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WASHINGTON - President Bush has settled on Michael B. Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and will announce his selection Monday, a source familiar with the president’s decision said Sunday evening.
Mukasey, who has handled terrorist cases in the U.S. legal system for more than a decade, would become the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
He and Rudy Are BFF: Here in the Big Apple there is a small, tight group surrounding Giuliani, and Mukasey has a place in that group. They worked together at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, and Judge Mukasey swore Rudy in at both of his mayoral inaugurations; the buzz has been that should Giuliani become president, Mukasey would have a prominent role in his administration. Since stepping down from the bench, he has actively supported Giuliani’s campaign.
Like Father, Like Son: Marc Mukasey, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District, is a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani, where he works with his dad’s close friends Rudy Giuliani and Michael Hess, the former New York City lawyer-in-chief under Rudy. Last year when we called Marc about his dad’s move to Patterson, we asked why he couldn’t recruit his pops to Bracewell. “I’m tired of my dad riding my coattails,” he said. “He’s going to have to make it on his own.”
“Show Me the Money!”: When he stepped down from the bench last year to rejoin Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, he made no bones about the fact that the move was about money. “If I’m going to do something else at any point in my career, now would be the time to do it,” said Judge Mukasey to the Law Blog. Citing financial considerations as a factor, Judge Mukasey added: “My family has been very supportive of my career as judge, and now I’m returning the favor.”
What’s the Deal With Patterson Belknap?: Mukasey, who had been chief judge of the Southern District, surely could have had his pick among New York law firms when he left the bench last year. But he chose to rejoin Patterson Belknap, the firm where he was a partner before becoming a judge in 1988. (Yes, Giuliani worked there too, around the same time for a shorter stint.) The firm consistently ranks high in the American Lawyer’s closely followed “A-List” survey, which grades firms not just on profitability but on things like diversity, pro bono and associate satisfaction. This year’s survey, in which Patterson ranked No. 5, featured this profile on the firm.
He’s Jewish (But That Doesn’t Matter): In 1994, a defendant in the World Trade Center bombing case filed a motion to have Mukasey remove himself from the case on the grounds that he practiced Orthodox Judaism and held Zionist political beliefs. Here’s the money quote from the opinion:
Passing the historical curiosity that the standard El-Gabrowny advocates would disqualify not only an obscure district judge such as the author of this opinion, but also Justices Brandeis and Frankfurter, who would be barred from reviewing the case if they were alive and sitting today, each having been both a Jew and a Zionist, whether the presiding judge is an Orthodox Jew or a Zioinst or some combination of the two, or neither, is utterly irrelevant to this case.
He Defended the Patriot Act: In a 2004 speech accepting the Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence, Judge Mukasey delivered a defense of the controversial counter-terrorism law.
I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.” You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute