Michael Mukasey

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Michael Mukasey
Michael Mukasey, official AG photo portrait, 2007.jpg
81st United States Attorney General
In office
November 9, 2007 – January 20, 2009
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Alberto Gonzales
Succeeded by Eric Holder
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
March 12, 2000 – August 1, 2006
Preceded by Thomas Griesa
Succeeded by Kimba Wood
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
November 9, 1987 – September 9, 2006
Appointed by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Abraham Sofaer
Succeeded by Richard Sullivan
Personal details
Born Michael Bernard Mukasey
(1941-07-28) July 28, 1941 (age 73)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Susan Bernstock
Children Marc
Jessica
Alma mater Columbia University (BA)
Yale Law School (LL.B)
Religion Modern Orthodox Judaism

Michael Bernard Mukasey[1] (/mjuːˈkzi/;[2] born July 28, 1941)[3] is a lawyer and former judge who served as the 81st Attorney General of the United States. Mukasey, an American lawyer, was appointed following the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey also served for 18 years as a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, six of those years as Chief Judge. He is the recipient of several awards, most notably the Learned Hand Medal of the Federal Bar Council.[4] Mukasey was the second Jewish U.S. Attorney General.[5] Mukasey is a partner at the international law firm Debevoise & Plimpton.[6]

Personal background[edit]

Michael Mukasey's father was born near Baranavichy in Belarus (then in Russian Empire) and emigrated to the U.S. in 1921.[7][8] Michael Mukasey was born in the Bronx in 1941.[9] Mukasey graduated in 1959 from the Ramaz School, a Modern Orthodox Jewish prep school in Manhattan. His wife, Susan, was later a teacher and headmistress of the lower school at Ramaz, and both of their children (Marc and Jessica)[10] attended the school.[11]

As an undergraduate student, Mukasey was the editorials editor of the Columbia Daily Spectator[12] at Columbia University, where he received his B.A. in 1963. At Yale Law School he received his law degree in 1967. Mukasey practiced law for 20 years in New York City, serving for four years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York[13] in which he worked with Rudolph Giuliani. In 1976, he joined the New York law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, to which he returned after retirement from the U.S. District Court.[14] Mukasey began teaching at Columbia Law School in the Spring of 1993 and has taught there every spring semester since.[15]

Mukasey's son Marc L. Mukasey, as of 2007, leads the white-collar criminal defense practice in the New York office of Bracewell & Giuliani.[16] The Mukaseys have a professional relationship with Rudy Giuliani; Mukasey and son were also justice advisers to Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign.[17] Mukasey administered the oath of office to Mayor-elect Giuliani in 1994 and 1998.[17]

Judicial career[edit]

In 1987, Mukasey was nominated as a federal district judge for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan by President Ronald Reagan; he took the bench in 1988. He served in that position for 18 years, including tenure as Chief Judge from March 2000[18] through July 2006.[19]

During his tenure on the bench, Mukasey presided over the criminal prosecution of Omar Abdel Rahman and El Sayyid Nosair, whom he sentenced to life in prison for a plot to blow up the United Nations and other Manhattan landmarks uncovered during an investigation into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[14] During that case, Mukasey spoke out against leaks by law enforcement officials regarding the facts of the case allegedly aimed at prejudicing potential jurors against the defendants.[20]

Mukasey also heard the trial of Jose Padilla, ruling that the U.S. citizen and alleged terrorist could be held as an enemy combatant but was entitled to see his lawyers. Mukasey also was the judge in the litigation between developer Larry Silverstein and several insurance companies arising from the destruction of the World Trade Center.[14] In a 2003 suit, he issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Motion Picture Association of America from enforcing its ban against the distribution of screener copies of films during awards season, ruling that the ban was likely an unlawful restraint of trade unfair to independent filmmakers.

In June 2003, Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer submitted Mukasey's name, along with four other Republicans or Republican appointees, as a suggestion for Bush to consider for nomination to the Supreme Court.[21]

On October 14, 2004, citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Mukasey reversed his September 2002 decision and dismissed a case in which plaintiffs in twenty consolidated actions sued the Italian insurance company Generali S.p.A. (Generali), seeking damages for nonpayment of insurance proceeds to beneficiaries of policies purchased by Holocaust victims before the end of World War II.[22] In so ruling, Mukasey gave deference to "a federal executive branch policy favoring voluntary resolution of Holocaust-era insurance claims."[23]

Retirement[edit]

Although Article III of the U.S. Constitution entitles district court judges to hold their judicial appointments for life, in June 2006 Mukasey announced that he would retire as a judge and return to private practice at the end of the summer. On August 1, 2006, he was succeeded as Chief Judge of the Southern District by Judge Kimba Wood. Mukasey's retirement took effect on September 9, 2006. On September 12, 2006, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler announced that Mukasey had rejoined the firm as a partner.[24]

On the March 18, 2007, episode of Meet the Press, Schumer suggested Mukasey as a potential Attorney General nominee who, "by [his] reputation and career, shows that [he] put rule of law first."[25]

Since retiring from the bench, Mukasey made campaign contributions to Giuliani for president and Joe Lieberman for Senate.[26] Mukasey was also listed on the Giuliani campaign's Justice Advisory Committee.[27]

Extrajudicial opinions on law and terrorism[edit]

In May 2004, while still a member of the judiciary, Judge Mukasey delivered a speech (which he converted into a Wall Street Journal opinion piece) that defended the USA PATRIOT Act; the piece also expressed doubt that the FBI engaged in racial profiling of Arabs and criticized the American Library Association for condemning the Patriot Act but not taking a position on librarians imprisoned in Cuba.[4]

On August 22, 2007, the Wall Street Journal published Mukasey's op-ed, prompted by the resolution of the Padilla prosecution, in which he argued that "current institutions and statutes are not well suited to even the limited task of supplementing . . . a military effort to combat Islamic terrorism." Mukasey instead advocated for Congress, which "has the constitutional authority to establish additional inferior courts", to "turn [its] considerable talents to deliberating how to fix a strained and mismatched legal system."[28]

U.S. Attorney General[edit]

On September 16, 2007, various publications reported that Mukasey accepted Bush's offer to replace Alberto Gonzales as the Attorney General.[29] He was nominated by the President on September 17, 2007. At his nomination press conference with the President, Mukasey stated, "The task of helping to protect our security, which the Justice Department shares with the rest of our government, is not the only task before us. The Justice Department must also protect the safety of our children, the commerce that assures our prosperity, and the rights and liberties that define us as a nation."[30]

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said on September 18 that the administration desired the Mukasey nomination be confirmed by October 8, 2007. She cited past prompt confirmations of attorneys general. Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Mukasey would commit to an administrative rule to ensure that only the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General, not U.S. Attorneys or other Justice employees, could respond to inquiries from politicians regarding outstanding cases, and that any other employee who discusses cases "with somebody outside, whether from the White House or members of Congress or something else like that, they will be fired"; this concession sought to avoid problems that arose during the controversy over the dismissal of U.S. Attorneys under the previous Attorney General's tenure.[31]

President George W. Bush listens to remarks by Mukasey after announcing his nomination to be Attorney General.

On October 2, 2007 Mukasey's written response to a pre-hearing Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire was received by the committee, and published. Leahy replied the next day by letter proposing to meet individually on October 16, to discuss numerous issues on which the White House has declined to respond; the letter outlined issues and commitments Leahy desires from the nominee.[32][33] On November 6 the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the nomination of Mukasey, by an 11 to 8 vote, and sent his confirmation on to the full Senate.[34] Two days later, the Senate confirmed Mukasey by a 53–40 vote.[35] The tight vote was the narrowest margin to confirm an attorney general in more than 50 years.[36]

Mukasey was sworn in at a private ceremony on November 9, 2007.[37]

Stance on torture[edit]

As of November 1, 2007 five senators – Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Joseph Biden of Delaware, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont – had announced their intention to vote against Mukasey's confirmation due to concerns about his stance on torture.[38][39]

Senator Leahy announced on October 31, 2007 that a committee vote on the nomination was scheduled for Tuesday, November 6.[40] The announcement came a day after Mukasey replied via letter to the committee, to questions and requests for clarification.[41] Leahy and the other nine Democratic committee members had indicated the week before, via letter, to Mukasey that they were "deeply troubled by your refusal to state unequivocally that waterboarding is illegal during your confirmation hearing..."[42] By holding an unusual Oval Office meeting with journalists on November 1, 2007, Bush signaled his concern that the nomination, which was previously judged to be a sure bet, was in peril, primarily over what is and is not considered illegal torture.[43] Mukasey has refused to state an unequivocal legal position on the interrogation technique known as waterboarding (in which water is poured over a rag on the prisoner's face to simulate drowning), and it appears that he was concerned about the potential pursuit of government employees or agents, and their authorizing superiors in American or foreign courts under criminal charges, when responding to the Senate Judiciary committee questions.[43][44]

In describing the issue's challenges to the Bush administration, the New York Times quoted Scott L. Silliman, director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University as saying about such court cases, which could ultimately reach the president: "You would ask not just who carried it out, but who specifically approved it." Robert M. Chesney, of Wake Forest University School of Law, and other national security specialists have pointed out that prosecution within the United States, would be impeded by laws adopted since 2005 which permit safe-harbor protections to interrogators for governmentally authorized actions. It is believed that secret Justice Department legal opinions approved waterboarding, and other harsh interrogation techniques.[43]

In 2009, legal ethics complaints were filed against Mukaskey and other Bush administration attorneys for their roles in advocating for torture.[45][46][47]

Notable issues and comments[edit]

Mukasey speaking at the National Security Law Journal symposium on NSA surveillance, March 26, 2014, in Arlington, Virginia.

Relationship with Rudy Giuliani[edit]

Mukasey and Giuliani have been friends since working at the same law firm in the early 1970s.[48] Mukasey has pledged to recuse himself from cases involving Giuliani.[49] Newspaper reports assumed that Mukasey will further recuse himself from cases involving Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner under Giuliani, who is under federal investigation for bribery and other offenses. However, neither presidential spokespersons nor Mukasey returned reporters' inquiries into whether Mukasey would recuse himself from the Kerik case.[50][51]

During Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign, Mukasey's son, Marc, was assigned by Giuliani's campaign to block Kerik's legal defense team from interviewing witnesses that might assist his defense in an attempt to protect Giuliani from the Kerik case.[52]

Crack cocaine stance[edit]

In 2007 the United States Sentencing Commission amended the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to equalize the penalties for the possession and trafficking of powder cocaine and crack cocaine, citing racial disparity and the unfairness of the 100-1 crack-powder penalty threshold ratio. Michael Mukasey, in the Attorney General's capacity, vehemently opposed and testified against this change, warning that thousands of violent crack criminals may be released under the guidelines and endanger the community. Mukasey's move was criticized by advocates of elimination of crack-powder disparity.[53][54]

Remarks about 9/11 terrorist punishment[edit]

Speaking in London on March 14, 2008, Mukasey said that he hopes the detainees currently charged with participating in the September 11, 2001 attacks aren't executed if found guilty in order to avoid creating any martyrs.[55] Speaking in New York on March 5, 2012, Mukasey said his comments in 2008 were taken out of context. His "martyr" comment was a humorous reason offered as the only reason not to seek the death penalty. He then said if the detainees were found guilty, they should be executed in the due process of the law and not make an exception.

Remarks about pre-9/11 terrorist phone call[edit]

Speaking in San Francisco to the California Commonwealth Club on March 27, 2008, Mukasey defended President Bush's program of wiretapping calls between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without court authorization, and implied that the government might have been able to prevent the attacks of September 11, 2001 if it had been able to wiretap a specific call to the U.S. from Afghanistan. Before September 11, 2001, Mukasey said, "We knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan, and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn't know precisely where it went." He paused, seemed to stifle tears or at least suppress emotion, then continued, "You've got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn't come home, to show for that."[56] In a subsequent letter to Mukasey, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers questioned whether any such phone call had ever actually occurred and, if so, why the government hadn't been able to use its then-existing legal authority and technological capabilities to monitor it.[57] [58]

Violations of the law are not always crimes[edit]

On August 12, 2008 Mukasey told American Bar Association annual meeting delegates that "not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime", with "only violations of the civil service laws" being found among hiring practices during Gonzales' tenure as Attorney General.[59]

Health issues[edit]

In November 2008, during a speech to the Federalist Society, Mukasey had "a fainting spell" caused by a late-night speech given under hot stage lights.[60] Mukasey was rushed to the hospital and released the next day after tests ruled out a stroke or heart attack. Doctors characterized him as "very fit."[61]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shenon, Philip; Benjamin Weiser (September 18, 2007). "A Washington Outsider With Many Sides". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  2. ^ See inogolo:pronunciation of Michael Mukasey.
  3. ^ Leinwand, Donna; Kevin Johnson (2007-09-17). "Mukasey is outsider with inside track". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  4. ^ a b Mukasey, Michael B. (2004-05-10). "The Spirit of Liberty". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  5. ^ "Orthodox Jew tapped to replace Gonzalez". JTA. 2007-09-17.  The first Jewish Attorney General was Edward H. Levi. Judah Benjamin served as Attorney General of the Confederate States of America.
  6. ^ "Michael B. Mukasey". Debevoise & Plimpton. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  7. ^ (Russian) Spasiuk, Elena (2007-09-20). "Министром юстиции США может стать человек с белорусскими корнями (A person with Belarusian roots may become the US Minister of Justice)". Belorusskie Novosti. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  8. ^ (Russian) Sergeichik, Dmitrii (2007-09-27). "В Бресте нашли дальнего родственника будущего генпрокурора США (A distant relative of the future US Attorney General has been found in Brest)". Belorusskie Novosti. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  9. ^ "Judges of the United States Courts". 2007-11-04. 
  10. ^ Leinwand, Donna (2007-10-14). "Mukasey hearings might not draw big fight". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  11. ^ Heller, Jamie. "Mukasey's Pedigree", The Wall Street Journal Online, Law Blog, September 17, 2007. Accessed September 17, 2007. "Mukasey graduated from Ramaz in 1959 and went on to Columbia College and Yale Law School."
  12. ^ Heller, Jamie (2007-09-17). "Mukasey as College Journalist". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  13. ^ "Mukasey, Michael B". Judges of the United States Courts. Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  14. ^ a b c Goldstein, Joseph (2006-07-26). "As Judge Leaves for Law Firm, His Influence Is Remembered". The New York Sun. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  15. ^ "Mukasey: Attorney General Nominee and Columbia Law School Professor". Columbia Law School. 2007-10-17. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  16. ^ "Marc L. Mukasey". Bracewell & Giuliani. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  17. ^ a b Barrett, Devlin (September 16, 2007). "Mukasey Has Long Terror Resume". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  18. ^ "Judicial Milestones". The Third Branch 32 (4). April 2000. Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  19. ^ "Judicial Milestones". The Third Branch 38 (9). September 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  20. ^ Perez-Pena, Richard (July 31, 1993). "Judge Warns about Leaks in Bomb Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  21. ^ "Letter to President George W. Bush" (Press release). Senator Charles E. Schumer. 2003-06-10. Retrieved 2007-09-15.  The others were Reagan-appointed federal appellate judges Ann Williams and Stanley Marcus, Bush-appointed Fifth Circuit judge Edward Prado, and Arlen Specter, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania.
  22. ^ Michael J. Bazyler and Kearston G. Everitt, International Civil Liberties Report, HOLOCAUST RESTITUTION LITIGATION IN THE UNITED STATES: AN UPDATE, pp. 1-2, citing In re: Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A. Holocaust Ins. Litig., 2004 WL 2311298 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 14, 2004).
  23. ^ Liptak, Adam (2007-09-23). "Nuance and Resolve in Rulings by Attorney General Nominee". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  24. ^ "Former Southern District Chief Judge Michael B. Mukasey Rejoins Patterson Belknap" (Press release). Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. 2006-09-12. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  25. ^ "Meet the Press transcript for March 18, 2007". MSNBC. 2007-03-18. Retrieved 2007-09-15.  Schumer also suggested former Justice Department officials Larry Thompson and James Comey.
  26. ^ "Michael Mukasey's Federal Campaign Contribution Report". Newsmeat.com. 
  27. ^ "Giuliani Legal Team". Chicago Tribune. 2007-09-06. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  28. ^ Mukasey, Michael (2007-08-22). "Jose Padilla Makes Bad Law". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  29. ^ Abramowitz, Michael; Dan Eggen (2007-09-17). "Ex-Judge Is Said to Be Pick At Justice". The 'Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  30. ^ President Bush Announces Judge Michael Mukasey as Nominee for Attorney General, White House press release, dated September 17, 2007. Accessed September 18, 2007.
  31. ^ Jordan, Sarah Jakes; (Associated Press) (September 20, 2007). "Senator Praises Mukasey's Independence". 'Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-09-23.  [dead link]
  32. ^ "Questionnaire for Michael B. Mukasey, Attorney General Nominee". United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. October 2, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  33. ^ "Leahy sends letter to Mukasey, outlining key questions and concerns to be addressed in confirmation hearings". Patrick W. Leahy. October 3, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  34. ^ David Stout (2007-11-06). "Nomination of Mukasey Sent to Full Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  35. ^ Kellman, Laurie; (Associated Press) (2007-11-09). "Mukasey confirmed as attorney general". 'Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-11. 
  36. ^ Courant.com
  37. ^ Jordan, Lara Jakes (2007-11-09). "Mukasey Sworn in As Attorney General". Forbes. Retrieved 2007-11-10. [dead link]
  38. ^ "Clarify position on torture, senators urge attorney general nominee". Cable News Network. 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  39. ^ "Sanders to Vote Against Mukasey". The Associated Press. 2007-10-22. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  40. ^ Eggen, Dan; Paul Kane (October 31, 2007). "Senate to Hold Mukasey Confirmation Vote Tuesday". 'Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-10-31. 
  41. ^ Mukasey, Michael. Reply to 10 Democratic Senators, October 30, 2007 Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
  42. ^ Leahy, Patrick, and nine other Senators. Letter to Mukasey, Oct 23, 2007. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
  43. ^ a b c Shane, Scot; David Stout (2007-11-01). "Bush Moves to Save Mukasey Nomination". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  44. ^ Blumenthal, Sidney (2007). "The sad decline of Michael Mukasey". Salon.com. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  45. ^ For primary source documents, see Velvet Revolution website. For commentary, see David Swanson, "UPDATE: Disbarring 12 Torture Lawyers: Broad Coalition Of Groups Files Disciplinary Complaints Against Twelve Bush Administration Lawyers Who Advocated Torture Of Detainee", May 18, 2009 at Daily Kos blog and Dna Milbank, "Etch-a-Sketch: Punishing Bush Officials", Washington Post op-ed, May 18, 2009, found at Washington Post website. Accessed May 18, 2009.
  46. ^ Scott Shane, "Advocacy Groups Seek Disbarment of Ex-Bush Administration Lawyers", New York Times, May 18, 2009, found at NY Times website. Accessed May 18, 2009.
  47. ^ Nedra Pickler, "Complaint seeks disbarment of Bush administration lawyers linked to torture memos", AP (Associated Press), May 18, 2009, Star Trubune website. Accessed May 18, 2009.
  48. ^ Wayne Barrett, "'No Skeletons in My Closet!': Oh yeah? How Michael Mukasey and Bernie Kerik are haunting Rudy's run", "Village Voice", October 30, 2007
  49. ^ William K. Rashbaum, "White House says Mukasey would skip Giuliani Issues", New York Times,
  50. ^ William K. Rashbaum, "White House says Mukasey would skip Giuliani Issues", New York Times
  51. ^ "Mukasey Papers Cite Giuliani Friendship"
  52. ^ Celona, Larry; Dan Manigan (2007-10-22). "Giuliani's Bernard Kerik Shield: Pal Keeps Eye on Ex-NYPD Boss' Probe". New York Post Exclusive. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  53. ^ Frieden, Terry. Mukasey wants police support to prevent prisoner releases. CNN. February 26, 2008
  54. ^ Piper, Bill. Attorney General "Ignoring Reality" of Draconian Crack Laws. Huffington Post, February 25, 2008
  55. ^ "Mukasey: Don't Execute 9/11 Accused". Associated Press. 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  56. ^ Video on YouTube
  57. ^ Bob Egleko (2008-04-11). "Mukasey asked to explain terror call remarks". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  58. ^ Bob Egleko (2008-04-15). "Democrats blast Mukasey for 9/11 call remarks". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  59. ^ "Mukasey: No prosecutions in Justice hiring scandal". rawstory.com (Associated Press). 2008-08-12. Retrieved 2008-08-13. [dead link]
  60. ^ "UPDATE 1-US atty general had fainting spell -official". Reuters. 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  61. ^ "Attorney General Michael Mukasey Receives 'Clean Bill of Health' After Thursday Collapse". ABC News. 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Abraham Sofaer
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
1987–2006
Succeeded by
Richard Sullivan
Preceded by
Thomas Griesa
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
2000–2006
Succeeded by
Kimba Wood
Preceded by
Alberto Gonzales
United States Attorney General
2007–2009
Succeeded by
Eric Holder