A “Righteous Sentence” for Rachel Paulose

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Although questions about her experience, management style, and objectivity only surfaced publicly the first week of April, any sharp-eyed news consumer could have foreseen trouble brewing for Rachel Paulose, the new U.S. Attorney for Minnesota.

Paulose has been the center of negative publicity following the voluntary self-demotion of three administrators in the U.S. Attorney’s office. All chose to go back to prosecuting cases rather than spend any more time working at close quarters with the 34-year-old experience-challenged Paulose, who apparently combines a dictatorial and sometimes abusive management style with an unfortunate tendency to read Bible passages aloud during meetings with her subordinates. Since then, we have also heard more about her lavish swearing-in ceremony where she ordered up a Marine Corps color guard and a choir to serenade her into office; her case has also been caught up in the swirl of controversy over the firing of U.S. Attorneys and their replacement by “loyal Bushies,” in whose number I’m certain we can include Paulose, given that her principal qualification for her current position seems to have been that she was a protégé of infamous perjurer and soon-to-be-ex Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Paulose’s lack of judgement includes calling attention to herself when anonymity might have been her best ally. For example, she planted herself front and center in a page 1 story about child pornography in the March 3 edition of the Star Tribune. Upstaging the work of prosecutors that had already occurred or was well along by the time she appeared on the scene in Minnesota last spring, Paulose was quoted in the article declaring that “no sentence would ever be long enough for a person who takes the innocence of a child.” This categorical statement was a natural follow on to her work with Gonzales: before leaving the AG’s office, she had been involved in efforts to stiffen penalties for production, distribution or possession of child pornography. The precise term Paulose has used for her objective was to secure “righteous sentences” for those convicted of these crimes.

Now, there is something peculiarly creepy about child pornography. I certainly agree that those who produce and traffic in the stuff need to be locked up, though whether for longer than people convicted of first-degree homicide is another question altogether. And those who willingly possess child pornography are certainly in need of treatment and, perhaps, incarceration. But – excuse me – a term like “righteous sentences” has absolutely no place in the American system of jurisprudence. “Righteous sentences” is the language of theocracy, of “Biblical law,” of Sharia – of a fundamentalist mindset that sees no divide between religion and secular life. It certainly is not the language of a secular democratic republic, which happens to be the system of governance bequeathed to us by the Founders, whatever ahistorical fantasies might be harbored by Pat Robertson and graduates of Regent law school. In our system the law is impartial, its officers charged with enforcement, investigation, and prosecution when appropriate. It is most decidedly not the job of U.S. Attorneys – or Attorneys General, for that matter – to decide for us what constitutes righteousness.

Paulose, then, is another example of the way the Bush Administration – which, like the mullahs in Iran, exhibits equal measures of fundamentalism, corruption, cynicism and a thuggish disregard for the rule of law – has attempted to subvert our judicial system, transforming it into an instrument of narrow ideological and partisan forces.

It should also come as no surprise that Paulose, like the Bush Administration attorneys who have helpfully rewritten the rules concerning torture and repealed our 800-year tradition of habeas corpus, is a member of the Federalist Society. Usually described in the mainstream media as a “conservative” legal organization, the Federalist Society is no such thing. It is an extremist group (Ann Coulter’s a member – ‘nuff said!) openly committed to the destruction of the separation of powers and its replacement with a Presidency tantamount to an elected dictatorship under the deceptively mild sounding term “unitary executive.”

Far from conservative, the society is the bastard child of the Jacobins of Revolutionary France – the folks who popularized the use of Terror to enforce republican “virtue” – and Leninist “cadres” leading the rest of society sheep-like toward the promised land of Paradise on Earth. A member of the Federalist Society has no more place in the judicial system than a member of the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazi Party.

And that means there is no place in the U.S. Attorney’s office for Ms. Paulose. It’s time to send her packing.