Fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias Fighting Back
We’ve all heard the case of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys in one fell swoop. It’s turned almost entirely into a he-said, she-said case. Even a who-dunnit at one point as U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is still back-pedaling as if he had nothing to do with the firing. At least not several days ago. But as of late, he now agrees he was in that meeting but he doesn’t recall “talking about specifics when discussing the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys.
And if you haven’t heard, never in the history of these offices has eight U.S. Attorneys ever been fired at one time. They are hardly ever fired for that matter.
But the official word on why David Iglesias was fired is that he wasn’t doing his job because he was absent too much of the time. At least according to recently released documents written up by the Attorney General’s aides which show that one of the main reasons Iglesias was fired was because he was “spending too much time away from the office.” In documents put together by justice department officials, one of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty’s principle deputies, William Moschella, emphasized specifically that Iglesias was “away too much” from his office. Those same documents tended to highlight one of the main reasons that Iglesias was fired was because he was an “absentee landlord.” This meaning that he was away from his office too much.
Iglesias had been splitting time between two jobs. By day he was a U.S. Attorney. His second job-a Captain in the Navy Reserve teaching other officers about international terrorism. Come again? Yes, while he was away from the office he was off teaching others about, what the Pentagon likes to call, the Global War on Terrorism.
If that isn’t enough to convince you that his firing may have been improper, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERR) should do it for you. Essentially this is a law that prohibits the discrimination against members of the U.S. military relating to employment. For instance when national guardsmen or reservists, any part-time military personnel are called off to war, upon their return they are guaranteed the same position, same pay, the same everything they had before the war, when returning from the war back to their regular jobs. In David Iglesias’ case as a Captain in the Navy teaching other officers about international terrorism, of which we all know according to the Bush administration is the war we’re still in to his day through Iraq, he’s still at war-technically. Thus, this case is not like a Baltimore auto accident lawyers can handle. It is deep and more complicated.
This week David Iglesias is filing a formal legal complaint with OSC, the Office of Special Counsel. In a story full of irony, this office has to be included because the filing is for the improper dismissal in violation of the USERR Act. Normally the Justice Department itself handles such cases. However since the federal government itself was the employer of David Iglesias and the potential violator of the law, the OSC comes in in such a case.
Staying with the ironies of the case, the Bush administration, including the U.S Attorney General’s office, has vigorously promoted the enforcement of the USERR Act ever since the start of the war in Iraq. Now after doing so they may have made a major blunder in not following the mandates of the Act themselves.
Veteran U.S. Navy lawyer and expert on USERR Sam Wright was asked whether the law applied in Iglesias’ case. He replied, “it isn’t supposed to even be a motivating factor in any military personnel’s dismissal.” More and more of these sort of USERR cases are being brought to bear by Bush administration lawyers, said Wright.
It was no secret who U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was or what he did outside of the office. When first nominated by President Bush in 2001 he brought with him an impressive background as a popular Navy JAG Corps lawyer. In 1986 he was assigned to represent a young marine charged with hazing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He vigorously defended his client in part by calling into question the commanding officer’s conduct. Sound familiar, yet? Yes, his defense in that case became the basis for the Tom Cruise character in the movie A Few Good Men.
Speaking of a few good men, Karl Rove has found himself in the middle of another mess. He is the one that suggested that he be put on the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. This smacked of political overtones since Republicans Rove, Wilson, and Domenici were all involved in pressing him to bring indictments against Democrats. Something which is against the law as it relates to justice being meted out based on political affiliation.
It remains to be seen how all of this will play out. But one thing is for sure, David Iglesias isn’t taking it sitting down. He has probably the best case of the eight U.S. Attorneys in proving that the firing was improper.