On June 5, 2014, NAFUSA member Anton “Tony” Valukas issued his report of his internal investigation of General Motors regarding the failure of the company to fix a deadly safety defect, which is alleged to have led to at least 13 deaths. Read the entire report here.
As a result of the investigation and report, GM dismissed 15 employees, including a vice president for regulatory affairs and a senior lawyer responsible for product liability cases. The report is expected to lead to broad changes in how GM handles vehicle safety.
Valukas was critical of the GM bureaucracy. “The Cobalt ignition switch passed through an astonishing number of committees,” he wrote. “But determining the identity of any actual decision-maker was impenetrable.”
The Valukas report, however, did clear Mary T. Barra G.M.’s chief executive, and Michael Millikin, the general counsel. Valukas found no evidence of a deliberate cover-up.
Valukas is the chairman of Jenner & Block LLP and served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois from 1985 to 1989. He also served as the Justice Department appointed examiner of the downfall of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc.
NAFUSA lifetime member John Ratcliffe defeated Rep. Ralph Hall on Tuesday, 53%-47% in a GOP primary runoff for the 4th Congressional District of Texas, which covers the northeast corner of the state. Hall, the 90 year old GOP incumbent, the oldest member of Congress, has served 34 years or 17 terms. Hall is the first incumbent to lose renomination this cycle. With no Democratic candidate, Ratcliffe will be unopposed in November, and will join fellow NAFUSA member Susan Brooks in Congress.
Ratcliffe served as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, 2007-2008. He had served as first assistant to NAFUSA President-Elect Matt Orwig, and succeeded Orwig when the latter returned to private practice.
Ratcliffe is currently a partner with the Ashcroft Law Firm in the Dallas office. He earned his Juris Doctor at the Southern Methodist University School of Law. He has served as adjunct professor of law at both SMU and Texas Wesleyan University. He also served as mayor of Heath, Texas for eight years.
In an article in the Thursday, May 22, 2014, issue of The New York Times entitled From Virginia, Chasing Down Credit Suisse, NAFUSA member Neil MacBride is featured for his former leadership of the Eastern District of Virginia. Credit Suisse is headquartered in Zurich and has an office in New York, but its only contact with MacBride’s district was the fact that a Credit Suisse client flew out of Dulles Airport on his way to Zurich. That fact justified the indictment which led this week to the bank pleading guilty to helping thousands of American clients hide their wealth overseas.
The Times article discusses how MacBride, now a partner at Davis Polk, and his colleagues in the ED of Virginia were aggressive in claiming jurisdiction in a number of other cases as well to bring financial investigations into their district.
“There was a huge financial crisis that rocked the world, and it didn’t matter to us if the frauds occurred within the four corners of our district or around the globe,” said Mr. MacBride, who left behind investigations involving 60 countries when he left office last September.
Mary F. Calvert for The New York Times
The Justice Department announced on Thursday, May 22, 2014, that the F.B.I. and other federal agencies would be required to videotape interviews with suspects in most instances. The F.B.I. had previously opposed videotaping, arguing that the tapes could reveal agents’ interrogation tactics and discourage witnesses from talking.
NAFUSA member Paul Charlton, shown right, former U.S. Attorney in Arizona, had been vocal in his opposition to the former policy during his term in office, and had reached out to Director Jim Comey’s staff urging a change. The New York Times in an article entitled In Policy Change, Justice Dept. to Require Recording of Interrogations, quotes Charlton at length on the change:
Charlton said federal prosecutors were unnecessarily losing cases because they were unable to present to jurors the most damning evidence available to them: videotaped confessions.
“The most difficult part of proving a crime is the state of mind, and that is almost always obtained through a statement of the suspect,” Mr. Charlton, now a lawyer in private practice, said in telephone interview.
“It was an unjustifiable policy,” he said. “I think this is one of the most significant improvements in the criminal justice system in a long time.”
In case you noticed that the posts have been few and far between this month, the reason is that Executive Director Rich Rossman, along with his wife, Patty, and former Executive Director Ron Woods and his wife, Patty, visited Russia for a two week river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Any pre-trip concerns about the impact of the increased tensions over the Ukraine were quickly forgotten in touring this great and wonderful country. As Winston Churchill once said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
Your editor, however, is now back to work. I hope I haven’t missed any important news. Please feel free to email any member news that should be shared.
Rich & Patty Rossman, Ron & Patty Woods on the Moscow River, May 19, 2014
The Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA), signed into law by President Obama in July, 2011 with bipartisan support, with the purpose to make federal agencies more accountable for serving Indian lands. NAFUSA member Troy Eid was named chairman of the Indian Law & Order Commission, and recently completed his three year term. In November 2013, the Commission produced its report to the President and the Congress entitles A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer.
Eid, who served as the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, 2006-2009, is currently a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in the Denver office. At the 2009 NAFUSA conference in Seattle, Eid spoke on a panel on tribal issues. Recently he was interviewed by the Indian Country Today Media Network, Troy Eid on Why Tribes Need Control Over Their Justice Systems. High on the list of areas for reform, Eid argues, are Native American juvenile justice issues and Alaska Native justice issues. In January, Eid also authored a guest commentary in The Denver Post Opinion – The invisible crisis killing Native American youth. After commending President Obama for demanding better care for returning vets who suffer from PTSD, Eid says:
Yet there’s another massive PTSD tragedy in Colorado and across our country. It generates virtually zero public attention because it concerns what may be the most vulnerable group of our citizens: Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Because they’re exposed so frequently to violent crime, an astonishing one in four Native American juveniles currently suffers from PTSD.
In 1997 Michael E. Tigar and former NAFUSA executive director Ronald Woods, shown in a 1997 photo, began the defense of Terry Nichols for his alleged role in conspiring with Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal court house, which resulted in the death of at least 169 people. McVeigh had been convicted in a separate trial and received the death penalty. Tigar and Woods succeeded in obtaining a change of venue to Colorado, and the jury found Nichols guilty on the conspiracy count, not guilty of arson, use of a weapon of mass destruction, first degree murder, second degree murder, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Nichols was sentenced to life without parole.
In the April 2014 issue of the Michigan Law Review, Tigar reviews the recent book Killing McVeigh: The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure, by Jody Lynee Maderia. Tigar entitles his review Missing Mcveigh and reflects on his experience defending Nichols with Woods, who he calls “the best cocounsel one could imagine.” According to Tigar, Maderia’s book “examines the ways that victims groups came together and the goals they set for themselves” and that “Maderia exposes and dismisses the myth that killing a perpetrator gives victims any benefit that can meaningfully be called closure.”
The Tigar review is full of memories of the the Oklahoma City bombing and trials.
Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced on Wednesday, April 24, 2014, that the department would consider recommending clemency for nonviolent felons who have served at least 10 years in prison and who would have received significantly lower prison terms if convicted under today’s more lenient sentencing laws.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder has urged that the sentencing system be overhauled. In 2010, Congress unanimously voted to reduce the 100-to-1 disparity between sentences for crack cocaine offenses and those for powdered cocaine.
The movement for sentencing reform has drawn support from former judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials, including many members of NAFUSA. See, for instance, Letter re Smarter Sentencing Act 12-9-13, a letter to Senators Richard Durbin and Michael Lee in support for their bill to reform federal sentencing contained in the Smarter Sentencing Act.
But the movement for reform has not been without its critics, including the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys (NAAUSA), the National Narcotics Officers Association’ Coalition, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and other law enforcement groups. NAAUSA has been circulating a proposed letter, the ReidMcConnellLetter-NAAUSASignOn, to Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, opposing the Smarter Sentencing Act, which has been signed by a number of NAFUSA members.
The 2009 J. Michael Bradford Memorial Award winner Marshall L. Miller has been named acting principal deputy assistant attorney general and chief of staff of the Department of Justice Criminal Division. Miller has been serving as the chief of the Criminal Division in the United States Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of New York. He has served in that office since 1999 and has handled many of the most important national security prosecutions in that district.
Miller is shown in the center of the above photo receiving the Bradford Award at the Seattle conference in 2009. He is flanked by Mike McKay, left, NAFUSA president in 2008-09 and Bill Lutz, right, who became president in 2010-11.
As chief of staff in the Criminal Division, Miller will be filling the shoes of Jay Stephens and Rich Rossman, both of whom have held that position during their long careers.