By AILA Board of Governors member Leslie Holman

Yesterday Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. told 11 new U.S. Prosecutors:

“Your job as assistant U.S. attorneys is not to convict people,” Holder said. “Your job is not to win cases. Your job is to do justice. Your job is in every case, every decision that you make, to do the right thing. Anybody who asks you to do something other than that is to be ignored. Any policy that is at tension with that is to be questioned and brought to my attention. And I mean that.”

Timing is everything. Attorney General Holder has the opportunity to lead by example. May 12th is the anniversary of the Postville Raids. An investigation into the proceedings at Postville will make the now discredited trial of U.S Senator Ted Stevens seem tame and reasonable by comparison. There is no justice in exploding plea agreements, a ratio of 17 defendants to 1 CJA defense lawyer, a pre-reviewed and prepared “Defense Manual”, alleged ex-parte communications, and pre-ordained pretrial detention.

Interestingly, the Attorney General’s comments give public defenders and CJA’s the green light to do what Cedar Rapids CJA Attorney Rockne Cole was brave enough to do without prompting when asked to participate in the Postville prosecutions –just say no. We need to continue that, however, and do more than just ignore those who ask us to do what is not right. We need to stand up and stop those making these requests. Ultimately we must prevent the requests from being made.

Attorney General Holder asked to be informed when justice has not been done. AILA did that earlier this week when we asked him “to order a full investigation, including a review of the facts of each defendant’s case, with an eye on dismissing the charges against those workers for whom the threat of prosecution under the federal identity statute was a miscarriage of justice.” The ball is in the Attorney General’s court. He encouraged the new U.S. attorneys to “do the right thing.” We encouraged him to do the same. We even told him how.

Attorney General Holder should follow his own advice and AILA’s. He can rise to the occasion and show the new federal prosecutors that it is never to late to do the right thing and he can demonstrate that under his watch justice is truly the ultimate goal.

And I mean that too.