That post title is a mouthful folks. Let’s begin with Scott Walker as his lawyer filed a motion to keep Walker’s sentencing letters off the record.
Judge Starrett is construing motions from letters that Anita sent the court asking for access to the sentencing letters. The variations in how sentencing letters are handled vary across and within the various Federal Court districts and that variation is somewhat disconcerting. In Louisiana Eastern, sentencing letters are made available via PACER as a general rule without anyone in the media having to file motions to intervene and having to ask for them. Here in Mississippi, Judge Ozerden released Roger and Sharon Ladner’s sentencing letters in the same way per my inspection of the docket in that case.
Last month at Bill Walker’s sentencing Judge Starrett mentioned that the jurisprudence in the area of sentencing letter release was well settled. Walker’s motion in opposition to Anita’s request for the release of the letters prominently mentioned the fact that Judge William Steele over in Mobile withheld the letters in USA v Byrd, where the former Jackson County Sheriff got off very light, some would say “Judge Ginger light” and that is saying something. I’m not yet convinced Steele had anything right in his ruling on the Byrd letters.
If I had to argue against one point Arthur Madden made in the Scott Walker motion, regardless of the jurisprudence, is the very narrow definition of newsworthiness he used. Here on Slabbed just over a year ago for instance, I connected a sentencing letter for Tim Whitmer to the Jefferson Performing Arts Center debacle where a letter confirmed a tip I received about long standing social connections that resulted in Jefferson Parish Parks and Recreation financially vetting construction invoices instead of the Parish’s Engineering Department. That in turn helped explain a portion of the saga of the taxpayer funded financial disaster that is JPAC. It will be interesting to see how Judge Starrett rules. Sentencing for Scott Walker is set for the 23rd.
Moving right along, despite Jim Hood’s best efforts Chancery Court Judge Jennifer Schloegel’s Public Records related sanctions against Hood, four of Hood’s assistant AG, the DMR, Auditor Pickering and two of Pickering’s investigators will stand per Judge Schloegel.
Meantime and even worse, both Hood and Pickering are blowing taxpayer money on contract lawyers appealing the $100 sanctions levied by Judge Schloegel. The taxpayers are also having to pick up the Sun Herald’s legal fees completing the Hood / Pickering breach of the public’s trust and right to access. We need fresh blood at both state agencies, ideally professionals that won’t piss away scarce tax money trying to cover their own foolishness,
Finally there is Miller time at DMR. You’ve seen it in comments here on a persistent basis that Executive DIrector Jamie Miller continues to purge the agency of long time employees, seemingly for its own sake. In most every state agency and local political subdivision in varying degrees there are essentially two types of employees in the political hires and the technical hires. Political hires come and go with the changing tides while the technical hires tend to last longer and eventually build up institutional knowledge.
In Jefferson Parish by way of example, technical functions like the Office of the Parish Attorney were also politicized. When John Young cleaned house, rightfully so IMHO, the Parish also lost vital institutional knowledge and the loss of that knowledge was missed on occasion.
In the case of DMR, the purging is not necessarily political hires stinking up technical positions via incompetence that is the problem. In fact, it has been suggested that the continued bloodletting could be viewed as moving potential problems out of the way so the new dogs in town can belly up to the taxpayer trough. Either way, its been close to 18 months since Miller time at DMR commenced, yet the purging of long time employees continues. That fact is not what I would term confidence inspiring. Rest assured that I continue to pay attention even as DMR fades from the overall news cycle.