As I already knew from my legal contacts, as to fired S.F. U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan, there was nothing nefarious going on. He was simply a bad manager (which has nothing to do with whether he was a good lawyer) and needed to be replaced:
Newly released Justice Department documents on the firings of eight federal prosecutors include a scathing evaluation of former San Francisco U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan — whose district was labeled “one of the most fractured offices in the nation” — and reveal that the Bush administration was considering possible replacements more than a year before he was ousted.
The fact that replacements for Ryan and several other U.S. attorneys were being looked at months before they were fired appears to contradict testimony from a former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that no such lists had been in the works.
The documents were among thousands of pages that the Justice Department released Friday to congressional committees looking into the dismissals in December of the eight U.S. attorneys, all originally appointed by President Bush. Gonzales, whose changing explanations of the firings have led top Democrats and some Republicans to call for his resignation, is scheduled to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the issue Tuesday.
Ryan, a former Alameda County prosecutor and Superior Court judge in San Francisco, was named by Bush in August 2002 to succeed U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller, who became director of the FBI. Ryan officially left the job in February and has been hired by a San Francisco law firm.
Unlike several of the fired prosecutors, there has been no indication that Ryan was a target of political criticism by Republicans. Previously released documents have shown that Justice Department officials rated him highly for following Bush administration policies, and among the documents released Friday was one showing that he was the only one of the eight dismissed U.S. attorneys who once belonged to the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers’ group.
But the newly disclosed documents contain the strongest public confirmation to date that Justice Department officials targeted Ryan for his management of the office, which handles federal prosecutions in coastal Northern California. Ryan’s term included some prominent cases, such as the BALCO steroids prosecutions and the nation’s first criminal charges involving stock options backdating, but it also was marked by the departure of many veteran prosecutors and reports of low office morale.
A memo dated March 5, from Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s White House liaison who has since resigned, to Assistant Attorney General William Moschella in preparation for his congressional testimony included the following assessment of Ryan:
– “Significant management problems have manifested during his tenure.”
– “The district has become one of the most fractured offices in the nation.”
– “Morale has fallen to the point that it is harming our prosecutorial efforts.”
– “The USA (U.S. attorney) has lost the confidence of many of his career prosecutors.”
The memo noted that Justice Department auditors had conducted two evaluations of Ryan’s office, “which dictated the need for a change.”
Another memo, dated Feb. 12, contained handwritten notes referring to Ryan’s department audit: “terrible manager, bad morale.” The author of the notes wasn’t identified, but the Associated Press said Justice Department officials had confirmed that Goodling wrote them.
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