CNN Justice Department Producer
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/CRIME/09/02/arizona.sheriff.justice.dept/story.arpaio.gi.jpg caption="A lawsuit alleges Sheriff Joe Arpaio isn't cooperating with a probe into alleged discrimination against Hispanics." width=300 height=169]
Washington (CNN) - Justice Department civil rights lawyers filed suit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona on Thursday after talks collapsed on a deal to provide federal investigators with documents they requested.
The suit, filed in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona, claims the Maricopa County sheriff has failed to cooperate with the investigation into alleged discrimination against Hispanics by Arpaio's law enforcement officials.
The Justice Department expressed dismay at the sheriff's office's "refusal to cooperate with the investigation."
"The actions of the sheriff's office are unprecedented," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, chief of the Civil Rights Division. "It is unfortunate that the (Justice) Department was forced to resort to litigation to gain access to public documents and facilities."
The federal action became virtually certain after the sheriff's office last Friday rejected the government's demands in an open letter posted on the county's website.
CNN Justice Producer
Attorney General Eric Holder's Guantanamo Review Task Force is struggling to sort the prison detainees into five neatly ordered lists, as government lawyers try to somehow fashion a plan which will clear expected legal challenges while satisfying skeptical lawmakers and a nervous public.
Every turn appears more complicated as the weeks pass.
On the immediate heels of a demand by Congress for a clear and specific plan for emptying Guantanamo, one of President Obama's top aides, David Axelrod, promised Thursday Congress would receive such a plan, and declared the President's address represented a "framework for a plan". Administration officials indicate the plan itself is probably months away.
The framework calls for putting the names of the 240 remaining detainees into five piles, then trying to resolve the legal complexities of each.
The first pile, which government sources and defense attorneys estimate at several dozen detainees, would be brought to the U.S. and tried for crimes in civilian courts. But those cases would be limited to instances in which prosecutors believe they can win convictions under criminal procedures and rules of evidence including competent legal representation, defendant's Miranda rights, direct witness testimony absent hearsay, and sharing with the defense "Brady" material– evidence which could help their case.
Editor’s Note: In a federal courtroom yesterday, a furious judge dismissed the charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and launched a criminal investigation of the prosecutors who bungled the case. That’s the headline; here are the details, as reported by CNN’s Terry Frieden
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/07/ted.stevens/art.ted.stevens.gi.jpg caption="Stevens and his wife, Catherine, arrive Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Washington."]
CNN Justice Producer
This was a truly extraordinary hearing, and very dark day for the entire Justice Department. Those in the courtroom were treated to high drama, yet tragically no cameras were allowed.
Judge Emmett Sullivan, and then defense attorney Brendan Sullivan, Stevens’s chief counsel and no relation to the judge, each gave a very lengthy, emotional, blistering, truly devastating summary of the government's very serious failures in the Stevens case. Paul O’Brien, leader of the new prosecution team that replaced the original members after problems in the case surfaced, stood briefly to apologize totally and did not disagree with any of the criticism.
Stevens then gave a fairly straight forward, not particularly emotional statement:
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/02/art.holderpt0202.gi.jpg]Terry Frieden
CNN Justice Producer
Only minutes into his reign at the Justice Department the new Attorney General displayed the casual, affable style for which he was known—and widely appreciated—by career employees from legal scholars to rookie secretaries during his stint as Deputy Attorney General during President Clinton’s second term. So, the huge ovation he received upon his arrival was not surprising. Holder was a popular choice within the Justice Department community when he was nominated, including the important backing of both former FBI Director Louis Freeh and current FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Holder took lots of time to shake every hand, take every picture, greet every employee who attended the swearing in. Then without hesitation he waded into the bevy of Justice-based journalists and comfortably began to chat and joke. He provided no important news, but the accessibility was a remarkable change from eight years during which Attorneys General John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and Michael Mukasey had largely kept the press at arm’s length.
As if to accentuate the difference in style, hours later Holder wandered unannounced into the Justice Department press room and plopped down for more give and take. As we watched the CNN monitors with the news that Tom Daschle had resigned, the Attorney General said he’d been too busy to watch any TV news on his first day and he wasn’t quite up to speed on the day’s events. Holder wasn’t sure whether he liked the formal full-length picture of himself which a reporter had torn from a magazine and posted in the press room. But he was at ease with the journalists—both newcomers to the beat, as well as a couple of us old-timers who had been here during his first go-around. This time he’s the boss, and he won’t have to worry that Janet Reno is on the fifth floor wondering why her deputy was chatting with the press.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/15/holder.hearings/art.holder.thu.gi.jpg caption="Attorney General-designate Eric Holder told senators Thursday that he learned from the Rich pardon incident."]
CNN Justice Department Producer
From my perch in the Senate hearing room the past two days, I was surprised to see the promised grilling of Attorney General designate Eric Holder largely fizzle, while the criticism of former President Bill Clinton almost sizzled.
Sure, a couple of Republican Senators tried to rough up Holder over his handling of the highly controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. But the pardon on that final day of the Clinton presidency was, after all, granted by Holder's boss in the Oval Office. Holder was then merely a lieutenant–the second-ranking official at Justice under Janet Reno.
Democrats and supportive witnesses leaped to Holder's defense. Nobody, however, even once tried to excuse the former President for granting the pardon. He seemed to be a man without a party.
Holder apologized all over the place for botching his role and not trying to stop the pardon. Holder helped disarm his Republican critics with his repeated admissions. He hadn't been familiar with the details. He didn't know Mrs. Rich had given President Clinton lots of money for his library. And perhaps worst, Holder didn't consult his own prosecutors and law enforcement professionals.
"It is something where I made mistakes and I learned from those mistakes," Holder said.
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy was right there to catch him. "And of course the pardon was issued by President Clinton, not by you," Leahy said.
Nobody disagreed. Clinton was the shameful culprit.