Attorney General Eric Holder this afternoon named Mary Patrice Brown as the new head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Justice Department’s internal ethics unit.
The changing of the guard at the sensitive ethics office comes just after embarrassing revelations of federal attorney misconduct in the prosecution of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan earlier this week went so far as to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter, and Holder announced last week that he would dismiss the indictment. Stevens was convicted last fall of ethics violations for accepting about $250,000 worth of gift he never declared from an oil services company executive.
The Office of Professional Responsibility is also in the hot seat now as observers — and some senators — eagerly await a review it has reportedly prepared, analyzing and harshly criticizing the conduct of former lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, including John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who is now a federal judge. Those lawyers are accused of manipulating the law to draft memos justifying harsh interrogation techniques that include waterboarding, a form of torture. That report is still under review by Holder and others. According to Newsweek, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey objected to the report and blocked its disclosure during his tenure.
Mary Patrice Brown, Holder’s pick, now leads the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. She will become only the third chief of that unit since it was established in 1975, after the Watergate scandal.
H. Marshall Jarrett, the current head of the ethics office, has been tapped to lead the executive office of U.S. attorneys, which sets policy and handles disputes among the Justice Department in Washington and the 94 U.S. Attorneys around the country.
Jarrett will replace Kenneth Melson, who has been named acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.