Skip to main content

The more you dig into the noxious decision by Judge Sentelle of the DC Circuit Friday, the more you enter the treacherous judicial history of the last 30 years, in which Sentelle is at the nexus of one after another decision that altered American History -- for the worse.  In a 2005 diary, Major6th gave some of his sordid story.

The story of Sentelle is the story of the country's race to the bottom, not only in judicial decisions, but distribution of wealth upward and reckless foreign policy.  He has been called the Zelig of right wing judicial mischief in the last 30 years.  In many cases, he has been aided and abetted by fellow Federalist Society Judge, Laurence Silberman.  (But for their ages, these guys would probably be on the Supremes instead of Roberts and Alito.)

Just to summarize, Sentelle:

Voted to overturn the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter.

Appointed right winger Joe diGenova to whitewash the Bush I State Dept. Clinton passport scandal.

Responded to Republican tin-foil hat Vincent Foster murder speculation by firing Robert Fiske, the Whitewater counsel, primarily because he was not a Foster conspiracy believer.

Replaced Fiske with Kenneth Starr, despite Starr's work with the Paula Jones legal team. (No need to detail the result of that.)

The chronology below the fold fills in more details about Sentelle (and Silberman).  As with many terrible events, the roots involve the 1980 "October Surprise" in which Reagan agents allegedly killed an October 1980 hostage release, clinching Carter's defeat.

The Beginning: MacKinnon, Iran-Contra, Walsh, Rehnquist:

In 1969, Richard Nixon appointed Republican George E. MacKinnon to the D.C. Circuit United States Court of Appeals.

In 1980, a secret Washington, D.C. meeting was held between Richard V. Allen, Robert McFarland, and Laurence Silberman representing the Reagan Campaign and an emissary of Iran.   There's evidence that at that meeting, the Reagan campaign offered to release the 52 hostages on Reagan's terms in exchange for later U.S. arms sales to Iran, "to ensure Carter's defeat."

In 1985, David Sentelle, a protege of Jesse Helms, was appointed a District Judge in NC, he same year that Silberman was appointed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 1985, MacKinnon, now on senior status, was appointed Presiding Judge for the Special Division of U.S. Court of Appeals for Appointment of Independent Counsels.  The Statute creating that Division states that preference should be given to senior judges.

In that position, in 1986, MacKinnon appointed Lawrence Walsh, another Republican, as the Iran-Contra Independent Counsel.

In 1987, Sentelle was appointed to become a colleague of Silberman's on the DC Circuit Court.

In 1989 and 1990, Walsh obtained convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter.

In 1990, Sentelle and Silberman voted to overturn those convictions.

A lot happened in 1992:

Walsh obtained the indictment of Caspar Weinberger.

Justice Rehnquist replaced MacKinnon with Sentelle (even though there were 10 more  senior judges on the DC Circuit.

The Bush State Department was accused of searching for Bill Clinton's passport.  In one of his first acts as presiding judge for the Special Prosecutors, Sentelle appointed Joseph DiGenova -- former Reagan appointed US Atty. -- to investigate.  Despite a good deal of evidence against the Bush adm., DiGenova found no basis

GW Bush pardoned Weinberger

The Middle:  Whitewater, Fiske, Starr.
In 1993, aided and abetted by writers like Jeff Gerth of the NY Times, Republicans called for an investigation of Whitewater.

In addition, that year, Vincent Foster was found dead, sparking right wing foaming-at-the-mouth Clinton conspiracy theories.

In Jan. 1994, AG Janet Reno appointed Robert Fiske as Whitewater Special Prosector, because the Independent Counsel statute had expired.

In July 1994, after the statute was re-authorized, and when the status of Fiske was still under consideration, Sentelle had lunch with Sen. Lauch Faircloth, one of the leaders of the oust-Fiske movement.

Weeks later, in August 1994, Sentelle, along with Silberman, appointed zealot Kenneth Starr as independent counsel.

No need to detail what Starr did.

The End? The Recess Appointment Decision.
Sentelle struck again last week, issuing what Charles Pierce called the most singular piece of partisan hackery to come out of a court since Antonin Scalia picked the previous president.
Epilogue:  There may be some difference in partisan hackery between Sentelle and Silberman. In 2011, Silberman voted to uphold the ACA, and was actually dismissive of the challenge: "[the] appellants cannot find real support for their [argument] in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent."  (Sentelle was not on that three judge panel.)  Some have even credited Silberman (who was a mentor to Justice Roberts) for Roberts' deciding vote upholding the ACA.  In light of Sentelle's recess decision, it's difficult to believe he would have upheld the ACA.
EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site