Friday, March 12, 2010

The Right Man for the Job

There's an opening on the federal bench in Louisiana (or at least there will be very soon).

By a unanimous vote, the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Federal District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. on Thursday, citing a pattern of "corrupt conduct for years." Porteous, appointed by Bill Clinton to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, becomes only the 15th federal judge to earn the dubious distinction of impeachment.

If Porteous doesn't resign from his post, the next step would be a U.S. Senate trial, to consider removing him from bench. In a telephone interview with CNN, Porteous's attorney suggested that his client will proceed with the Senate trial, noting that federal prosecutors decided not to file charges against the judge, citing a lack of "credible" evidence.

In case you're wondering, here's a list of Porteous's reported misdeeds:

-- Involvement in a corrupt kickback scheme

-- Failure to recuse himself from a case he was involved in

-- Allegations that Porteous made false and misleading statements, including concealing debts and gambling losses

-- Allegations that Porteous asked for and accepted "numerous things of value, including meals, trips, home and car repairs, for his personal use and benefit" while taking official actions on behalf of his benefactors

-- Allegations that Porteous lied about his past to the U.S. Senate and to the FBI about his nomination to the federal bench "in order to conceal corrupt relationships"

At this point, we'd say the removal of Judge Porteous is pretty much a slam dunk, meaning that President Obama will have to eventually name a successor.

And we've got just the man for the job. Someone with the right (ahem) experience and "temperament" for the federal bench in Louisiana.

We refer to Colonel (soon to be First Lieutenant) Michael Murphy, formerly of the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps.

From our perspective, Murphy has all the right qualifications to be a judge in Louisiana. For starters, he used to be an attorney. Note the use of the past tense. Readers of this blog will recall that Colonel Murphy was disbarred in his home state of Texas shortly after he joined the Air Force. But Murphy didn't let that little technicality stop him. Undeterred (and undetected) he practiced military law for more than 20 years, rising to the rank of Colonel before his past legal difficulties were finally discovered.

And, we should note that Murphy tried to practice law in Louisiana, too (bonus). Facing disbarment in Texas, Murphy applied for admission to the Louisiana bar. Unfortunately, that plan was interrupted when the good folks in Louisiana checked with their colleagues in the Lone Star State. For failing to report his ethical problems in Texas, Murphy was disbarred in Louisiana as well. But by that time, his JAG career was underway, and the Air Force never bothered to check Murphy's professional credentials.

When the service finally discovered that Murphy had been disbarred in two states, he was a full Colonel (on the fast-track to flag rank), and serving as Commander of the Air Force Legal Operations Agency. Naturally, the disclosure cost Murphy his job, and the JAG officer was soon facing a courts-martial to boot.

But, in an amazing feat of legal gymnastics, Colonel Murphy and his defense team managed to beat the rap. The White House (where Murphy formerly worked as a senior legal counsel) refused to release classified details of his service record. A military judge ruled that without the information, Colonel Murphy could not receive an adequate defense and should not be punished, even if convicted. An Air Force appeals court upheld that ruling, so when former JAG was eventually convicted, he walked out of the courtroom as a free man, affirming Murphy's reputation as a legal operator without peer.

Obviously, that federal conviction would (normally) prevent Murphy from serving on the federal bench, but President Obama could take care of that with a pardon. It's also true that the ABA wouldn't support Murphy for a judgeship, but hey, those endorsements are overrated. Besides, the legal fraternity went along with restoring Bill Clinton's law license, so why not give Murphy a second chance.

As we see it, "The Murph" is a logical choice for Louisiana. The state has long been a swamp (pun intended) of cronyism and corruption. That type of environment requires someone with "special" legal skills, someone who can appreciate the..err..finer points of the law.

Let's get the ball rolling. Call the White House and members of the Louisiana Congressional delegation. The same state that gave us the Kingfish, Earl Long and Edwin Edwards deserves a federal judge with the resume of Michael Murphy. He's available and he could probably use the cash, since the Air Force reduced him in grade upon retirement. An administrative board set his final rank at First Lieutenant, the last rank at which he "honorably" served, way back in 1983.

Truly a worthy candidate in the judicial mode of Thomas Porteous, Walter Nixon and (lest we forget) Alcee Hastings.


lgude said...

Indeed it is a shame to waste his talents and Louisiana needs judges with the background to deal with the peculiarities of that culture. For example I knew a man of extremely small stature who was done repeatedly for drunken driving. It was his fourth offense which meant the judge was obliged to send him to Angola where a man of his size had no chance of survival. The judge was a good one - as I am sure your candidate would be - and called both lawyers up for a sidebar where he informed them this was the defendant's third conviction. When the prosecution pointed out it was really the forth the judge had to repeat himself sharply until the truth of the situation was understood. Mr. Murphy is just the sort of professional who could recognize when 4 = 3 and that's what Louisiana needs and always will need. Heck, we might get a TV series out of it called Murphy's Law. Put it together with Steven Segal, Lawman and you have a deep south Law and Order.

Just My 2¢ said...

You are a cynical bastard, aren't you? I love it!