The case of Kenneth Olsen, whose appeal to the 9th Circuit last year drew a scathing dissent from five of the Court’s justices when the appeal was denied, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court last week. Olsen’s lawyers quoted heavily from the 9th Circuit dissent in their petition for certiorari. The dissent was authored by Chief Justice Alex Kozinski and drew widespread attention for its critique of prosecutorial misconduct and the lack of accountability for prosecutors nationwide.
NPR journalist Carrie Johnson reported on Olsen’s latest filing, which was submitted by the same law firm that represented the late Sen. Ted Stevens and uncovered a swathe of misconduct on the part of the federal government in his case:
“Late last year, 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (joined by four others on the bench) unsuccessfully urged the whole court to reconsider. In a blistering dissent, Kozinski outlined nearly three dozen cases describing the government’s failure to share information that would help defendants. The judge decreed there was an “epidemic” of such violations and that only courts could put an end to them.
Lawyers for Olsen — at two private law firms in Seattle, a Northwestern University legal clinic and the Williams & Connollly firm in Washington, D.C. — pepper their Supreme Court petition with pungent quotes from Kozinski, such as this one: “When a public official behaves with such casual disregard for his constitutional obligations and the rights of the accused, it erodes the public’s trust in our justice system and chips away at the foundational premises of the rule of law.”
The involvement of Williams & Connolly hearkens back to the failed corruption prosecution of the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder walked away from that case early in the Obama administration after an FBI agent blew the whistle and a series of came to light under prodding from Stevens’ defense team at Williams & Connolly.
Since then, the Justice Department has played down incidents of misconduct by its prosecutors and agents. But a by the Project on Government Oversight found that hundreds of DOJ lawyers had violated rules, laws or ethical standards. Lawmakers and some defense attorneys worry the department isn’t doing enough to police its own ranks, and they’ve to empower the independent inspector general to investigate.
The Justice Department had no immediate comment on Thursday’s filing, but the Solicitor General will have an opportunity to lay out the government’s arguments in the coming weeks.
Olsen, who’s been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, may not be the most sympathetic figure. He never denied possessing ricin, arguing rather that he never intended to use it as a weapon against anyone else.”