by Jeremy Leaming
Speaking before a packed opening night crowd at the Tenth Anniversary American Constitution Society (ACS) Convention, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder assailed the efforts by some in Congress to politicize the justice system through a ban on the use of civilian courts in terror-related trials.
“[P]olitics has no place – no place – in the impartial and effective administration of justice,” Holder said. “Decisions about how, where, and when to prosecute – and this is true for every case, whether it involves brutal terrorists or white collar criminals – must be made by prosecutors, not politicians.”
Holder delivered his address to more than a thousand lawyers, judges, scholars, law students and policymakers during the opening gala dinner at this year’s ACS National Convention, “Constitution at the Crossroads: Progress Imperiled?”
He called on ACS members and other progressive allies to work collectively to “reestablish our nation’s moral authority” and “replace fear-mongering with facts” about the crucial role the civilian justice system has played in addressing the war on terror.
“Here are the facts,” he said. “Every single suspected terrorist captured on American soil – before and after the September 11th attacks – has first been taken into custody by law enforcement – not the United States military. … Since 9/11, hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in civilian courts. Not one of these individuals has escaped custody. Not one of the judicial districts involved has suffered retaliatory attacks.”
Without civilian law enforcement and courts, “our ability to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat terror plots; to secure actionable intelligence; to enlist international cooperation; and to punish those who have – and who intend to – harm Americans would be seriously damaged,” he added.
Holder also praised ACS’s role as a meeting ground for “some of the nation’s most talented and insightful leaders and lawyers, and for thousands of young attorneys and students who give us all great hope for the future that we share and – together – that we must build.”
And he touted the revitalization of the DOJ’s civil rights division, noting that the Department filed a record number of civil rights criminal cases over the past two years, and the new Access to Justice Office, which “reflects an historic assurance that, at long last, expanding access to legal services is – and will continue to be – a national priority.”
Holder’s address received widespread media attention, with coverage by The New York Times, CNN, Politico, The Associated Press, The Huffington Post and numerous other outlets. Video of his address is available here.