August 5, 2010
Rubashkin judge accused of massive conflict of interest—acted as both judge and involved with prosecutors, attorneys say
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By then Sholom Rubashkin had already been identified as the prime target. A March 12, 2008 DOJ Power Point presentation in large bold display letters, is headlined “Agriprocessors Inc.” It reads, “Agriprocessors, Inc. opened in Postville, Iowa in 1987 and is owned by Abraham (Aaron) Rubashkin. The Vice-President of the company is Aaron’s son, Sholom Rubashkin. The company is owned and operated by the Rubashkin family. A large number of the non-Hispanic workforce members at Agriprocessors, Inc., including the owner and his family, are Hasidic Jews. Agriprocessors, Inc. is responsible for the slaughtering and processing of kosher and non-kosher meat products. Agriprocessors claims to be the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the nation. The company processes beef, poultry, chicken, veal, lamb, and turkey. According to payroll reports, Agriprocessors, Inc. employs between 900 and 1100 workers.”
Days later, a March 31 DOJ interagency email subject lined, “Cedar Valley Junction Update” states, “There was a meeting today with ICE, USMS, ODAG and USAO for the Northern District of IOWA regarding the Agriprocessors operation. ICE was represented by OI, DRO and OPLA. The first Assistant for the Northern District Rich Murphy indicated that he has a meeting this Friday (April 4) with the Chief Judge who has requested a briefing on how the operation will be conducted. Murphy has requested an operation plan from ICE by COB Wednesday so that he can incorporate it into his presentation.”
An April 02 Blackberry and email exchange between DOJ officials asks, “What is the status of our Op plan? Where are we on the doc for the USAO fro [sic] his presentation to the judge?”
The emails, memos and other documents are part of hundreds of pages of government and other court documents obtained.
Legal experts say that recusal standards demand that a judge must disqualify himself or herself “in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” and goes on to assert, “what matters is not the reality of bias or prejudice but its appearance.” Moreover, the legal standards and case law do not require an average person to be “convinced” of a conflict, but merely “harbor doubts about the judge’s impartiality.” Rubashkin’s attorneys have quoted these standards and case law decisions in their demand for a new trial and the recusal of the judge.
At a July 24, 2008 House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing examining details of the unusual mass raid, subcommittee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal) asked Deborah J. Rhodes, a Senior Associate Deputy Attorney General who had been sent to testify in place of the United States Attorney, “what information was provided by the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security—any or all of them—to the Federal court in Iowa. This was planned for a long time. When was the connection made with the court, and what measures were taken to ensure that the court’s view of the cases would not be affected and that judicial neutrality would not be compromised?”
Associate Deputy Attorney General replied in vague terms that the judge was merely given a “head’s up.” She testified, “My understanding – primarily for logistical reasons. That is not unusual. If there is going to be an enforcement operation that is going to bring a large number of cases to the court, it is not uncommon to give the court a head’s up on that.” Rep Lofgren replied, “So Judge Reade would have been contacted in advance? I am not making a value judgment; I am just trying to find out what happened.” Rhodes answered, “That is correct,” but gave no further details of the Judge’s continuous oversight of the operation.
Nor did Judge Reade disclose in December, 2008 to Rubashkin’s attorney, during a scheduling telephone exchange about the possibility of a recusal motion, of her long-term involvement. Instead, she simply set a deadline for filing the motion. According to the American Bar Association Model Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 2.11, her continued silence violated her obligation to “disclose on the record information that the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might reasonably consider relevant to a possible motion for disqualification.” Rubashkin’s attorneys have argued this very point in their motion this morning.
Edwin Black is the author of IBM and the Holocaust and the forthcoming book The Farhud: The Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust
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