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Not a Superior Type of Judge

Should a lawyer who has participated in unprofessional conduct be awarded with a judgeship? Consider the nomination of Justice Department official Donna Murphy to be a superior court judge in the District of Columbia.

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Bio

March 31, 2011 - 12:03 am
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Should a lawyer who has participated in unprofessional conduct be awarded with a judgeship? Consider the nomination of Donna Murphy to be a superior court judge in the District of Columbia.

The president, of course, is responsible for nominating lawyers to be judges in our federal courts. But he is also responsible for picking the local judges with jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, which is a federal enclave. However, those superior court nominations are approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (chaired by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.), not the Senate Judiciary Committee that approves nominations to all other federal courts.

Donna Murphy has spent almost her entire career in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. She started off as a trial lawyer and was eventually promoted to be a deputy chief in the Voting Section. It was while she was a supervisor there that she was involved in a case, Miller v. Johnson, which cost the American taxpayer almost $600,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

Miller v. Johnson involved the Voting Section’s frivolous objection to a proposed legislative redistricting plan in Georgia. Not only was the objection thrown out, but the defendants were awarded a total of $597,000. A federal court found that the Section had no actual evidence of discrimination when it pursued this unwarranted lawsuit and instead tried to force the state of Georgia to implement a racially discriminatory “max-black” redistricting plan.

In fact, DOJ was acting at the direction of an ACLU attorney as if it were representing the ACLU instead of the American people. The court remarked that “the considerable influence of ACLU advocacy on the voting rights decisions of the United States Attorney General is an embarrassment. … It is surprising that the Department of Justice was so blind to this impropriety, especially in a role as sensitive as that of preserving the fundamental right to vote.”

The misbehavior of DOJ lawyers in the case was such that the court found their “professed amnesia [about their relationship with the ACLU attorney] less than credible.” There were “countless communications” between the ACLU and DOJ line attorneys including maps, telephone calls, mail and facsimiles, and yet the two trial attorneys on the case “lacked any significant memory” of those communications and couldn’t recall basic details of important meetings.

Murphy was not one of the trial attorneys who the court strongly suggested were lying under oath about their dealings with the ACLU. But she was the supervisor of those trial attorneys — which is even worse in many ways — and she is prominently listed as representing the Justice Department in this embarrassing decision issued by a federal district court at 864 F.Supp. 1354.

No supervisor reviewing the extensive internal file in this case could have possibly doubted that the trial lawyers’ professed amnesia was false testimony. Yet Murphy not only did nothing to remedy the situation, she was responsible as one of the counsels of record for presenting that false testimony to a federal district court, a disbarrable offense. And when she was supervising the lawyers working on the redistricting review before it ever got to court, she did nothing to stop the “inappropriate” dealings of DOJ with the ACLU, or to stop the racially discriminatory requirements being imposed by DOJ on Georgia.

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