Saturday, December 13, 2008

Standing Pat

I grew up surrounded by lawyers, and not because I was always in trouble, which I wasn't. Not only that, they were of the honorable variety. I loved to listen to my dad -- I miss it regularly -- talk about the law. On the Oregon Supreme Court for a year, and then Chief Judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals from its inception, he was partial only to the law. It was clear to me that he was able to set aside his own point of view in favor of that of the law as written. Nor was he ever grandiose, or self-important. Brilliant, but sober.

That background has given me something of an ear for the law, and a smallish sense of how it works. Or would, if everyone were as principled as my dad. (I should mention my brother as well, since it's just as true of him. Quoting from a source I've never heard of: "In the 2008 Chambers USA guide, Mr. Schwab received a Band 1 ranking in securities litigation in California. Chambers wrote: "A 'masterful, creative and tough litigator,' (redacted by me) Schwab is a 'class act and a gentleman. You can take his word to the bank.'' So there you go.)

My point, however, is this: I agree with a column in today's NYTimes, in which Patrick Fitzgerald is taken a bit to task. As I heard him break the news of his investigation, I felt the same way as the writer. I admire the guy; I feel certain he's a man of principle: he went to Amherst College, ferchrissakes! But there was a bit of unseemly -- even unprofessional -- grandiosity in his commentary. It's clear he's properly on to ol' Blago (although I've also wondered about the nuts and bolts of the case: ought they have more than conversations about bribery and quids pro quo?) But the Lincoln-in-his-grave stuff? I thought it a bit much.

More than at any time I know, we need a little respect for the law. Having survived (so far) a president who believes he can legally kidnap an American citizen and hold him indefinitely without charges or access to a lawyer, our country can do with all the respectable US Attorneys it can muster. So I hope our man Pat isn't flying too close to the sun.



  1. Fitzgerald: all the behavioral mannerisms of somebody who's got his eyes on bigger and better things. Being stodgy doesn't get you noticed or reshown endlessly on cable.

  2. As believe I said before, I spent last summer in a Portland law firm, and the name "Schwab" came up everywhere. Your father's continues to be a strong voice in Oregon law.

    I find the Patrick Fitzgerald aggression troublesome for exactly the reasons to which you allude -- he is politicizing the instruments of justice. As the NY Times article points out, the function of a prosecutor is to advocate the interests of the government, and the government's interests are justice and fairness. To put it another way, our legal system requires Prosecutors to do the right thing, not the most aggressive thing.

    Fitzgerald's comments comments (to me) foreshadow a political campaign in his future. I'm guessing governor.

  3. I can't help but think that Fitzgerald would have hit the right combination of brilliance, toughness, competence, humility, and charisma if only he had attended Williams College.


  4. Margaret: that's exactly the kind of gratuitous slander that I'm tempted to reject!! ;-)

  5. I live in Illinois, where political corruption is almost a way of life. Patrick Fitzgerald is just doing his job. Within the last couple of years, he was in charge of the Scooter Libby trial, the George Ryan trial, and one of the biggest mob trials in Illinois history.

    Blago married Alderman Dick Mell's daughter. Mell reportedly told his son-in-law not to 'do that kind of business by phone or e-mail'. Blago's arrogance did him in as much as his stupidity.
    He deserves everything Pat Fitzgerald can legally throw at him.

    If you're going to pick on Pat for Lincoln-related remarks, you might as well include President-elect Obama on the list. (Lincoln is popular around here ATM - it's the sesquicentennial anniversary of his birth IIRC.)

  6. anonymous: I admire Patrick Fitzgerald, as I said in a previous post. I criticized the tone of his remarks in his recent appearance, for reasons I stated. And I don't think there's contextual equivalence between Obama's mention of Abe, and Pat's.

  7. Amherst '90. I enjoy your blog. I had similar gut feelings about Mr. Fitzgerald during the Libby investigation. An Elliott Ness for the 21st century. But yeah, the rhetorical flourish about Lincoln -- too much. Probably he overwrote at Armrest, too.

  8. Dr P: terras irradient! (Which, in my day, we assumed meant "shiny dirt."


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