DOWNSIDE LEGACY AT TWO DEGREES OF PRESIDENT CLINTON
SECTION: STRANGE JUSTICE
SUBSECTION: Judge James Robertson
Revised 7/14/00

 

Current Information:

Washington Post 6/28/00 Bill Miller "…..A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated the conviction of a Tyson Foods executive for providing an illegal gratuity to former agriculture secretary Mike Espy, ruling that Archibald R. Schaffer III was not entitled to a new trial…... A jury convicted him nearly two years ago, but a series of appeals delayed his sentencing……..Schaffer, director of government and media relations for the poultry giant, was convicted of providing Espy with $2,500 worth of air transportation so the agriculture secretary could attend a May 1993 Tyson family party in Arkansas. U.S. District Judge James Robertson overturned the verdict, saying prosecutors failed to tie favors to official acts on Espy's part. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last year that Robertson erred and sent the case back for sentencing…….The defense then sought a new trial, saying that Espy now was available to testify. At the time of Schaffer's trial, Espy was awaiting trial himself on gratuities charges. A jury acquitted Espy, who then offered to testify that Schaffer did nothing wrong.......Robertson ordered the new trial but was reversed once again yesterday……."

Townhall 4/13/00 Robert Novak "………The classic case is income-tax evasion charges against Clinton intimate Webster Hubbell. The case went to Judge James Robertson, another liberal Washington lawyer who actively supported and contributed to Clinton for president. Robertson denied the jurisdiction of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, and called his tactics "scary." ……… The assignments were made by Chief Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, a government lawyer or judge for the past 37 years who has abandoned random selection of judges. There is no disputing some facts. She did ask the Justice Department to ask her to assign the Hsia case to Friedman. She arbitrarily gave the Hubbell case to Robertson. ……. A Judicial Watch complaint that the Clinton D.C. judges were meeting privately was dismissed as "frivolous" by Appeals Court Judge Stephen Williams, acting on Judge Johnson's assurances. But Republican Rep. Howard Coble of North Carolina renewed the request, and a scathing account of Johnson's conduct by University of Illinois Law Professor Ronald Rotunda (published in the Wall Street Journal) was filed in court. Consequently, the circuit's Judicial Council reinstated the issue, and a five-judge panel was named. It was supposed to be secret, judges privately observing a colleague's conduct. But news leaked of an inquiry that could expose an outrageous means of survival for Bill Clinton. ….."

CNN 3/25/00 Philip Brasher AP "…A Tyson Foods executive convicted of providing illegal gifts to former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy asked an appeals court Friday to give him a new trial so Espy can testify in his behalf. Espy, who didn't testify at Archie Schaffer's trial last June, was awaiting a trial of his own at the time on corruption charges. He was subsequently acquitted. Schaffer attorney Bill Jeffress told the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that there was no way to get Espy to testify for Schaffer while his own case was pending. "There was never a point he was going to give us an affidavit any more than he was going to be interviewed," Jeffress said. U.S. District Judge James Robertson agreed in December to give Schaffer a new trial, saying Espy's testimony would likely result in Schaffer's acquittal, but Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz appealed the decision. The judge had earlier overturned Schaffer's conviction only to have it reinstated on appeal. ………".

Wall Street Journal 3/20/00 Ronald D Rotunda "…….Justice is supposed to be blind, deciding the law without favoritism. But there is a gradual accumulation of evidence that points in a contrary direction -- that when criminal cases important to President Clinton were assigned and decided in the federal district court in Washington, D.C., Justice lifted her blindfold and politics controlled. The cloud of suspicion can be removed only if the D.C. federal court system and Congress thoroughly investigate and make public their findings. Let's look at some of the facts.

……..When I was a special consultant to Kenneth Starr's Office of Independent Counsel, the OIC often found its investigation delayed and disadvantaged by lower-court rulings subsequently reversed on appeal. When the Department of Justice brought its campaign-finance prosecutions, it also ran into a series of adverse rulings, also reversed on appeal. The trial judges who made a series of errors were all members of "the Magnificent Seven," a label the Clinton appointees gave themselves (until Mr. Clinton added an eighth judge in 1998).

……..Normally, criminal cases are supposed to be assigned randomly. However, we now know that when criminal prosecutions were brought against Webster Hubbell and others with close ties to Mr. Clinton, Chief Judge Norma Holloway Johnson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., secretly bypassed the traditional random assignment system, passed over more experienced judges, and assigned the cases to the Magnificent Seven…….

……..Judge Johnson assigned the Hubbell case to Judge James Robertson. She assigned to Judge Paul Friedman the campaign-finance case against Charlie Trie, the campaign-finance case against Democratic fund-raiser Maria Hsia, and the false-statements case against Thai lobbyist Pauline Kanchanalak. These Clinton-appointed judges then issued rulings that crippled the prosecution; in all these cases, various panels of the D.C. Circuit reversed. Do you detect a pattern here?

……….Judge Johnson assigned the case against Democratic fund-raiser Howard Glicken to Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr., a 1997 Clinton appointee, claiming that it was "complicated or protracted," although Mr. Glicken's lawyer announced, when Mr. Glicken was charged, that he would plead guilty. She assigned the case against Miami fund-raiser Mark Jimenez to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, a 1994 appointee.

……..One case in particular stands out, the prosecution of Webster Hubbell for income tax evasion. Parties not particularly close to Mr. Hubbell -- but close to the president -- paid Mr. Hubbell nearly $1 million. In return, Mr. Hubbell, who was in prison at the time, appeared to do no work. A cynic might call the payments hush money. Judge Robertson, who presided over this case, had worked in and donated money to, President Clinton's 1992 campaign. In the Hubbell tax-fraud prosecution, Judge Robertson ruled that he could ignore the ruling of the three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit and hold that the OIC did not have jurisdiction to prosecute Mr. Hubbell and the other defendants, and that it could not use tax documents subpoenaed from Mr. Hubbell. Judge Robertson used incendiary language, calling the OIC's tactics (which other circuits had approved) "scary." The D.C. Circuit agreed with these other circuits and reversed. At the time, the OIC did not know that Judge Johnson had manipulated the assignment to get the case before Judge Robertson. I went back to the transcripts after this information became public and saw Judge Robertson's comments in a new light. The transcript reads as if Judge Robertson had decided that the case was not going to trial; he just had not decided why……..

………At the hearing of May 8, 1998, OIC counsel asked Judge Robertson to set a trial date, which is standard operating procedure. The judge responded that he normally does that but it would be "arbitrary" to do so here, "when we're looking at the kinds of motions that I'm sure are coming." In other words, the judge refused to set a trial date because of motions not even filed; that is not standard operating procedure. The OIC attorney replied that he had already talked to defense counsel and they were prepared to find a mutually agreeable date, to which Judge Robertson answered, apparently in surprise: "Oh." He still refused to set a date………

...... At the June 2, 1998 hearing, the judge again questioned whether "it makes sense for us to set a trial date," and he volunteered that any date will be written "in sand here if there are, heaven forfend, interlocutory appeals." The defendants are not entitled to interlocutory appeals but the prosecution is, so once more it appeared that the judge had already decided that there would be no trial. On July 1, three business days after oral argument, Judge Robertson issued a lengthy written opinion. This is an extraordinarily brief time in which to formulate a decision and write it up, unless the judge had made up his mind in advance…..

……..Perhaps it was happenstance that Judge Johnson secretly assigned the Hubbell case to Judge Robertson, a Clinton appointee. Perhaps Judge Robertson's statements in the transcript do not indicate that he, from the very beginning, had prejudged the matter and decided there would be no trial. But then another eyebrow-raiser occurred: It was discovered that Clinton-appointed judges on the D.C. district court were holding monthly caucuses from which other federal judges were excluded……."

 

 

The Wall Street Journal 2/4/00 "…..A few days ago, the Associated Press's Pete Yost reported on one of the lingering ghosts of the Clinton scandals: "Addressing a growing controversy, federal judges in the nation's capital killed a rule that enabled the chief judge to send prosecutions against friends and supporters of President Clinton to his judicial appointees." In the normally well-cloaked world of judicial procedure, this is a very big deal. As far as we can make out from a large data-base search, the AP story was picked up by next to no major news outlets. …… The matters newly revealed last month include the assignment of the case of Mark Jimenez, a fugitive from the Justice Department's campaign-finance probe, to Judge Friedman (who, it should be noted, drove the internal review that had resulted in abolishing the discretionary assignment rule). And hearings regarding Miami businessman and Democratic fund-raiser Howard Glicken were assigned to Judge Henry Kennedy, a 1997 Clinton appointee…….. "

Judicial Watch 2/9/00 "…..The Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit ordered yesterday that a federal appeals court judge reconsider Judicial Watch's judicial complaint, based on press reports and congressional inquiries, asking for an investigation of allegations that Chief Judge Norma Holloway Johnson had improperly bypassed the random assignment process when she directly assigned cases concerning President Clinton to recent Clinton appointees. Judicial Watch's complaint, which also asked for a probe of secret monthly meetings by Clinton appointees in the DC Circuit, was first filed in August, 1999.... The Judicial Watch Council for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is made up of D.C. federal circuit and district court judges, ruled on February 9: "...that the portion of the [Judicial Watch] complaint concerning the special assignment of cases be returned to the Acting Chief Judge for reconsideration in light of the letter of January 10, 2000...from The Honorable Howard Coble, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property of the Committee on the Judiciary United States, House of Representatives, and for consideration of whether a special committee should be appointed...to investigate further this aspect of the complaint." Congressman Coble's letter had raised further questions about Chief Judge Norma Holloway Johnson's assignment of cases concerning Bill Clinton's fundraising to recent Clinton appointees….."

THE WASHINGTON TIMES 2/10/00 Jerry Seper "…..The Judicial Council of the D.C. Circuit, in a terse two-paragraph ruling, ordered acting Appeals Court Chief Judge Stephen F. Williams to determine why a random computer assignment system at the court was bypassed in four campaign fund-raising prosecutions and a tax-evasion case against Clinton pal Webster L. Hubbell. Chief District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson abandoned the computer system to send the cases to judges appointed by Mr. Clinton. She has declined public comment on the decision, but told The Washington Times in a letter last month she was authorized to assign "protracted or complex criminal cases to consenting judges when circumstances warrant," although she did not elaborate. The new investigation was sought by Rep. Howard Coble, North Carolina Republican and chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees the courts, and Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm…….Mr. Coble's concerns focused on cases involving Mr. Hubbell, former associate attorney general; Arkansas businessman Charles Yah Lin Trie; Democratic fund-raiser Howard Glicken; Thai lobbyist Pauline Kanchanalak; and Miami fund-raiser Mark B. Jimenez. The judges were Paul L. Friedman, James Robertson and Emmet G. Sullivan, all of whom were named to the bench by Mr. Clinton in 1994; and Henry H. Kennedy Jr., appointed by Mr. Clinton in 1997……"

 

 

Previously, from the DSL, on Judge Robertson:

Jack L Williams and Archie Schaffer III verdicts (ESPY) set aside, Webster Hubbell indictments thrown out , Arriena Huffington attempts to obtain information from the State Dept delayed to 11/16/99 - Judge James Robertson, nominated by Clinton, connections to Lloyd Cutler and Jane Sherburne. Despite convictions of Williams and Schaffer, the Judge reserved the right to throw out the entire case.

AP Janelle Carter 9/21/98 "A federal judge threw out the conviction of a Tyson Foods Inc. executive who had been found guilty of providing illegal gifts to former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. U.S. District Judge James Robertson overturned Archie Schaffer III's June 26 conviction but denied the motion for acquittal or a new trial of another Tyson executive, lobbyist Jack Williams. Tried with Schaffer in Robertson's court, Williams was convicted at the same time of lying to investigators.."

Associated Press 2/16/99 Pete Yost ".U.S. District Judge James Robertson said he might conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Starr's prosecutors prejudiced a fair trial for Hubbell by delaying charges for two years. Hubbell is accused in the November 1998 indictment of concealing his and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's roles in a fraudulent Arkansas land development. Hubbell's lawyers want the case dismissed, suggesting Starr's office held back the charges until a key witness, Hubbell's father-in- law, elderly businessman Seth Ward of Little Rock, Ark., was too ill to testify. Ward and the Clintons' Whitewater partner, Jim McDougal, co-owned a 1,000 parcel of property south of Little Rock called Castle Grande. McDougal, who cooperated with Starr's office, died in prison last year and therefore cannot be cross-examined about the information he gave to prosecutors.."

CNN Web Site 2/17/99 Terry Frieden ".A federal judge Tuesday rejected a motion by former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell to dismiss nearly half of the allegations in a Whitewater-related indictment brought against him by Independent Counsel Ken Starr. U.S. District Judge James Robertson refused to dismiss six counts of a 15-count indictment against President Bill Clinton's longtime friend brought by Starr's prosecutors last November.. Hubbell attorney John Nields, Jr. complained to the judge that Starr's team was hounding Hubbell. "The law does not look sympathetically at the government for prosecuting someone over and over and over again," Nields said. But Judge Robertson responded, "This case is not about sympathies.". Hubbell faces a second separate trial in a tax fraud case Starr brought against him. Those charges were thrown out by Robertson last year, but reinstated by a federal appeals court in January. That case involves allegations Hubbell received "hush money" from Clinton friends to buy his silence on possible Clinton wrongdoing. Hubbell adamantly denies the charges.."

FoxNews 3/2/99 Pete Yost "...In a new threat to Kenneth Starr's office, a federal judge indicated today he may require the prosecutor to supply presidential friend Webster Hubbell with investigative memos and grand jury testimony that spell out the inner workings of the Whitewater investigation. U.S. District Judge James Robertson suggested he may hold a pretrial hearing into how Starr came to indict Hubbell for allegedly concealing his and Hillary Rodham Clinton's work on a fraudulent Arkansas land development called Castle Grande...."

Associated Press 3/18/99 Larry Margasak "...A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a criminal count against presidential friend Webster Hubbell in a fraud indictment that makes references to Hillary Rodham Clinton. The count accused Hubbell of scheming to conceal work done by him and Mrs. Clinton, his former law partner, on a failed Arkansas land deal. U.S. District Judge James Robertson agreed with Hubbell that the allegations in the count were too vague. "The charging language ... alleges no specific act or acts of concealment by 'trick, scheme or device' and no specific 'false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations,'' the judge said, citing specific language of federal law. "It is non-specific.'' Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr had obtained a 15-count indictment of Hubbell last November in connection with a land deal known as Castle Grande. Federal regulators said the deal was riddled with "insider dealing, fictitious sales and land flips.'' Robertson dismissed Hubbell's motions to throw out other counts in the case...."

 

Additional Information:

http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/judiciary/hju42227.000/hju42227_0.htm JUDICIAL REFORM ACT OF 1997 WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, 1997 House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property, Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, DC


"….Representative Ed Bryant has proposed in section 4 that a complaint brought against a Federal judge be referred to a circuit other than the circuit in which the judge who is the subject of the complaint sits, pursuant to rules developed by the Judicial Conference. This would ensure that greater objectivity would be brought to bear in cases where the disability or misconduct of a judge warrants punishment…."

"…..PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. HENRY A. POLITZ, CHIEF JUDGE, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT, AND HON. ANN CLAIRE WILLIAMS, JUDGE, U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, ON BEHALF OF THE JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES

"….In the view of the federal judiciary, the proposal in Section 4 is seriously deficient The Conference has looked carefully at this legislation and has recently adopted the following resolution:

The Judicial Conference of the United States expresses its strong opposition to any revision of the complaint procedure established by the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, 28 U.S.C. 372(c), to provide that proceedings on complaints filed under that section shall be conducted by a circuit other than the circuit in which the named judge serves. Such a change would seriously threaten one of the central achievements of the Act: the enhancement of the ability of chief judges and circuit councils to resolve genuine problems of misconduct or disability within their own circuits through corrective actions or informal resolutions. See Report of the National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal, at 104, 113, 123, 124 (August 1993). It would also dramatically increase the costs and burdens of the complaint process for the federal judiciary, if every complaint must be considered by judges who are hundreds or thousands of miles away from the complaint's principals. No substantial purpose would be served by such a change, because the current practice of handling complaints within the circuit does not create any perceptible problem of Conflict of interest.

…..The National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal, a Commission created by Congress to investigate and study issues involved in the tenure, discipline and removal of federal judges (Public Law No. 101–650, Dec. 1, 1990 (104 Stat. 5122), 410(1)), exhaustively examined the current arrangements for the discipline of federal judges. In its Report, published in 1993, the Commission lauded the existing judicial discipline system precisely because of its effectiveness in promoting informal and behind-the-scenes solutions to genuine problems of judicial misconduct or disability. The Commission stated as follows:

Although the 1980 Act [28 U.S.C. 372(c)] established a formal mechanism for filing complaints, perhaps its major benefit has been the facilitation of informal adjustments of problems of judicial misconduct or disability. In some situations, that has occurred without the filing of a complaint; in others it has followed a chief judge's inquiry in response to a complaint. A chief judge's power under the 1980 Act to conclude a proceeding ''if he finds that appropriate corrective action has been taken'' is a boon to negotiated resolutions.

* * * * *
The 1980 Act ... has yielded substantial benefits both in those few instances where it was necessary for the judicial councils to take action and, more importantly, in the many instances where the existence of its formal process enabled chief judges to resolve complaints through corrective action and, indeed, to resolve problems before a complaint was filed.

Report of the National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal, at 104, 123 (August 1993).

These informal and corrective processes—the very core of any system for the discipline of life-tenured judges—cannot function effectively from remote locations. For this reason, Section 4—far from toughening discipline and making federal judges more accountable, as is its apparent intent—in fact would soften and undermine existing disciplinary processes.

Under the current system, a complaint with some substance goes for determination to judges who are in a position to act knowledgeably and tactfully to seek genuine solutions: a chief judge and/or judicial council within the circuit. The result is often effective action to resolve the problem. A more distant and impersonal authority, ignorant of the personalities involved in the matter and acting at arm's length, would be far less able to bring about such a result. Instead, the complaint process would likely become more formal, less efficient, and less productive.

Just as important, the potential exercise by judges in the same circuit of the formal complaint power provided for under current law strongly facilitates the informal resolution of genuine problems of judicial misconduct or disability without the filing of a formal complaint. The very existence of this power strengthens the judges' hand in working out solutions, since all know that the Act looms in the background as a less favored, but perhaps unavoidable, alternative. If, instead, all knew that the local judges had no ultimate power to act, this informal process so crucial to the effectiveness of the judicial discipline system would be severely weakened.

Accordingly, the National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal concluded:

One of the most important findings of this Commission concerns the continuing importance of informal approaches to judicial misconduct and disability even after the 1980 Act.... Informal approaches remain central to the system of self-regulation within the judiciary.... [A] major benefit of the Act's formal process has been to enhance the attractiveness of informal resolutions. The continuing success of informal approaches is due in large part to the system of decentralized self-regulation that long antedated but was fortified by the Act.

[P]erhaps the greatest benefit of the 1980 Act has been the support it has provided, and the impetus it has given, to informal approaches to problems of federal judicial misconduct and disability. No evaluation of the 1980 Act should neglect its influence in this regard....

National Commission Report, supra, at 113, 124.

The proposed change also would undercut the ability of judges who have taken action to resolve a problem to monitor and follow up on that resolution, in order to ensure that the problem has truly been remedied. Only judges in the same circuit are in a position to do this. Under the proposed new system, conceivably judges in the same circuit as the judge against whom a complaint has been filed could be informed about the matter by the transferee circuit, in order to enable them to monitor results. This procedure, however, would require that two sets of judges in two different circuits become involved in the matter, a wasteful use of judicial resources.

Thus, the notion that it is somehow desirable for complaints to be determined by far-off authorities, who know less about the judge accused or about local circumstances, overlooks the 45 very point of the current judicial discipline process.

Based on my experience as Chief Judge in handling complaints arising under the existing system, I can tell you that this proposal will mean a host of practical difficulties and concomitant increased costs.

….. In sum, Section 4 would transform the entire framework of the judicial discipline process, a process that the National Commission found has been ''working reasonably well.'' National Commission Report, supra, at 123. In doing so it would undercut many of the most important virtues of the present system, and would impose significant cost burdens on the federal judiciary, all in an attempt to address a perceived conflict of interest ''problem,'' which we believe does not exist……"

 

Associated Press 12/3/99 Pete Yost "…..The chief federal judge in the District of Columbia said changes in the way cases are assigned may be needed in light of questions about her assignment of two criminal cases against friends of President Clinton to judges he appointed. The acknowledgment by U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson came as an appeals court judge dismissed a complaint against Johnson and the eight other Democratic district court judges. The appeals court released the Nov. 17 decision Friday. In confidential court papers, Johnson wrote to appeals court judge Stephen Williams that perhaps "our special assignment system needs to be re-examined, and more precise standards need to be adopted." ……Judicial Watch, a conservative group, requested an inquiry after Johnson bypassed the computer system that randomly assigns cases to various judges. Judicial Watch also complained about private meetings of the eight Clinton-appointed judges on the court…..."

AP 1/10/00 "….The chief district judge in Washington directed five prosecutions of Democratic fund-raisers to judges appointed by President Clinton, bypassing the normal system for randomly assigning cases, records show. Clinton confidant Vernon Jordan interceded in one case, asking the sentencing judge to be lenient with the defendant, prominent Miami businessman Howard Glicken, who has been a fund-raiser for Vice President Gore. Glicken was sentenced to community service work and probation for two misdemeanors. Rep. Howard Coble, chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts and intellectual property, on Monday disclosed the assignment of the cases of Glicken and another Miami fund-raiser, Mark Jimenez, now a fugitive in the Justice Department's campaign fund-raising probe…… Days before Glicken's sentencing, Jordan wrote U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy, a 1997 Clinton appointee, that ``despite his admission of wrongdoing, I am confident I can state without hesitation that this conduct is not the type of conduct that characterizes Howard Glicken.'' ``Mr. Glicken ... has been a member of and active participant in the Democratic party,'' Jordan added. ``I write this letter to ask for leniency.'' Glicken pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors July 20 in a deal with the Justice Department's campaign finance task force. Kennedy fined him $80,000, put him on 18 months probation and ordered him to do 500 hours of community service. A court rule permits Johnson to specially assign cases that are ``protracted.'' ``No rationalization can possibly justify the direct assignment of the Glicken case,'' Coble wrote. ``There was nothing complicated or protracted about this case. In fact, his attorney publicly announced ... the day he was charged with soliciting a $20,000 foreign contribution ... that Mr. Glicken would plead guilty.'' ….. Jimenez, of Miami, fled the country last year after being accused of making illegal contributions to Clinton, Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey and other Democratic candidates. Two weeks after the Jimenez case was assigned to Sullivan, it was moved to Judge Paul Friedman, who also handled the campaign finance cases of Trie, Kanchanalak and Hsia. Friedman and Sullivan are Clinton appointees….."

Washington Times 1/11/00 Jerry Seper "….A Republican congressman yesterday asked a federal appeals court to investigate rare case assignments made by the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C….. "Did Chief Judge Johnson abuse her discretion under the rule and should she have allowed the normal random case assignment to occur?" he said in a seven-page letter to Mark Langer, clerk of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The inquiry focuses on cases involving Mr. Hubbell, former associate attorney general; Arkansas businessman Charles Yah Lin Trie; Democratic fund-raiser Howard Glicken; Thai lobbyist Pauline Kanchanalak; and Miami fund-raiser Mark B. Jimenez. The judges are Paul L. Friedman, James Robertson and Emmet G. Sullivan, all of whom were named to the bench by Mr. Clinton in 1994; and Henry H. Kennedy Jr., appointed by Mr. Clinton in 1997. Judge Johnson has declined to talk to the media……. "The Judicial Council . . . did not attempt to determine whether there was an abuse of discretion," he said. "Rather, the Judicial Council simply accepted Judge Johnson's justification in support of her action and concluded that in the circumstances presented, a purely conclusionary allegation . . . is not enough to justify a search for [evidence of misconduct]. "How much evidence would be enough to justify an investigation?" he asked. ….. Mr. Coble also said "no rationalization can possibly justify" the assignment of the Glicken case to Judge Kennedy, adding there was "nothing complicated or protracted about this case" and Glicken's attorney announced on the day he was charged he would plead guilty. ……. With regard to the assignment of the Jimenez case, Mr. Coble said it was assigned by Judge Johnson to Judge Sullivan at his request, although it was later reassigned to Judge Friedman. Mr. Coble questioned how Judge Sullivan was able to request the case — and get it —and why was it transferred to Judge Friedman after he claimed it was related to the Trie case. "How is the Jimenez case related to the Trie case," Mr. Coble asked, noting there was no provision for transferring the case under District Court rules…."

 

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE 1/7/00 Susan Roth "….A federal appeals court this week denied independent counsel Donald Smaltz's request to quickly block a new trial for Tyson Foods Inc. executive Archie Schaffer III. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also rejected Smaltz's second request to appoint a new judge in the case. Schaffer is accused of giving illegal gifts to former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. Last month, U.S. District Judge James Robertson granted a new trial for Schaffer, who was convicted in June 1998 of trying to influence Espy's regulatory decisions by arranging for Espy to attend a Russellville birthday party for former company Chairman Don Tyson. Robertson concluded that new testimony from Espy "would probably produce an acquittal" in a new trial…"

NewsMax.com 12/9/99 Carl Limbacher ".....The Monicagate judge who determined last year that Independent Counsel Ken Starr's conduct warranted investigation didn't take kindly to complaints about her own alleged misbehavior on the bench. According to a little noticed wire report on Friday, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson now acknowledges that it may not have been such a hot idea to bypass the standard procedure for random selection of judges in the cases of Clinton hot potatoes, Webster Hubbell and Charlie Trie...."

NewsMax.com 12/9/99 Carl Limbacher ".....But when the DC based legal watchdog group Judicial Watch complained about the apparent conflict of interest, Judge Johnson popped her cork. "I am saddened that any credence could be given to such facially partisan allegations which are fueled by rumor, innuendo and speculation," she wrote to DC appeals court judge Stephen Williams. "With all due respect to your duties as Acting Chief Judge," Johnson continued, "it is abundantly clear that the claims of complainant Judicial Watch are mere surmise based on adolescent, anonymous chatter and should be promptly dismissed." The good judge went on to characterize the questions about her decision in the Hubbell and Trie cases as "patent nonsense" and "libelous of my reputation for impartiality."

NewsMax.com 12/9/99 Carl Limbacher ".....While Judge Williams ruled that the evidence was too "slender" to find Johnson guilty of actual wrongdoing, his opinion suggested that Judicial Watch may have had a point. "I do not intend to imply that the local rule allowing nonrandom assignment of cases is beyond criticism," he said, adding that the loophole Johnson excercised "makes possible both actual and perceived abuses." ....The court has subsequently found that Judge Johnson's suspicions that Starr 's office was leaking Monicagate grand jury information were unfounded....."

Washington Times 12/8/99 John McCaslin ".... Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, immersed in controversy since presiding over the Clinton-Lewinsky grand jury, has been presented the Judicial Excellence Award at the 128th annual banquet of the D.C. Bar Association. For the judge, the award couldn't come at a better time. In a unanimous 3-0 vote in mid-September, a federal appeals court panel overturned Judge Johnson's ruling ordering independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr to face criminal contempt proceedings for reported leaks of grand jury information in the Monica Lewinsky probe. After President Clinton walked away a free, but impeached, man, Judge Johnson appointed the Justice Department to prosecute Mr. Starr and his office on the contempt charge. Weeks earlier, departing from the court's traditional random case-assignment process, Judge Johnson came under fire for selectively assigning criminal cases against presidential pals Charles Yah Lin Trie and Webster L. Hubbell to judges Mr. Clinton appointed. ...."

WorldNetDaily 12/7/99 Larry Klayman "…..When was the last time that you heard of a federal judge getting in trouble for allegedly taking bribes, banning a lawyer from his courtroom for expressing his opinion or asking a question, sitting on a case for years as the plaintiff goes under financially, or for that matter making one bad decision after another? The answer is almost never. Federal judges, like lawyers, generally protect themselves. Indeed, federal judges -- who are appointed by the president for life, through a system of political patronage -- have rigged the system; complaints of misconduct are investigated by their peers. So it was when Associated Press and The Washington Times recently reported that Chief Judge Norma Holloway Johnson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had bypassed the random "wheel of fortune" assignment system to send two Chinagate-related criminal cases to recently appointed Clinton judicial appointees (who then dismissed the charges) and that eight Clinton-appointed judges, calling themselves the "Magnificent Eight," were holding secret meetings, that Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, felt duty-bound to file a complaint against the nine allegedly offending judges before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the body which oversees lower court judges. ….."

WorldNetDaily 12/7/99 Larry Klayman "…..The information upon which Judicial Watch bases its request for an investigation has been reported publicly by a number of media outlets. Given the hard fact that several district court judges appear themselves to be the sources for this information, Judicial Watch's request for an investigation should respectfully be acted upon sua sponte (i.e., on the Court's own initiative)……. In response to the complaint, Mr. Fitton then heard from Acting Chief Judge Stephen Williams, of the D.C. Circuit, a Republican, who asked for greater specificity…… In a decision released publicly last Friday, Judge Williams, in dismissing Judicial Watch's complaint -- and branding the reported allegations of the Associated Press and The Washington Times frivolous -- effectively admitted to not conducting an investigation at all. Relying only on letters of Judge Johnson denying the allegations, and surmising, without any factual investigation, that the "Magnificent Eight" had not discussed ongoing cases against the Clinton administration in their secret meetings, he wrote, The complaint of misconduct is "wholly unsupported" and is dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 372 (c)(3). Specifically, with regard to the allegation that Judge Johnson had bypassed the random assignment system, Judge Williams held: ... [t]he alleged impropriety is incapable of being established through investigation. As for the secret meetings of the "Magnificent Eight," he concluded, also without investigation, that judges would not act on their political affiliations: ...it is inappropriate to impose on the court the burdens of an investigation….."

Foxnews.com AP Philip Brasher "…..A Tyson Foods executive convicted of giving illegal gifts to former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy was granted a new trial on Friday. U.S. Judge James Robertson said that Archie Schaffer III probably would have been acquitted had Espy been available to testify in his behalf. Espy refused to testify at Schaffer's trial while his own case was pending but has since been acquitted of corruption charges. …… Robertson last year overturned a jury verdict against Schaffer, saying no one in Tyson anticipated the rules at the time of the party. An appeals court subsequently reinstated the conviction, but Robertson ruled Friday that Espy's testimony "would probably produce an acquittal at a new trial.'' ….."

Associated Press 7/31/99 "...The chief judge of the U.S. District Court bypassed the traditional random assignment system to send criminal cases against presidential friends Webster Hubbell and Charlie Trie to judges appointed by President Clinton, according to court officials. U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson's decision to abandon the longtime random computer assignment for the high-profile cases has raised concerns among several other judges, according to Associated Press interviews with them. The judges also raise concerns about an appearance of possible conflicts of interest, because judges who got the cases were friendly with key players - presidential confidant Vernon Jordan and defense lawyer Reid Weingarten - and made rulings that handicapped prosecutors...."

Associated Press 7/31/99 "... Johnson, an appointee of President Carter, assigned: -Friedman the Trie case, the first major prosecution from the Justice Department probe of Democratic fund raising. Clinton nominated Friedman, a former president of the local bar, in 1994. -Robertson the Hubbell tax case, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's first prosecution in Washington. Robertson is an ex-president of the local bar and a former partner at the law firm of former White House counsel Lloyd Cutler. Robertson was nominated by Clinton in the last days of Cutler's tenure as counsel in 1994. Robertson donated $1,000 to Clinton's 1992 presidential bid and has said he ``worked on the periphery'' of that campaign. When Johnson bypassed the random draw for these cases, there were 12 full-time judges on the federal court, seven of them Clinton appointees. Four were Republican appointees. The court also has a number of senior judges who work part-time. Experts said the assignments to Clinton-nominated judges did not violate any rules, but could shake public confidence...."

Washington Post 7/31/99 Pete Yost "... One politically sensitive aspect of the Hubbell tax evasion indictment was a reference to a $62,500 consulting arrangement that Jordan helped obtain for Hubbell, making Jordan a potential witness. Robertson and Jordan are friends from their days in the civil rights movement. Jordan did not return repeated calls seeking comment. Johnson assigned the Trie case and two subsequent cases against Democratic fund-raisers to Friedman, who tossed out various charges. After one of Friedman's rulings was overturned on appeal, Trie agreed to plead guilty. Friedman and Weingarten, the defense lawyer in two of the three fund-raising cases before Friedman, are longtime friends...."

New York Post 8/1/99 Brian Blomquist "...The chief federal judge in Washington threw out the normal judge-selection rules and handpicked two Clinton-appointed judges on cases that could have damaged the president, it was reported yesterday. ...."I think she made a mistake," a federal judge in the court told The Post yesterday. "There are a number of us who don't believe it was a good idea to specially assign cases. We believe in the concept of random assignment." The judge said Johnson's assignments "make the court look bad," especially during a time when it's important to show the public that even the president doesn't get special breaks from the court..... One judge speculated that Johnson handed the Hubbell and Trie cases to Clinton-friendly judges to "counteract" her decisions against the president in the Sexgate probe...."

Judicial Watch 8/2/99 Tom Fitton letter to Judge Johnson "... Dear Judge Johnson: .... Last Saturday, July 31, and today, Monday, August 2, 1999, reports appeared in the Associated Press suggesting that you have not made random assignments of certain politically charged criminal cases concerning the Clinton Administration. Copies of these reports are attached. Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch commented on these allegations. Judicial Watch has also been active since its inception in 1994 in bringing lawsuits, in the public interest, to address allegations of corruption in the Clinton Administration, and other branches of government. Judicial Watch would not be true to its "core mission" if it overlooked the allegations contained in the Associated Press reports of the last few days. Accordingly, with deep respect for you, and with an appreciation for your fine reputation for integrity and honesty, we respectfully request, on behalf of the public, that you quickly address, in the public domain, the allegations contained in the Associated Press stories...."

Washington Times 8/2/99 "...The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said yesterday he is disturbed that there has "apparently been selective assigning" of criminal cases against friends of President Clinton's to judges he appointed. "Something sort of smells," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and a GOP presidential contender. "It looks as though they're covering these things up. Certainly it looks like these plea bargains have been deals, and we even worry about whether the judges were preselected so that they would give these soft plea bargains credibility." Mr. Hatch said he has no evidence of wrongdoing by U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, the selecting judge, "but this doesn't look right."

USA Today 8/2/99 AP "...U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson's decision to abandon the longtime random computer assignment for the high-profile cases has raised concerns among several other judges, according to Associated Press interviews with them. The judges also raise concerns about an appearance of possible conflicts of interest, because judges who got the cases were friendly with key players - presidential confidant Vernon Jordan and defense lawyer Reid Weingarten - and made rulings that handicapped prosecutors..... ''As far as assigning a recently appointed judge of the same party, it's dangerous, it's risky, it's hazardous because the outcome might support the cynical view that the judge did not decide the matter on the merits even though that may be the furthest thing from the truth,'' Columbia University law professor H. Richard Uviller said. New York University law professor Stephen Gillers said, ''If the case is high-profile, that should increase the presumption in favor of random selection.'' ...Johnson assigned the Trie case and two subsequent cases against Democratic fund-raisers to Friedman, who tossed out various charges. After one of Friedman's rulings was overturned on appeal, Trie agreed to plead guilty. ..."

Associated Press 8/2/99 Pete Yost "…U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson summoned her colleagues to an unusual meeting Monday and told them that heavy workloads were a factor in her assignment of criminal cases against two presidential friends to judges appointed by President Clinton, according to attendees… The story noted some of her colleagues were concerned by the special assignments. According to several judges who attended the late-afternoon meeting, the chief judge called the meeting to discuss a letter she plans to write in response to the AP article. She declined repeated requests to comment before the story was released.. Johnson told the judges that she will point out in the letter that her predecessors had assigned cases outside the random draw in scandals such as Watergate and Iran-Contra. Those assignments, however, were to some of the most experienced judges in the courthouse at the time and not to recent appointees, AP reported this weekend… "

Freeper mrssmith observes USCode 28 372 "( c )…(1) Any person alleging that a circuit, district, or bankruptcy judge, or a magistrate, has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts...the judicial council may, in its discretion, refer any complaint under this subsection, together with the record of any associated proceedings and its recommendations for appropriate action, to the Judicial Conference of the United States. "…":

NY Post 8/3/99 "…The latest oil slick to bubble to the surface comes directly from Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, the chief federal judge in Washington, D.C., who oversaw the Ken Starr investigation…. Take for instance the case of Hubbell - which Holloway sent to Judge James Robertson, who was appointed by Clinton. The judge is an old buddy of Clinton confidant Vernon Jordan. Significant? Very. Hubbell was brought to court on a tax-fraud case which included Starr's charge that Hubbell received hush money from Jordan, among others…. "

The Wall Street Journal Editorial 8/4/99 "…With something of a post-impeachment reassessment going on, we are learning more about how the legal system has favored the Clinton team. Suddenly, we have the case of Norma Holloway Johnson, chief judge of the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia…. It should be said that Judge Johnson cast a skeptical eye on some Clinton claims when she heard the assertions of special privileges for Secret Service agents. But it now turns out that Judge Johnson was also instrumental in the Linda Tripp indictment. The Maryland prosecutors could not proceed without the evidence of the Tripp tapes, and in receiving them Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr had granted her immunity that would have protected them from both federal and state prosecutors. But Judge Johnson intervened and decided to transmit the tapes to the Maryland prosecutors office….."

Washington Times 8/5/99 Jerry Seper "...The eight federal judges appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. District Court in Washington meet privately every month in closed-door sessions that other jurists believe are improper and call into question the court's impartiality. "I cannot imagine any legitimate reason for them to meet together once a month, even socially," said one veteran courthouse official familiar with the sessions. "It's not only in bad taste, it certainly has the appearance of impropriety. It's hard to imagine any rationale for these meetings." Another court official said they "reek with impropriety." ...None of the eight Clinton-appointed judges, all of whom were named to the bench between 1994 to 1998, would comment on the meetings or their content. ....Four judges appointed by other presidents, both Republican and Democrat, said the meetings have been taking place for some time, although specific topics are not known. .... "The Clinton appointees have confirmed that they meet together, and we know they do, but where they go and what they discuss I just don't know," said one judge. "But a very important part of what we do here is our collegiality. We all come with political viewpoints but we try to leave politics behind. Unfortunately, the Clinton appointees have gone off on their own." ....The nature of the isolation, another judge said, was punctuated by an e-mail message sent to all of the judges inviting them to a birthday party for U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, a 1994 Clinton appointee. The message asked the judges to guess Judge Urbina's age for a prize but excluded members of the "Magnificent Seven" -- a name the first seven Clinton appointees had used to describe their group before Judge Roberts' 1998 appointment.... "Even if deviations from the district court's random case assignment procedures are technically permitted by local rule, I share the concern that has been expressed by other judges on the court that these assignments will damage the public's confidence that these cases were impartially adjudicated," he [Hatch] said. Committee member Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, echoed Mr. Hatch's concerns, adding that as a former prosecutor he was "stunned" by the Johnson assignments.... Some judges questioned whether the Hubbell and Trie cases, both of which ended in plea agreements, could be considered protracted or complex. They said several high-profile and lengthy trials have been assigned through the random-selection process...."

AP Janelle Carter 8/5/99 "...The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman has asked Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to consider investigating why two cases involving President Clinton's friends were assigned to Clinton-appointed judges. .....Several other judges have expressed concern that the assignments had the appearance of a conflict of interest. Friedman dismissed various charges against Trie. One of Friedman's rulings was reversed on appeal, and Trie is to be sentenced in two weeks, probably to probation, on a plea-bargained guilty plea. Robertson dismissed the tax case against Hubbell, a former associate attorney general, who eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor when an appeals court reinstated the case. Robertson was later chosen, at random, to handle a felony case against Hubbell that charged him with lying to federal regulators. Robertson threw out the central felony count in that case, but again an appeals court reversed him, and Hubbell eventually pleaded guilty to one felony count.....Still, Hatch asked Rehnquist to look into the matter using the Judicial Conference of the United States, a panel of judges that includes chief justices from each judicial circuit. As chief justice, Rehnquist is presiding officer of the conference, which makes policy concerning the administration of U.S. courts. "I wish to ask you ... to consider whether an examination by the Judicial Conference might be warranted,'' Hatch wrote. Such an inquiry should examine whether other cases involving the Clinton administration have been assigned in a manner that deviated from normal procedure, whether the facts justify any deviations and the propriety of any deviations, Hatch wrote....."

Judicial Watch 8/6/99 Larry Klayman "...Yesterday, as reported by the Associated Press, Judicial Watch asked the higher court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to investigate recent allegations that certain assignments of cases concerning the Clinton Administration and The White House have been steered to recently appointed Clinton judges, and that these Clinton judges, who are also alleged to have once called themselves "the Magnificent Seven," have been holding meetings among themselves. Ordinarily, it is the appellate court which is encharged under law to investigate allegations concerning the conduct of lower court judges. Judicial Watch will await these findings before deciding whether further steps are necessary, as, under these circumstances, the judicial system should be allowed the first opportunity to investigate and take whatever corrective steps are necessary. As many cases concerning the Clinton Administration and The White House are now pending before Clinton appointed judges, Judicial Watch has asked for a swift investigation...."

Judicial Watch 8/6/99 Tom Fitton 8/5/99 Letter to Judicial Council for the District of Columbia Circuit "...While not responding to our letter of August 2, 1999, Judge Johnson responded directly to The Washington Times (see Exhibit 3). In her letter of August 2, 1999, to The Washington Times, Judge Johnson accused the Associated Press and The Washington Times of "impugn[ing] the integrity of two outstanding members of the judiciary..." She adds, "Such an unsubstantiated and unsupportable article does the public little credit and the truth much harm. Id. at 2. However, Judge Johnson's letter does not answer the fundamental question: Why did she assign highly-charged criminal cases concerning the President, The White House, and the Clinton Administration to recent Clinton appointees, when either the random selection system or assignment to other more experienced judges could have occurred - particularly since her rationale in bypassing the random system depends on the complexity and likely protractedness of the cases? According to both the Associated Press and The Washington Times, at least six other judicial officers have raised questions about the case assignment process. Senator Orrin Hatch has also expressed concern about the controversy. In light of the fact that sources of the articles themselves were judicial officers, the questions raised in them take on added weight. Judicial Watch has the utmost respect for Judge Johnson, but the allegations raised in the articles remain largely unaddressed by her letter. In addition, Judicial Watch respectfully requests that this Court investigate additional allegations contained in an article entitled "Clinton appointees meet privately; Other judges, lawmakers question propriety of secrecy," which appeared on the front page of The Washington Times today (see Exhibit 2). Without making any accusations and with deep respect for the District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Johnson and all of its judges, we, therefore, respectfully request that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit expeditiously commence an investigation of this important and serious matter, under its supervisory powers...."

Freeper mrsmith 8/6/99 "...Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is the Circuit Justice of the DC Court. Judicial Conference of the United States Judicial Code of Conduct :

Canon 1: A judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary....

Canon 2: A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities....

Canon 3: A judge should perform the duties of the office impartially and diligently. ("A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances in which the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party ... ")

Canon 4: A judge may engage in extrajudicial activities to improve the law, the legal system and the administration of justice...

Canon 5: A judge should regulate extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial duties....

Canon 6: A judge should regularly file reports of compensation received for law-related and extrajudicial activities. .."

www.nypost.com 8/7/99 "...The eight Clinton-appointed judges in Washington's U.S. District Court have been gathering behind closed doors for secret monthly meetings, at the exclusion of the other 15 judges at the federal courthouse. These meetings are highly inappropriate, and they raise legitimate suspicions that the jurists are more concerned with politics than the law. This is especially worrisome considering the fact that Judge Norma Holloway Johnson personally selected judges to hear two high-profile cases rather than, as is the routine, allowing a computer to randomly spit out assignments.... The judges and their secret meetings are just another example for the shady, unethical behavior that will forever be associated with the Clinton years. That this administration has extended its reach to the system of justice and the rule of law is frightening - but not surprising...."

Augusta Chronicle 8/9/99 "...The revelation by The Washington Times that the eight federal judges appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. District Court in Washington meet privately every month in closed-door sessions dynamites the very foundation of judicial ethics and impartiality in this country. There is absolutely no reason for these meetings, which are described in e-mails addressed monthly to each of the judges..... None of the eight Clinton appointees are talking to the press, even though they have confirmed that they plot who-knows-what together. But The Times reports the other judges -- appointed by other presidents of both parties -- ``question the propriety of the sessions and lament what they describe as the `loss of collegiality' when the judges fail to come together as a group.''...."

 

 

Rebuttal by Judge Johnson:

The Washington Times Letter to the Editor From Judge Norma Halloway Johnson 8/4/99 "…As I firmly believe that justice is best served in the courts of law and not on the front page of a newspaper, it has long been my policy not to discuss my judicial decision-making with members of the press. However, I feel compelled to make an exception to that policy in order to correct the disturbing misimpression left by an Associated Press story published in The Washington Times ("Judges fret over assigning of cases," Aug. 1).

The article alleges that I "bypassed the traditional random assignment system" to assign certain criminal cases to judges appointed to President Clinton, singling out the criminal case against Charles Yah Lin Trie, which was assigned to Judge Paul L. Friedman, and the criminal case against Webster Hubbell, which was assigned to Judge James Robertson. The article implies that these case were assigned to judges based on political motivations. This unsubstantiated assertion could not be further from the truth. Moreover, the article does a significant disservice to the perception of impartial justice that I believe all of the judges on our court strive mightily to maintain. Contrary to the false perception left by the AP story, these cases were assigned to highly capable federal judges. Politics was not and is never a factor in our case assignments.

The circumstances leading to these routine "special assignments" are quite simple. For years, Local Rule 403(g) of the Rules of the District Court for the District of Columbia has authorized the chief judge to specially assign protracted or complex criminal cases to consenting judges when circumstances warrant. My predecessors and I have used this assignment system to enable our court to handle expeditiously high-profile criminal cases with unique demands on judicial resources. For example, criminal cases arising from Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair were handled through special assignment. In both these instances of overwhelming media scrutiny and complexity, the special assignment system well served our needs. In addition to these highly publicized criminal cases, special assignment also has been a valuable tool in addressing multiple-defendant narcotics conspiracy cases. It is the responsibility of the chief judge to move the docket as expeditiously as possible. That was all that was intended by these assignments.

Finally, I must note that the article irresponsibly impugns the reputation of two fine federal judges by suggesting conflicts of interest in their handling of these cases. Neither judge had any obligation to recuse himself from the cases to which he was assigned, for neither faced a conflict of any sort. A judge's prior affiliations and acquaintances, alone, do not require recusal or disqualification. Indeed, many judges on this court know many lawyers and public officials in Washington. If recusal were required on the basis of these innocuous connections, it would wreak havoc on case scheduling.

In the future, I suggest that before your newspaper prints a story that impugns the integrity of two outstanding members of the federal judiciary, you offer more evidence of an actual onflict than the slender reed of innuendo that supports these current allegations. Such an unsubstantiated and insupportable attack does your publication little credit and the truth much harm….NORMA HALLOWAY JOHNSON Chief judge United States District Court for the District of Columbia Washington…"

ttp://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/jan1999/hubb-j29.shtml Barry Grey 1/29/99 ".....In overturning the US District Court ruling and reinstating Starr's tax fraud case, the federal appeals panel rejected Robertson's rulings on the expansion of Starr's authority by the Special Division and the relevance of the tax evasion charges to Starr's original Whitewater mandate. On these issues Judge Patricia Wald, named to the bench by Jimmy Carter, joined with Stephen Williams, a Reagan appointee. The majority decision, written by Williams, not only reinstated the case, but declared Starr's allegations of hush money to be "reasonable." The third judge, David Tatel, a Clinton appointee, dissented.