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