Note: this piece was originally published in USA Today, and was written by Checks & Balances member Paul Rosenzweig.
Robert Jackson must be rolling over in his grave. The travesty of Attorney General William Barr’s intervention in Roger Stone’s case should scare each and every American. The independence of the prosecutor — so fundamental to our conception of the rule of law — is balanced on a knife’s edge. Long ago, Jackson warned us about what it might be like to fall off.
In 1940, Attorney General Robert Jackson (who would later become a Supreme Court justice and the chief counsel for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg international military tribunal) gave an address in Washington at the Second Annual Conference of United States Attorneys. Jackson warned about misusing the awesome power of the federal prosecutor. What he said rings especially true today:
“One of the greatest difficulties of the position of prosecutor is that he must pick his cases because no prosecutor can even investigate all of the cases in which he receives complaints. … If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. … It is in this realm — in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes and desires to embarrass … and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies.”