Uneven Justice in the Obama Justice Department

Michael Mukasy, from a speech delivered on July 19, 2015, aboard the Crystal Serenity, during a Hillsdale College cruise from Lisbon to London.

Obama and the Obama Justice Department. If you think about it, it makes sense that in America—the only nation in the world to define itself not by blood or land, but by a law, the Constitution—the government agency charged with enforcing that law, and enforcing the laws passed under it, would be called the Department of Justice. As such, the work of the Justice Department is highly important. It plays a fundamental role in our nation’s life, because its work has to do in one way or another with how honest, how fair, and how safe our country is.

That being said, I’m regretful to have to add that in a country where honesty, fairness, and safety are so strongly influenced by one department of government, over the past six years—largely because of that department’s work—our country has grown less honest, less fair, and less safe than it ought to be. Let me give you some examples.

Recently we hear a great deal about the prosecution of “evildoing” corporations, but not so much about the prosecution of individuals who are the alleged evildoers. Why is that? To be specific, a lot of what we hear with respect to corporations is not about prosecutions at all—it’s about “deferred-prosecution agreements” or “non-prosecution agreements,” agreements that extract enormous financial penalties. Indeed, the current Justice Department takes pride in setting record after record in terms of collecting these penalties.

Other attorneys general, myself included, made such agreements. But the penalties that have been extracted over the past six years are unprecedented. They involve numbers in the billions, and are of a scale that makes it appear that the Justice Department is acting as a profit center for the government.

Justice Department investigations begin by looking into claims, for example, of unlawful payments to foreign officials or of unsafe motor vehicles. Corporations often face disastrous collateral consequences simply from having charges brought against them, which is why they are often willing to admit to conduct that the government cannot prove, to pay enormous fines, and to accept the oversight of monitors. In return, the government agrees that no charges will be filed so long as the corporations remain on good behavior for some specified period of time. Charges are rarely brought against individuals, on the other hand, because individuals can be put in jail. When faced with this, people usually fight back—and when they fight back, they frequently win.

This process generates cynicism about the American justice system, as individuals go uncharged, billion-dollar penalties are assessed, and the ones who pay are not wrongdoers, but corporate shareholders and employees.

Under Obama, Lady Justice is never blind. She sees opportunities and she grabs them; all the while protecting those who control her.

The NEW GM, Obama’s reincarnated General Motors, has confidentially settled several product liability suits over its deadly ignition switch defect. A federal judge has found that there was probable cause to believe General Motors Co. committed a crime in failing to disclose a deadly ignition switch defect to the government.  Plaintiffs in several lawsuits have claimed a right to the internal memos and notes of New GM’s lawyers under the crime-fraud exception to Attorney-client privilege. The Obama appointed judge has denied access to these records claiming there is no proof New GM and its lawyers entered into the confidential settlements with the intent of hiding the ignition switch defect which they knew existed and which their failure to report was a federal crime.

General Motors and the Justice Department have agreed to a $900 million dollar fine for dropping all criminal charges [against GM, no charges have been brought against any individuals] within 3 years. Those who sued instead of taking a confidential settlement may be compensated out of the $900 million settlement.

At least 100 deaths have been attributed to New GM’s defective ignition switch.

The sum of $900 Million that GM will pay is paltry compared to the $1.2 Billion the Justice Department exacted from Toyota for its alleged sudden acceleration problems. Toyota cars were never proved to even be defective and all incidents of sudden acceleration were probably due to drivers pushing the acceleration pedal instead of the brake pedal.

Lady Justice has her eyes wide open in the Obama Justice Department. She is ever vigilant to protect the private interests that Obama and this foot soldiers care about, such as New GM, and to exploit for profit those which they don’t care about, such as Toyota.

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