Thursday, May 31, 2007

Minnesota case fits pattern in U.S. attorneys flap

Los Angeles Times reported For more than 15 years, clean-cut, square-jawed Tom Heffelfinger was the embodiment of a tough Republican prosecutor. Named U.S. attorney for Minnesota in 1991, he won a series of high-profile white-collar crime and gun and explosives cases. By the time Heffelfinger resigned last year, his office had collected a string of awards and commendations from the Justice Department. So it came as a surprise — and something of a mystery — when he turned up on a list of U.S. attorneys who had been targeted for firing.
Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. Maybe it "pleased the President" to have someone else in that position.
Part of the reason, government documents and other evidence suggest, is that he tried to protect voting rights for Native Americans. At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter fraud cases, Heffelfinger's office was expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots. Citing requirements in a new state election law, Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directed that tribal ID cards could not be used for voter identification by Native Americans living off reservations. Heffelfinger and his staff feared that the ruling could result in discrimination against Indian voters.
Attorney's should not refuse to prosecute crimes, particularly when their bosses tell them to. If there was something wrong with the state law, the judge can declare the law unconstitutional, or the legislature can change it.
Many do not have driver's licenses or forms of identification other than the tribes' photo IDs.
How do they get around? Does Minnesota have that good a public transportation system? Surely they are not driving without driving licenses, since we are talking about tribal members that live off the reservation, since they would be subject to state and federal law.

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