Senate Confirmation Hearings Begin for Amul Thapar for a Federal Judgeship in Ky. There are some questions that should be asked…

Yesterday October 24th.  the U.S. Senate held the first of at last two confirmation hearings for Amul Thapar, the current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern Dist. of Kentucky. The next hearing will be an opportunity for questioning of Thapar which may be troubling for Mr. Thapar to answer.

The procedure for the recommendation of a candidate for appointment as a Federal Judge is for a U.S. Senator of the nominee’s home state to send their approval to the White House. This is a tradition and not a mandatory procedural rule. Sen. McConnell and Sen. Bunning both have supported the Thapar nomination.

At yesterdays congenial meet and greet, Thapar was warmly introduced with glowing recommendations by Sen. McConnell and Sen. Bunning.  Sen. McConnell praised the qualifications of Thapar for the judicial position.

The next step in the appointment process is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate the candidate, ask him questions, and then vote in the Committee to send the nomination to the whole Senate with their approval, to disapprove the nomination, or to pass the appointment to the whole Senate with no recommendation. 

We must assume that Mr. Thapar is a very talented lawyer.  Still his nomination on that basis alone doesn’t fly all that well.  Kentucky is full of attorneys who are just as highly qualified. There are graduates of the Univ. of Kentucky College of Law, the Univ. of Louisville College of Law, and Chase Law School, that are equally attractive candidates for this judicial position.  Why Sen. McConnell went to Ohio to find a nominee for Kentucky is a puzzler.  Sure we know that Mr. Thapar, who worked for a Cincinnati Law Firm, maintained a residence in Northern Kentucky.  So technically he is a resident.  And since he was appointed U.S. Attorney in Ky. he has now actually worked here for a year or so.  But why were so many talented Kentucky lawyers bypassed?

One might expect that the Judiciary Committee has a few questions to ask of Mr. Thapar that would seem to be important. They might want to start with these questions which seem obvious:

1.      With your background being mainly from Ohio and Washington, D.C. , and your presence is Kentucky seemingly very weak, do you believe that you will be able to understand the Kentuckians whom will come before your court?

2.      You served as a member of an advisory committee for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, and you have publicly offered your support for Gonzalez.                         Does this mean that you support the firing of U.S. attorneys because they weren’t active enough in prosecution Democrats?                                                     

3.       Did you have any part in the attempt by  the attorney general to fire other U.S. Attorneys?      

4.      When the firing plan was exposed did you offer any advice to the Attorney General regarding his plan?  If so what was that advice?

5.      When you were sworn in as a U.S. Attorney, you were quoted as telling the press that “Nobody was above the law.?  The Ky. Attorney General’s Office made available to you over 100,000 pages of documents concerning the Merit System investigation of the Fletcher Administration.  Your Justice Department prosecuted an aide to the Democratic Mayor of Chicago, and obtained a conviction and prison sentence, for doing virtually the same things for which 27 people in the Fletcher administration, including the Gov. himself, were indicted.   Many of the offenses of the Fletcher Administration involved programs which expend federal funds, thereby giving the U.S. Justice Department jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violations of state Merit System or state Civil Service laws. Why hasn’t your office taken any action in almost a year against the Fletcher administration regarding the Merit System violations? 

6.. This case feel squarely within your jurisdiction as U.S. Attorney.  Time Magazine has called into question the practices of the Justice Department in tolerating the political influence of Carl Rove and other White House officials in Federal investigations and prosecutions.  The allegations that abound about the Justice Department involve claims that U.S. Attorneys were encouraged to prosecute Democrats and to ignore similar offenses committed by Republicans.   What stand have you taken on that practice within the Justice Cabinet?  What actions have you taken to at least review the 100,000 pages of documents made available to your office?

7.. What have you done to cooperate with the White House or other political sources to cover up the alleged wrongs of the Fletcher Administration? 

8.. Have you had any communications with Sen. McConnell or the White House concerning the issues surrounding the Fletcher Administration investigation? If so, what did those communications concern?


LawReader news article from May of 2007:

The top federal prosecutor for Eastern Kentucky has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the federal bench.

President Bush on May 24th. nominated U.S. Attorney Amul Thapar to fill the vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky when Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood retires in October.
Before his current post, Thapar was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Ohio, where he focused on financial crimes, including mortgage fraud.

Thapar now living in Edgewood, Ky.  also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. He has worked in private practice in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. Thapar is a graduate of Boston College and the University of California.
The nomination was announced by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, yesterday.
This nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate.  Now that the Democrats control the Senate it remains to be seen if he can obtain approval. Thapur recently publically offered his support of Attorney General Gonzales.  Members of both parties have called for the resignation of Gonzales over his involvement in the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys and other issues relating to his operation of the Justice Department.
Another issue which might resonate with the Democratic majority in the Senate is the failure of Thapar to pursue the Merit System scandal in Frankfort.  Thapar was sent the records of the Gov. Ernie Fletcher investigation by the Franklin County Grand Jury over six months ago.  When he was appointed during the height of the investigation of Gov. Fletcher, Thapur said that “no official was above the law?. 
The Justice Dept. actively prosecuted an aide to the Democratic Mayor of Chicago for similar civil service violations in 2006.  The charges prosecuted in Illinois resulted in a prison sentence for the Mayors aide. 
In Kentucky, the Justice Department has given no indication of any potential action against Fletcher or others who were indicted in state court.  Fletcher pardoned all of the persons indicated in the scandal.  The law allows prosecution in Federal Court for civil service violations which involve offices that receive Federal funds, and this would include most of the offices involved in the scandal described by Gov. Fletcher as a prosecution for “Noodling? of fish.

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