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House judiciary panel subpoenas dismissed US Attorneys

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law [official website] voted Thursday to subpoena former Justice Department prosecutors Carol C. Lam (San Diego), David C. Iglesias (New Mexico), H.E. Cummins, III (Arkansas), and John McKay (Seattle), to testify at a subcommittee hearing [materials] next Tuesday. The subcommittee issued the subpoenas after the former US Attorneys privately told representatives that they would not voluntarily testify. Several of the prosecutors had been engaged in politically sensitive cases. Lam had prosecuted former Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham [JURIST news archive] and Igleias was investigating local Democrats for a kickback scheme. McKay decided against empaneling a grand jury to examine accusations of voter fraud in Washington State's 2004 election for governor, which was won by a Democrat. Eight federal prosecutors received phone calls on December 7 saying that they were being asked to resign, without explanation. Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, told the New York Times that the DOJ has "never removed a United States attorney in an effort to retaliate against them or inappropriately interfere with a particular investigation, criminal prosecution or civil case."

The firings have sparked arguments about the power of the US Attorney General to indefinitely appoint replacement prosecutors, and also allegations that the firings were politically charged. Earlier this week Iglesias told reporters that federal lawmakers pressured him [JURIST report] to speed up indictments of local Democrats in time for the November elections. In testimony [JURIST report] before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty [official profile] denied that the removal of the attorneys was motivated by political considerations. The New York Times has more.

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