Paul K. Charlton
Paul K. Charlton is a former United States Attorney and currently a partner at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson in the firm’s Phoenix, Arizona office. Charlton primarily represents corporations and public officials seeking to interface with federal and state law enforcement officials. Charlton also represents a number of Arizona Native American governments, including Ak-Chin, Salt River Pima-Maricopa, Haulapai and the Navajo Nation.
Prior to joining Steptoe & Johnson LLP, he served at law firm Gallagher & Kennedy. Charlton served as the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona from 2001–2007. He was nominated in November 2001 by President George W. Bush. He oversaw a staff of more than 220 employees, four offices throughout the state, and an approximately $20 million budget. During his tenure, Charlton led enforcement initiatives against terrorism, public corruption, illegal immigration and crime in Indian Country.
Charlton began his legal career in 1989 as an Assistant Attorney General with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. In March 1991, Charlton joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona as an Assistant U.S. Attorney where he prosecuted a wide variety of matters from homicides to complex fraud cases.
Charlton was one of seven U.S. attorneys dismissed on December 7, 2006 by the Bush administration in 2006 for "performance-related issues" (see Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy). Subsequent disclosures revealed that that three or more additional attorneys were dismissed under similar circumstances between 2005-2006. Charlton was confirmed as the U.S. Attorney for the United States Attorney's Office District of Arizona on November 6, 2001. Charlton was informed of his dismissal by Justice Department official Michael A. Battle on December 7, 2006, and announced his resignation on December 19, 2006, effective January 31, 2007.
Charlton's office had been honored with the Federal Service Award and hailed by the Justice Department as a "model program" for its protection of crime victims. Charlton ranked in the top third among the nation's 93 US attorneys in contributing to an overall 106,188 federal prosecutions filed in 2006; scored in the top third in number of convictions; oversaw a district in the top five highest in number of immigration-related prosecutions; ranked among the top 20 offices for drug prosecutions; and, unlike in the other seven cases, ranked high in weapons cases, prosecuting 199 of the United States' 9,313 such cases in 2006, the tenth-highest in the country and up fourfold from 2002.
Overall, Charlton ranked number one in the nation for convictions in 2006.
United States attorney
|Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy
|G. W. Bush administration officials involved|
|Involved administration officials who resigned|
|U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
|U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary
In September 2006, it became clear that Charlton had launched an investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz, over a land-swap deal. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, subsequently included Charlton on a list of U.S. attorneys "we now should consider pushing out." Sampson made the comment in a Sept. 13, 2006, letter to then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers.
As recently as February 2005, Charlton had been on the so-called "retain" list.
On March 19, 2007, the White House released 3,000 pages of records connected to the controversy, including emails sent by Charlton to the Justice Department about his dismissal. On Dec. 21, 2006, Charlton sent a message to William W. Mercer, the third-ranking official in the department, writing, "Media now asking if I was asked to resign over leak in Congressman Renzi investigation." Charlton never received a response.
The delays, which postponed key approvals in the case until after the election, raise new questions about whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or other officials may have weighed political issues in some investigations....
Investigators pursuing the Renzi case had been seeking clearance from senior Justice Department officials on search warrants, subpoenas and other legal tools for a year before the election, people close to the case said....
...the investigation clearly moved slowly: Federal agents opened the case no later than June 2005, yet key witnesses didn't get subpoenas until early this year, those close to the case said. The first publicly known search -- a raid of a Renzi family business by the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- was[n't] carried out [until April 2007]....
Further, the Journal noted that investigators had lobbied Washington for clearance to tap Renzi's phone for months. That clearance was only given in October 2006, but unfortunately for the investigators, word broke of the investigation soon after, disrupting their wiretap.
On April 24, 2007, Charlton revealed to House investigators that Brian Murray, Renzi's top aide, called Charlton spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle shortly after news of Renzi's investigation became public, asking for information on the case. Charlton, in turn, notified the Department of Justice about the call. Justice, however, had not previously notified Congress of the contact.
A second motivation for removing Charlton may have been the suggestions of Justice official Brent Ward, who said in a September 20, 2006 e-mail that Charlton was "unwilling to take good cases." Ward's reason for discounting Charlton appeared to be the US attorney's reluctance to pursue obscenity charges against adult video manufacturers in connection to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force.
After a disagreement over initiating the tape-recording of interviews and confessions by the FBI on American Indian reservations, which Charlton supported and the Justice Department opposed, Charlton offered to resign. In his congressional testimony on March 6, 2007, Charlton said he found "no small amount of irony" in the fact that he was eventually fired.
The Justice Department reversed its longstanding no-recording policy in May 2014, now requiring federal law enforcement agencies to tape-record interviews with suspects in most instances. Charlton was quoted, “The most difficult part of proving a crime is the state of mind, and that is almost always obtained through a statement of the suspect. It was an unjustifiable policy. I think this one of the most significant improvements in the criminal justice system in a long time.”
In its formal investigation regarding the firing of the US Attorneys, the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General found as follows:
We concluded that the most significant factor in Charlton’s removal was his actions in a death penalty case. Charlton persistently opposed the Department’s decision to seek the death penalty in a homicide case, and he irritated Department leaders by seeking a meeting with the Attorney General to urge him to reconsider his decision. We are troubled that Department officials considered Charlton’s actions in the death penalty case, including requesting a meeting with the Attorney General, to be inappropriate. We do not believe his actions were insubordinate or that they justified his removal.
Charlton has since become a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP in a practice focusing on commercial litigation, representation of Native American tribes and internal investigations and white-collar criminal defense. Before joining Steptoe, he had been a shareholder at Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A.
- Wagner, Dennis.  “The Arizona Republic”, December 20, 2006.
- Hartley, Allegra (2007-03-21). "Timeline: How the U.S. Attorneys Were Fired". US News & World Report. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
- Presidential Nomination: Michael Aaron Butler
- Blumenthal, Max (2007-03-20). "The Porn Plot Against Prosecutors". The Nation. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
- Jordan, Lara Jakes (2007-03-21). "Fired U.S. attorneys ranked above peers in prosecutions". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-03-22.[dead link]
- McCoy, Kevin (2007-03-22). "3 fired prosecutors were in top 10 for convictions, federal data show". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
- "Former U.S. Attorney in Arizona Lands at Steptoe". Main Justice. 7 November 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
- Hutcheson, Ron (2007-03-13). "Emails detail plans for firing U.S. attorneys". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved 2007-03-14.
- Madden, Mike (2007-03-21). "Renzi inquiry at issue in ouster". Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
- John R. Wilke; Evan Perez (April 25, 2007). "Delays in Renzi Case Raise More Gonzales Questions". The Wall Street Journal. p. A2.
- Jennifer Talhem (April 24, 2007). "Lawmaker Leaves Panels After FBI Raid". Associated Press.
- "In Policy Change, Justice Dept. to Require Recording of Interrogations". The New York Times. 2014-05-22. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
- "Charlton exit linked to death penalty push". Associated Press. 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
- Serrano, Richard A. (2007-03-11). "U.S. attorneys often clash with Washington". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
- "An Investigation into the Removal of Nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006" (PDF). DOJ Inspector General. pp. 355–358. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
- "Steptoe Hires Former US Atty to Bolster White Collar Team". Law360. 2013-11-08. Retrieved 2014-05-27.