who has long been one of the most-admired lawyers in the Miami legal community. Ellen Podgor analyzes the implications of the Kuehne indictment and Ashby Jones adds more context here.

So, after much of the legal profession has stood by for years while prosecutors trampled the rule of law in criminalizing unpopular business executives, where does the profession now "hide [with] the laws all being flat?." Will the profession be able to stand upright in the winds of prosecutorial abuse that are blowing now? Stay tuned.

Posted by Tom at February 11, 2008 12:10 AM |

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