Friday, January 16, 2009

"My innocent client is being dragged along for the ride."

That's Joel Hirschhorn on the Mutual Benefits case after two judges have recused and the U.S. Attorney and his chief have recused from the case. What is going on?

Here's Vanessa Blum's article, which is extremely interesting. The case is now assigned to Judge Jordan and Eric Bustillo is the AUSA who signed off on the indictment. From the intro:

The biggest financial fraud case in Broward County history is proving too hot to handle for several senior federal law enforcement officials and judges, who have removed themselves from having anything to do with it.Federal prosecutors announced new charges this month in the long-running investigation of Mutual Benefits Corp.--a defunct Fort Lauderdale investment firm whose managers are accused of operating a $1-billion Ponzi scheme.This week, two federal judges assigned to hear the case stepped aside in quick succession with no explanation, according to public court records.The back-to-back judicial recusals, unparalleled in recent memory, followed an unusual decision by the two highest-ranking lawyers in the local U.S. Attorney's Office to have no further involvement in matters related to Mutual Benefits.
Judges and prosecutors generally recuse themselves when they have conflicts of interest, for instance a personal relationship with someone involved or a financial stake in the litigation.Because of secrecy surrounding the recusals, it is not clear whether the Justice Department officials and federal judges have the same conflict.

Quick question -- should judges and prosecutors have to disclose why they recuse from a case?


Anonymous said...

Ok, so Hirschhorn's client is innocent. Give him the low end of the Guidelines even without a 5K.

Anonymous said...

Hirschorn or the client?

Anonymous said...

gut reaction to the question of disclosing reasons for recusal...yes. Judges are public officials charged with a duty to uphold justice. They should have to disclose the reason for recusal to avoid the possibility of allowing them to simply pick and choose what cases to take.

The same would apply to prosecutors, but it appears that they already pick and choose, so it doesn't really matter for them.

Anonymous said...

A quick google reveals that the law firm of Colson Hicks is the receiver in the Mutual Benefits litigation. My guess is at least one of the conflicts arise from this firm's position.

Anonymous said...

Correct. But Colson Hicks has been the receiver since 2004. If that were the conflict, Judge Huck and the U.S. Attorney would have recused themselves from the earlier criminal cases.

Anonymous said...

The basis for the recusals is probably one of the two cited by David. The rationale for recusals is party-centered/case specific (i.e. making sure that the parties receive a fair trial). That being the case the argument made above is incongruouswith the principles motivating recusal.