John McKay


In a series of early morning phone calls on December 7, 2006, seven United States Attorneys were ordered to resign. Despite initial denials, it would later be revealed that two other U.S. Attorneys had also been ordered to submit their resignations, bringing the total number to nine. Each was given no explanation for the dismissal and most were led to believe that they alone were being dismissed, raising the specter of unstated wrongdoing and encouraging silent departures. Those dismissed uniformly cited the maxim that they "served at the pleasure of the President" and most sought to avoid publicly disputing the Justice Department or the White House. So what happened? Why were the nine dismissed? Were political considerations allowed to trump the proud heritage of non-partisan, independent prosecutions in a Justice Department widely trusted as the guardian of civil rights? Did the White House or senior Justice Department officials direct the removal of U.S. Attorneys for failing to satisfy local partisans or to retaliate for certain public corruption prosecutions? Have officials lied to cover up wrongdoing and to avoid criminal prosecution? Can the damage to the Justice Department be undone, restoring the role of federal prosecutors as disdainful of politics and devoted to accountability, fairness, and the firm execution of the nation's laws? These questions were the subject of a public forum on May 9, 2007, sponsored by Seattle University School of Law, and serve in part as the basis for this Article by one of the participants of the forum (and a fired U.S. Attorney).