William W. Mercer

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William W. Mercer.jpg

William W. Mercer was a United States Attorney for the District Montana, as well as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice.[1] In September 2006, Mercer was nominated by George W. Bush as Associate Attorney General, served as Acting Associate Attorney General until June 22, 2007; he resigned from that position days before his confirmation hearing was to take place and returned to his United States attorney position in Montana.[2]

Mercer is a graduate of the University of Montana. Subsequently, he received a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1988, and a law degree from George Mason University School of Law in 1993. During his law school years, Mercer was Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General and Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of Policy Development in the U.S. Department of Justice between November 1989 and July 1994.

From August 1994 through April 2001, Mercer served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Montana. Nominated by President Bush, Mercer began serving as United States Attorney for the District of Montana on April 20, 2001.

Controversies[edit]

After his appointment as Acting Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General, U.S. District Chief Judge Donald W. Molloy of Missoula (on October 20, 2005) wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that "Mercer was violating federal law because he 'no longer resides in Montana' and was living with his family in the Washington area.".[3] He also complained that Mercer only spent three days a month in Montana.

As the Washington Post noted:

Three weeks later, on Nov. 10, Gonzales responded to Molloy that Mercer "is in compliance with the residency requirement" under federal law because he "is domiciled there, returns there on a regular basis, and will live there full-time as soon as his temporary assignment is completed."

On the same day back in Washington, the new legislation was added to the Patriot bill at the request of Mercer, who had been assigned the task of shepherding the provision through Congress, according to congressional aides and new statements from one of Mercer's colleagues.[3]

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

Mercer made his request to Brett Tolman, who was counsel to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the provision was inserted into the Patriot Act, retroactive to a time that would cover Mercer's term.[4] In light of these revelations, Sen. Jon Tester called on Mercer to resign, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced she would introduce legislation to reverse the new provision.

This was the second provision that received unfavorable notice over a year after the Patriot's Act passage; the other was the provision that allowed the administration to indefinitely appoint interim U.S. attorneys, a key part of the Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy.

A March 4, 2008 article in the Washington Post states that Mercer was part of retaliatory steps against a high-level career executive in DOJ who blew the whistle on gross mismanagement. The Post also states Mercer was "a pivotal figure in the controversy over the dismissal of the federal prosecutors." Read more at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/03/AR2008030302684.html?nav=rss_politics

References[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert McCallum, Jr.
United States Associate Attorney General
(acting)

2006-2007
Succeeded by
Kevin J. O'Connor