The Hennepin County Bar Association’s annual meeting next Thursday promises to be a memorable one. The keynote speaker will be none other than former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, who has lately been the reluctant subject of media inquiries about the wave of U.S. Attorney departures during the past two years.
In his address, “The Independence of U.S. Attorneys,” Heffelfinger -- who served as U.S. attorney under both George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush -- will discuss a variety of timely issues, including:
-- the appointment process of U.S. Attorneys;
-- the relationship between U.S. Attorneys and the Justice Department, the White House and other branches of government; and
-- the manner in which U.S. Attorneys exercise their prosecutorial discretion.
“I hope to allow plenty of time for questions,” Heffelfinger said. “That could be the most interesting part of the event.”
Now that's an understatement in light of the recent revelation that Heffelfinger -- who has a sterling reputation in the legal community -- may have been on the list of U.S. Attorneys slated for firing when he left his post to go into private practice last year. Heffelfinger has insisted over and over again that his decision to leave was completely voluntary and not a product of pressure from above.
I, for one, believe him -- although I think the fact that his name appears to have been on the list demonstrates how completely ridiculous and arbitrary the list was. (My own pet theory is that the list with Heffelfinger's name on it was, in fact, not the firings list, but Karl Rove's personal errand list. I think the list was instructing an aide to return a Tommy Hilfiger shirt that someone had given Rove for Christmas and everything else was just a big misunderstanding. ...)