Lionel Hutz: I’m here defending you on the charges of . . . (looks at sheet) Murder One!? Wow. Even if I lose I’ll be famous!
What is going on with the Republican Prosecutors in Southwest Ohio?
Yesterday, we noted that Republican Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters was thinking about pursuing what can only be described as politically motivated prosecutions of voters who cast provisional ballots after submitting absentee ballots. (Key idea: none of the voters cast more than vote.)
Previously, we brought you the story of Republican Warren County prosecutor David Fornshell, who pursued a politically motivated “investigation” of a school superintendent who criticized Governor Kasich’s school funding plan. (Key idea: while this “investigation” was going on, Fornshell’s office messed up a rape case before the Grand Jury.)
And, last month, Republican Butler County Prosecutor indicted a groundhog on fraud charges because his prediction didn’t turn out right. (Key idea: “I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”)
Which brings us to the IRS scandal. The FBI has started a criminal investigation of whether IRS employees in Cincinnati broke the law when they targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Good. We hope that this investigation is completed in a timely manner and anyone who broke the law is brought to justice.
If there is a political point to be scored in Southwest Ohio, you can bet that one of our Republican Prosecutors will not be far behind. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wants to conduct his own investigation into whether the Cincinnati IRS violated state civil rights laws.
Why is this nothing but political theater – a waste of time and resources?
The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office have not said that they need any assistance. The staff of these offices is composed generally of career law enforcement officers; frankly, there isn’t a lot that state and local officers can add to “help” the investigation. Mostly, they can just get in the way and leak important information.
Here is the best part: the IRS agents probably can’t be prosecuted under state law. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution generally prohibits states from imposing criminal sanctions on federal officials for actions taken in discharge of his federal duties. This is because if federal employees are subjected to state criminal sanctions for carrying out their federal jobs, the federal government would be unable to function, as any state that did not like federal policy could just pass a law criminalizing enforcement of the policy. See In re Neale, 135 U.S. 1 (1890); Idaho v. Horiuchi, 253 F.3d 359 (9th Cir. 2001).
Readers of Plunderbund know that if there is a bad legal opinion going around – especially involving criminal law – Mike DeWine must be involved somehow. Joseph documented DeWine growing list of legal mistakes in April, and there have been more since then. At times it seems like a writing a post about a legal mistake that DeWine makes is like Springsteen singing “Born to Run” – we do it every night and it never gets old.
So it comes as no surprise that Deters’ spokesperson said that Deters had “spoken with the [Ohio] Attorney General and if the allegations are true, there are potential state violations.” That’s right. DeWine thinks that there are possible state law charges despite the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and over one hundred years of precedents? Of course he does!
In one episode, Marge Simpson asks why they keep hiring Lionel Hutz. We could say the same thing about DeWine and the Republican prosecutors in Southwest Ohio.