Ousted US Atty: Firings ‘Devastating for DOJ’
Posted Oct 22, 2007 11:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Fired U.S. Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego told Stanford Lawyer in her first on-the-record interview since her dismissal that the Justice Department’s decision to oust nine federal prosecutors has created devastating uncertainty and demonstrated the failure of DOJ management.
The firings have sparked a public outcry and congressional hearings into whether politics motivated the action. A Stanford alum, Lam said in the Q-and-A article that the events show why the Justice Department and its prosecutors need to have independence.
“The assumption is that you will be allowed to remain in the position until the end of the term unless you make an egregious error," she said. "Ignoring that tradition has created a great problem for the Department of Justice, and failing to comprehend why that tradition was so important demonstrates the complete failure of DOJ management that led to this unfortunate state of affairs. The uncertainty it has caused among U.S. attorneys is just devastating for the DOJ. And it's still shocking to me that department leadership took such an ill-advised course, without thinking through the consequences.”
Lam said the phone call asking for her resignation came as a complete surprise. “There was no hint of what was coming, nothing in the air,” she said. “We had all been at a conference together earlier in the week and were told how great a job we were doing.”
Lam is pleased that the firings drew so much media attention. “Ironically, it renewed my faith in the country and in the public's ability to focus on important issues,” she said. “What this situation pointed out to me was that people are very concerned about the justice system. They're very concerned about either the perception or the reality that their justice system is not working in a fair and evenhanded manner.”
Some have speculated that Lam was fired for leading an investigation into former Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who was sentenced in March 2006 to taking more than $2.4 million from defense contractors.
Since she was dismissed from her prosecutor post in February, Lam became acting general counsel of Qualcomm. She replaced Lou Lupin, who resigned after the company was accused of “litigation abuse” for failing to turn over discovery documents in a patent case.
Updated 10/22/07 at 12:51 p.m. CST to state that nine U.S. attorneys were ousted.