Resurrection Of The Public Integrity Section
By: Douglas K. Rosenblum
The abyss for the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice came in 2009 when Attorney General Eric Holder dismissed all charges against former Senator Ted Stevens. The unit, established following the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, is known for high profile cases including Abscam and the prosecution of Jack Abramoff. An article published on April 1, 2014 in the New York Times provides insight into the “retooling” of the Section over the past 5 years.
In 2010, former Assistant District Attorney and war crimes prosecutor at the Hague, Jack Smith, was hired to run the Public Integrity Section. A trial attorney at his core, Mr. Smith sought a team that was comfortable in court. Members of the Section began prosecuting gun and drug cases to maintain, or in some cases to sharpen, their trial skills. In 2011 the Section went to trial 17 times. That number decreased to 12 in 2012. Mr. Smith was quoted as saying, “Being able to try a case is what gets defense attorneys to take you seriously. It’s what gets people to plead guilty. I don’t think anybody could say that about this section now.”
The Public Integrity Section is currently overseeing the prosecution of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife and the investigation of New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. The Section is also assisting in the investigation of the Christie Administration’s alleged closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge. For more information, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/02/us/politics/justice-depts-watchdog-on-graft-is-finding-its-teeth-again.html.