SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOC27226 PDF
REAUTHORIZATION OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR U.S. ATTORNEYS, CIVIL DIVISION, ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR U.S. TRUSTEES, AND OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
COMMERCIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS
APRIL 26, 2006
Serial No. 109132
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Available via the World Wide Web: http://judiciary.house.gov
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
RIC KELLER, Florida
DARRELL ISSA, California
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
MIKE PENCE, Indiana
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJ. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
STEVE KING, Iowa
TOM FEENEY, Florida
TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, Florida
PHILIP G. KIKO, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
CHRIS CANNON, Utah Chairman
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland
JERROLD NADLER, New York
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, Florida
RAYMOND V. SMIETANKA, Chief Counsel
SUSAN A. JENSEN, Counsel
BRENDA HANKINS, Counsel
MIKE LENN, Full Committee Counsel
STEPHANIE MOORE, Minority Counsel
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCC O N T E N T S
APRIL 26, 2006
The Honorable Chris Cannon, a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
The Honorable Melvin L. Watt, a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
Mr. Michael A. Battle, Director, Executive Office for United States Attorneys, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Mr. Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Mr. Matthew J. McKeown, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, on behalf of Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOral Testimony
Prepared Statement of Sue Ellen Wooldridge
Mr. Clifford, J. White, Acting Director, Executive Office for United States Trustees, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Chris Cannon, a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Melvin L. Watt, a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Prepared Statement of Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General of the United States, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Response to Post-Hearing Questions from Michael A. Battle, Director, Executive Office for United States Attorneys, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Response to Post-Hearing Questions from Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Response to Post-Hearing Questions from Matthew J. McKeown, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Response to Post-Hearing Questions from Clifford, J. White, Acting Director, Executive Office for United States Trustees, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC
REAUTHORIZATION OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR U.S. ATTORNEYS, CIVIL DIVISION, ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR U.S. TRUSTEES, AND OFFICE OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26, 2006
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Commercial
and Administrative Law,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:58 p.m., in Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, the Honorable Chris Cannon (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. CANNON. The Subcommittee will come to order.
We apologize. You know, the worst thing that can happen here is when you get a vote right before a hearing, and you guys have to sit here and wait. We apologize for that and thank you for being here and thank you for patience.
The Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law is meeting this afternoon to receive testimony from five components of the Justice Departmentat Department of Justice as part of the Subcommittee's continuing oversight efforts.
These components are the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the Civil Division, the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the Executive Office for United States Trustees, and the Office of the Solicitor General, the latter of which has submitted written testimony for the record.
Our oversight responsibilities require us to examine the performance of these Justice Department components, evaluate how well they are positioned to achieved their goals, and determine both the adequacy of their funding levels and the need for any legislative changes to facilitate their mission.
I should state at the outset that this has not been and will not be the only encounter the Subcommittee has with the Justice Department components within our jurisdiction. It is our intention to continually monitor the activities of these components throughout the year, and I expect this endeavor to be undertaken in the spirit of cooperation by the Members of this Subcommittee.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I believe that effective oversight requires that we listen in order to learn so that we can intelligently question and suggest. The Committee must make sure the Department performs competently and fairly because the Department is directly responsible for supporting the President in his duty to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.
It is imperative that the Department be conscious of the awesome power that has been entrusted to it and of its responsibility to ensure that this power is exercised in the interest of justice.
I wish to stress the significance of today's hearing for both the Justice Department and Subcommittee Members. The information we receive from witnesses today will be of immediate value in determining the adequacy of funding levels proposed by the President in his budget request for the Department of Justice. It will also influence whether the Subcommittee needs to craft legislation to implement the issues outlined.
It is interesting to note that the 5 Justice Department components represented at today's hearing account for more than 2 billion in taxpayer dollars. These monies fund comprehensive litigation, appellate litigation, and administrative responsibilities. The broad mission of these components underscores the central role that their performance can play in significantly improving the lives, safety, and well-being of every American.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Among this office's responsibilities is the requirement to file with the White House and Senate Judiciary Committees an annual report on the Department's activities that affect privacy, including a summary of complaints of privacy violations. In addition, the law requires any Justice Department training or meeting activity at a facility that requires payment to a private entity for use to be specifically authorized by the Attorney General.
Finally, the law requires the Executive Office of the United States Trustees to submit to Congress an annual report with respect to the program's efforts concerning bankruptcy crimes.
These are important provisions, and I look forward to working with the Department on their implementation.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Cannon follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE CHRIS CANNON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH, AND CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMERCIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW
The Subcommittee will please come to order.
The Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law is meeting this afternoon to receive testimony from five components of the Department of Justice as part of the Subcommittee's continuing oversight efforts. These components are: the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the Civil Division, the Environment and Natural Resources Division, the Executive Office for United States Trustees, and the Office of the Solicitor General. The Solicitor General has submitted written testimony.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
By the way of explanation, our oversight responsibilities require us to examine the performance of these Justice Department components, evaluate how well they are positioned to achieve their goals, and determine both the adequacy of their funding levels and the need for changes in legislation to facilitate their mission. I should state at the outset, this has not been and will not be the only encounter the Subcommittee has with the Justice Department components within our jurisdiction. It is our intention to continually monitor the activities of these components throughout the year. I expect this endeavor to be undertaken in the spirit of cooperation by other Members of the Subcommittee.
I believe that effective oversight requires that we listen in order to learn so that we can intelligently question and suggest. We do not undertake this process, though, without expectations from the Justice Department-expectations that are shared not only by the American people but also, I am sure, by the agency itself. We expect the Department should have performed competently and fairly, and that it should continue to do so. The Department is directly responsible for supporting the President in his duty to take care that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed. It is imperative that the Department be conscious of the awesome power that has been entrusted to it and of its responsibility to ensure that this power is exercised in the interest of justice and for the common good. We will work with the components we hear from today and continue to critically study their activities and needs.
I wish to stress the significance of today's hearing for both the Justice Department and Subcommittee Members. The information we receive from the witnesses today will be of immediate value in determining the adequacy of funding levels proposed by the President in his budget request for the Department of Justice. It also greatly influences the crafting of necessary legislation in the future for the Department. An important part of the record on which the Committee will base future decisions will be the testimony at today's hearing.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
It is interesting to note that the five Justice Department components represented at today's hearing account for more than $2 billion in taxpayer dollars. These monies fund comprehensive appellate litigation, support and administrative responsibilities. The broad mission of these components underscores the central role their performance can play in significantly improving the lives, safety and well-being of every American.
Mr. CANNON. I now turn to my colleague Mr. Watt, the distinguished Ranking Member of my Subcommittee, and ask him if he has any opening remarks?
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just want to briefly welcome the witnesses and indicate that this is the annual hearing process through which we learn about what the various divisions within the Justice Department over which we have jurisdiction have been doing over the past year and, importantly to them, learn what resources or additional resources they believe are needed to effectively meet their responsibilities.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the interest of time, I will submit the balance of my opening statement for the record in hopes that we might be able to get through with their testimony before I have to leave at 3:30. So the more I can expedite that, the better off we are.
So I'll yield back.
Mr. CANNON. Without objection, the gentleman's entire statement will be placed in the record. Hearing no objection, so ordered.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Watt follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE MELVIN L. WATT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, AND RANKING MEMBER, SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMERCIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW
[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]
Mr. CANNON. Without objection, all Members may place their statements in the record at this point. Without objection, so ordered.
Without objection, the Chair will be authorized to declare recesses of the hearing at any point. Hearing no objection, so ordered.
I ask unanimous consent that Members have 5 legislative days to submit written statements for inclusion in today's hearing record. Hearing no objection, so ordered.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
I'm now pleased to introduce the witnesses for today's hearing.
Our first witness is Michael Battle, who is the Director of the Executive Office of the United States Attorneys. His office provides oversight, coordination, and support to 94 United States attorneys' offices across the Nation.
Mr. Battle began his service with the executive office in June of 2005. Prior to thisor prior to his work there, Mr. Battle served as the United States attorney for the Western District of New York from January 2002 to May 2005.
In June 1996, he was appointed by New York Governor Pataki to serve as a judge on the Erie County Family Court and was elected the following November to a full 10-year term.
Mr. Battle is a past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York, and has been a member of numerous other organizations. Mr. Battle received his undergraduate degree cum laude from Ithaca College in 1977 and earned his J.D. from the University of New York Buffalo School of Law in 1981.
Peter Keisler, our next witness, is the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. Prior to his position, he served as Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General and Acting Associate Attorney General.
Before joining the Department of Justice, Mr. Keisler was a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. He also served as associate counsel to the President during the Reagan administration and as a law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy and Judge Robert H. Bork of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. Keisler received his undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Yale College in 1981 and earned his law degree from Yale Law School in 1985.
Our third witness is Matthew J. McKeown. Or do you pronounce that McKeown?
Mr. MCKEOWN. Mr. Chairman, it's McKeown.
Mr. CANNON. McKeown. Okay. All right.
We have a congressman who spells their name quite a bit like that and pronounces it differently. McKeown.
He's the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. Mr. McKeown is testifying in place of Assistant Attorney General Sue Ellen Wooldridge, who cannot be with us today because of family emergency.
Before joining the division in October 2005, Mr. McKeown served as the Deputy Solicitor for the United States Department of the Interior, where, as the second in command, he led a team of more than 400 lawyers and support staff. At the Interior Department, he also served as the associate solicitor for land and water and was the special assistant to the solicitor.
Mr. McKeown is a graduate of McGill University, and he obtained his law degree from the University of Oregon Law School.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Our final witness is Clifford White, who is the deputy director for the Executive Office for United States Trustees and currently is serving as its acting director. Mr. White has testified on several occasions over the years. Welcome back.
During the course of his 26 years of Federal service, Mr. White has served as an Assistant United States Trustee and a Deputy Assistant Attorney General within the Department of Justice and as Assistant General Counsel at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
He is an honors graduate of the George Washington University and the George Washington University Law School.
I extend to each of you my warm regards and appreciation for your willingness to participate in today's hearing. In light of the fact that your written statements will be included in the hearing, I request that you limit your remarks more or less to 5 minutes. So feel free to summarize and focus on the salient points of your testimony.
You will note that we have a lighting system in front of you. It turns green. After 4 minutes, it turns yellow, and then it turns red. The red indicates 5 minutes are up.
We actually are sort of interested in what you have to say, actually, here. So if you go beyond that, that's a little bit fine. But recognize that we have a lot of Members here today, don't we? Maybe we'll do two rounds of questioning. Who knows?
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But if you could sort of focus on that 5-minute light, so that would be helpful. And if it gets a little long, I'll tap the gavel or something to encourage you. And then we'll have Members ask questions in the order they arrive, and they'll take 5 minutes each.
Pursuant to the directive of the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I ask the witnesses to please stand and raise your right hand to take the oath.
Mr. CANNON. The record should reflect that all of the witnesses indicated in the affirmative. You may be seated.
And Mr. Battle, would youoh. Mr. Battle, would you please proceed with your testimony?
TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL A. BATTLE, DIRECTOR, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. BATTLE. Thank you, Chairman Cannon, Ranking Member Watt, and Members of the Subcommittee.
It is my honor to be here today representing the outstanding men and women of the 94 United States attorneys' offices, and I thank you on their behalf for your continuing support of their efforts.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Let me start by asking that you support the President's proposed United States attorneys' fiscal year 2007 budget request. We are seeking a total budget of $1.664 billion to support in excess of 10,000 positions. The request includes $23.2 million in enhancements, which will support an increase in 149 positions.
The enhancements will fund such initiatives as national security and terrorism prosecutions, gang prosecutions, and child exploitation and obscenity prosecutions, also additional positions to prosecute identity theft and increased criminal debt collection enforcement.
Preventing terrorism remains our top priority. On behalf of all the United States attorneys, I want to thank the Congress for renewing the USA PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act strengthens our criminal laws against terrorism and continues to provide the legal authorities needed to detect and disrupt terrorist plans. Last year, we saw a significant success in terrorism prosecutions.
Apart from terrorism prosecutions, we are continuing the important work of sharing terrorism and counterterrorism information. Our Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils, also known as ATACs, are chaired by the U.S. attorneys and ensure that critical information regarding terrorism is shared among Federal, State, and local enforcement agencies. We also conduct terrorism training for our prosecutors across the country.
The United States attorneys are also active in prosecuting gangs. Each United States attorney's office has an anti-gang coordinator, and last year, we trained the 93 coordinators at the National Advocacy Center to take on this fight.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
On March 31, 2006, the Attorney General announced a comprehensive anti-gang initiative that devotes extensive resources to defeating some of the most violent gangs in our country. Each of six sites will receive funds to incorporate prevention and enforcement efforts and to assist released prisoners as they re-enter society. By integrating prevention, enforcement, and re-entry, this initiative aims to address gang activity at every stage.
Another program to keep our communities safe, Project Safe Neighborhoods, also known as PSN, continues to be one of the great success stories of the United States attorneys' offices in the Department of Justice. PSN is a multi-faceted approach to reducing gun crime, whereby each United States attorney tailors their prosecution strategy to fit the unique gun and violent crime problems in their district.
Under PSN, Federal firearms prosecutions have increased 73 percent since 2001. And more importantly, the rate of violent victimization by an offender armed with a firearm has declined by approximately 2/3 over the last decade. As such, thousands of Americans are being spared the tragic consequences of gun crime.
While on the topic of protecting our neighborhoods, I think it is important to report that we are continuing to investigate and prosecute major drug and money laundering organizations. The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, also known as OCDETF, is a program the integral part of which is part of this effort. The OCDETF program combines the efforts of Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, along with the United States attorneys' offices.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are also addressing the growing threat of methamphetamine, also known as ''meth.'' In FY 2005, the United States attorneys' offices filed 5.5 percent more meth cases than the previous year and the highest total number ever. In the last 10 years, the number of meth cases filed and the number of defendants charged has quadrupled. Meth cases now have surpassed crack cocaine in frequency, making it third behind powder cocaine and marijuana in Federal case filings.
We are also focused on providing support to victims of crime. In May 2005, with input from my office, the Attorney General issued guidelines for victim and witness assistance, explaining the new protections for victims set forth in the Crime Victims' Rights Act. We've also provided training to the United States attorneys' offices and the Department since passage of the Act. In January 2006, the Attorney General designated a Victims' Rights Ombudsman within our office at EOUSA to resolve complaints brought by crime victims.
This brings me to one of the most tragic forms of victimization in our society, one involving children. The United States attorneys are committed to prosecuting child sexual assault and child pornography cases. Statistics show that during FY 2005, United States attorneys collectively filed in excess of 1,400 child exploitation cases involving child pornography, coercion, and enticement offenses against in excess of 1,500 defendants.
To buttress our efforts against this scourge, the Attorney General announced in February 2006 the Project Safe Childhood initiative. Project Safe Childhood will bring together the United States attorneys, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, and other Federal, State, and local enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute crimes against children that occur through the Internet and other electronic media.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Internet also facilitates intellectual property and computer hacking related to crimes that threaten significant segments of our economy. Since fiscal year 2001, specialized prosecution units focused on computer hacking and intellectual property, known as CHIP units, have been formed at 18 United States attorneys' offices. Last fiscal year, 350 defendants were charged with intellectual property offenses, nearly double the number charged in 2004.
Another area involving our economy in which we are achieving great success is the area of corporate fraud. Since the creation of the Corporate Fraud Task Force in July 2002, over 970 corporate fraud convictions have been obtained through December 31, 2005. This includes more than 200 convictions of top managers, including CEOs and CFOs.
Moreover, health care fraud continues to be a significant problem, and United States attorneys' offices play the lead role in prosecuting those cases.
In civil cases, United States attorneys, working with the Civil Division, won or negotiated approximately 1.47 billion in judgments and settlements. Of that amount, more than 1.13 billion went to repay the Medicare Trust Fund.
As you can see by the examples that I've just given, the United States attorneys are committed to protecting and preserving the rights of Americans in many ways. This perhaps manifests itself most directly through the criminal civil rights prosecutions brought by the United States attorneys in coordination with the Department's Civil Rights Division. During fiscal year 2005, United States attorneys filed criminal civil rights cases against 131 defendants. This represents a 19 percent increase in defendants charged over the prior year.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Finally, the United States attorneys' offices continue to enforce the principle that no public official is above the law. In FY 2005, the United States attorneys' offices filed 441 public corruption cases against 673 defendants.
In closing, over the past several years, United States attorneys have taken on new responsibilities and initiatives. We have successfully carried out our mission in all of these areas, and we appreciate your continued support of our work. And I look forward to answering your questions today.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Battle follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. BATTLE
[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]
Mr. CANNON. Thank you, Mr. Battle.
Mr. Keisler, you're recognized for 5 minutes.
TESTIMONY OF PETER D. KEISLER, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL DIVISION, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. KEISLER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and Congressman Watt.
It's a great privilege for me once again to appear before you at this oversight hearing to discuss the work of the Civil Division and to respond to any questions you might have.
The Civil Division, as you know, represents the United States in court in a wide variety of matters. We don't make policy, but we represent the people and the Departments and the Agencies that do.
Virtually every executive branch agency, as well as Members of Congress, are clients of ours at one time or another. The cases we handle, therefore, touch upon virtually every aspect of the operations of the Federal Government.
We represent the United States on a wide range of casescontract disputes, tort suits, loan defaults, and immigration cases, among others. We defend the constitutionality of acts of Congress and the lawfulness of Government regulations in court.
We seek to recover monies lost to the Government through fraud, and we enforce important consumer protection statutes. We also help administer sensitive national compensation programs.
The division employs approximately 660 attorneys and roughly 300 support personnel to perform these functions, and they're very busy. While civil had about 31,000 cases in fiscal year 2002, it had more than 52,000 in fiscal year 2005, a 70 percent increase in 3 years.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Notwithstanding this rapid growth, I'm very pleased to report that we have had a very successful year. Working together, as Mike just noted, the Civil Division and the U.S. attorneys' offices recovered more than $1 billion in monies defrauded from the Government. Annual recoveries have exceeded that $1 billion mark for 5 of the past 6 years. The division is exceedingly proud of these accomplishments, which have resulted from its close partnership with Mike's U.S. attorneys' offices.
While our affirmative case work recovers billions for the United States Treasury, 86 percent of our litigation is defensive. These cases often affect significant budgetary and policy issues. As you know, the Government is the largest commercial actor in the world and the largest purchaser of goods and services.
We have successfully defended the Government from exaggerated or meritless claims in a wide range of commercial and tort cases. Our efforts saved the Government more than $10 billion in fiscal year 2005 alone.
We have also successfully defended congressional and executive authority against numerous challenges to laws, such as the No Child Left Behind Act and the ''three strikes'' provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. And in July 2005, the division successfully defended the Communications Decency Act's ban on knowingly transmitting obscenity via telecommunications devices to minors.
In addition to these matters, our attorneys are also involved on the civil side of a variety of terrorism cases. We are particularly proud of our work in the terrorist financing area, defending the Government's actions in court to help shut down the flow of money to international terrorist organizations. We take seriously the Attorney General's charge to address terrorism and other threats to our country with the utmost integrity.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Civil Division has also administered sensitive national compensation programs established by Congress, such as the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
We very much appreciate the interest and the oversight of this Committee, both from a budget and a policy standpoint. My written testimony describes the area that we feel is most in need of additional resources in FY 2007, immigration litigation, where the caseload has risen from 6,200 in fiscal 2002 to more than 17,000 in fiscal 2005.
I would, of course, be happy to address this and other areas of interest further. I do want to thank you again, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Watt, for the opportunity to appear before you and to respond to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Keisler follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PETER D. KEISLER
Chairman Cannon, Congressman Watt, and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the work of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice and our budget and resource needs for Fiscal Year 2007.
The Division represents the interests of the United States in a wide range of civil matters. Our cases encompass virtually every aspect of the Federal governmentfrom defending the constitutionality of Federal statutes to recovering money defrauded from Government programs, to the administration of national compensation programs, to the representation of Federal agencies and Government employees in a host of matters that arise as part and parcel of Government operationscontract disputes, allegations of negligence and discrimination, loan defaults, and immigration matters. The Division employs 660 attorneys and 295 full and part time employees who provide essential paralegal, administrative, and clerical support.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In FY 2005, the Civil Division accomplished the following:
Worked with the United States Attorneys to recover more than $1 billion dollars lost through fraud against Government programs;
Protected the public fisc from billions of dollars in claims arising from the Government's commercial activities;
Protected the public fisc from over $1 billion dollars in tort claims arising from the Government's past and current operational programs and activities;
Defended against challenges to Congressional and Executive exercises of power;
Played a major role in the administration of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which was established by Congress;
Represented individual Government employees sued in connection with their performance of official duties; and
In the period since the September 11th attacks, defended the Federal government's coordinated response to those attacks and the Administration's policies designed to prevent future acts of terrorism.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Among the laws and policies of greatest importance to the Administration, the Congress, and the public are those intended to protect our nation's security. Our leadership has committed itself to devoting all resources necessary to disrupt, weaken, and eliminate terrorist networks; to prevent terrorist operations; and to bring to justice perpetrators of terrorist attacks. And we in the Civil Division are privileged to contribute to this mission through our representation of the United States in litigation that relates to the Federal government's efforts to protect against threats to our national security. In fulfilling our litigation responsibilities, we take seriously the Attorney General's charge to address terrorism and other threats to the United States with integrity and devotion to our nation's highest ideals.
Civil cases related to the war on terrorism often raise complex issues. And the consequences are large, as litigation losses in this area could undercut policies of crucial importance to the security of our citizens. By way of example, Civil Division attorneys have defended the Government in the following matters: challenges to the USA PATRIOT Act; decisions to freeze the assets of terrorist organizations; enforcement actions involving the detention and removal of suspected alien terrorists; and designations of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
While national security cases are paramount, they nonetheless represent a small fraction of the cases and matters pending with the Civil Division in FY 2006. This vast and diverse workload is handled by our trial attorneys who spend their time on the front lines of litigationpreparing motions, taking depositions, negotiating settlements, conducting trials, and pursuing appeals.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Over the past four years, the Civil Division's caseload has increased by more than 70 percent. In FY 2002, we handled about 31,000 cases and matters, but by FY 2005, our caseload exceeded 52,000. This increase is attributable to two main factors: (1) significant growth in the number of claims filed with the compensation programs; and (2) a dramatic rise in appellate cases resulting primarily from increased challenges to immigration enforcement actions.
The Office of Immigration Litigation (''OIL'') defends the Government's immigration laws and policies and handles challenges to immigration enforcement actions. At no time in history has this mission been so important, and never before has it consumed as many of the Department's resources as it does today.
Immigration attorneys defend the Government's efforts to detain and remove foreign-born terrorists and criminal aliens. Since 9/11, OIL has handled and assisted in hundreds of cases involving aliens of national security interest. On average, OIL defends the detention and removal of approximately 1,500 criminal aliens each year. Vigorous defense of these cases is critical to our national security and the safety of our communities. OIL also provides liaison and training to all of the Government's immigration agencies, enabling enforcement efforts at and within our borders to enjoy dependable support before the courts.
Immigration litigation has been the fastest growing component of the Civil Division's docket. The Division is responsible for handling or overseeing all Federal court challenges to decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (''BIA''), and the number of these challenges has grown significantly in recent years. OIL's docket of pending cases has nearly tripled in the past four years, growing from 6,200 cases in FY 2002 to over 17,000 cases in FY 2005.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
This growth stems from several factors. In 2003, much of the growth was attributed to the Department's streamlining reforms, which increased the productivity of the BIA and thus helped clear a sizable backlog of cases. The backlog has since been cleared. Now, the growth stems primarily from heightened immigration enforcement activities pursued by the Department of Homeland Security and the rapid increase in the rate at which aliens appeal BIA decisions to the Federal courts, which has increased from 6 percent to 29 percent over the past four years. There is no reason to expect this rate to subside. Aliens now must turn to the courts to get the delay in removal that was once reliably provided simply by an administrative appeal to the BIA.
This enormous growth has driven OIL's caseload per attorney to over 155 in FY 2005, more than doubling the historic caseload of 60 cases per attorney. Favorable congressional action on the Division's FY 2007 request would play a large part in addressing OIL's rising caseload. Without additional resources in FY 2007, the attorney caseload is expected to remain at the untenable level of 155 cases per attorney. The Division and the Department have responded to this crisis, assigning immigration cases to other attorneys throughout the Department. These stopgap measures, which task attorneys who lack experience and efficiency in handling immigration matters, are not a permanent solution.
The Office of Immigration Litigation will continue to face an overwhelming workload in FY 2007. Therefore, the President requests in his FY 2007 budget a program increase of 114 positions (86 attorneys), 57 FTEs, and $9,566,000 for immigration litigation.
PROTECTING THE PUBLIC FISC
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Our dockets are filled with cases that involve substantial monetary claims against the Government. The significance of these claims cannot be overstated.
Our responsibilities have included: (1) the 122 Winstar suits in which hundreds of financial institutions have sought tens of billions of dollars for alleged losses that occurred in the wake of banking reforms enacted in the 1980s; (2) the Cobell class actionperhaps the largest ever filed against the Government; and (3) numerous complex, sensitive, and challenging tort cases based on Federal programs and activities, including defense and national security programs, law enforcement activities, and other Government operations, in which the Civil Division has successfully protected the public fisc from approximately $1 billion in unmeritorious tort claims in the last fiscal year.
In thousands of other defensive monetary matters, our mission is to ensure that the will of Congress and the actions of the Executive branch are vigorously and fairly defended, and that meritless claims are not paid from the public fisc. Thus far, we have been largely successful. For example, seventy of the original 122 Winstar suits have been resolved without the Government paying any money whatsoever. And in 2005 alone, we defeated over $3.9 billion in groundless Winstar claims asserted against the United States.
RECOVERING FEDERAL FUNDS
In any given year, about 15 percent of our cases involve affirmative litigation on which we work with United States Attorneys to enforce Government regulations and policies, and to recover money owed the Government from commercial transactions, bankruptcy proceedings, and fraud. The bulk of affirmative monetary recoveries stem from fraud suits. As in the last several years, health care in FY2005 accounted for the lion's share of the Department's fraud settlements and judgmentsmore than $1.1 billion was recovered in that year alone. This number includes both whistleblower claims and those initiated by the United States in independent fraud investigations. Most of the recoveries in this area are returned to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, but substantial recoveries also are returned to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Department of Defense TRICARE program, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Railroad Retirement Board. The coming fiscal year promises to continue, if not exceed, this trend. Health care fraud recoveries in the first four months of this fiscal year already exceed $600 million. The following recent recoveries illustrate our efforts in this area:
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We obtained $325 million from HealthSouth Corporation, the Nation's largest provider of rehabilitative medicine services. Allegations against HealthSouth included false claims for outpatient physical therapy services that were not properly supported by certified plans of care, administered by licensed physical therapists, or for one-on-one therapy as represented. Of similar magnitude was a recent settlement with Gambro Healthcare for $310 million to resolve allegations of false claims for Medicare and Medicaid in connection with dialysis services. Gambro Supply Corporation, the sham durable medical equipment company and a wholly owned subsidiary of Gambro Healthcare, paid a $25 million criminal fine and agreed to permanent exclusion from the Medicare program in a case handled collaboratively by our office and both the civil and criminal divisions in the Eastern District of Missouri.
One of the largest areas of the Department's health care fraud caseload are matters against pharmaceutical companies or other related entities, charging various kinds of fraud on the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the pricing or delivery of drugs. To date, there have been more than more than $4.7 billion in criminal fines and civil recoveries in these cases, much of it returned to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Indeed, there now are more than 150 qui tam cases filed by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act that allege various schemes associated with government drug plans.
Just this past December, in a case jointly prosecuted with the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts, Serono S.A., a Swiss biotechnical corporation, and its United States subsidiaries, entered into a global criminal, civil, and administrative settlement for $704 million, making it one of the largest health care fraud settlements the Department has reached. Serono Labs, one of the subsidiaries, pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy: the first, conspiring to introduce and deliver for introduction into interstate commerce, with intent to defraud or mislead, adulterated medical devices; the second, conspiring to knowingly and willfully pay illegal remuneration to health care providers to induce them to refer patients to pharmacies for the furnishing of the drug Serostim, for which payments were made in whole or in part by the Medicaid program. Serono Labs paid a criminal fine of $136.9 million and reached a civil settlement of its False Claims Act liability of $567 million. This amount was paid to the United States and to State Medicaid programs (the Federal share of which was $305 million).
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Finally, in the first settlement of its kind, the pharmacy benefit manager AdvancePCS agreed in 2005 to pay $137.5 million to resolve its civil liability in connection with soliciting and receiving kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers and paying kickbacks to potential customers to induce them to contract with AdvancePCS. This investigation exposed the hidden financial relationships maintained by pharmacy benefits managers with drug manufacturers and health plans that ultimately influenced the nature and the brand of drugs prescribed to Medicare beneficiaries. We think the lessons learned in this case, which was handled with the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and its progeny will be particularly instructive as we monitor potential fraudulent conduct in the Medicare prescription drug program now coming on line.
The Division is making the best use of available resources. These cases are highly complex and resource intensive. Investigative work includes massive document collections, witness interviews, research, and interagency coordination. Millions of taxpayer dollars are lost each year to health care fraud, and any effective effort to contain the cost of Medicare and Medicaid must also incorporate strategies aimed at stopping such fraud.
ALTERNATIVES TO LITIGATION
In addition to its litigation work, the Civil Division also helps to administer alternatives to litigation. The Vaccine Injury CompensationProgram, for example, was created in 1986 by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to encourage childhood vaccination by providing a streamlined system for compensation in rare instances where an injury results. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund, from which compensation awards are paid to eligible claimants, derives its funding from an excise tax on vaccine manufacturers and provides reimbursement to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, as well as to the Court of Federal Claims, for expenses related to the administration of the Program. To date, over 1,960 families or individuals have been paid $1.58 billion.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Similarly, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (''RECA'') in 1990 to offer an apology and compensation to individuals who suffered disease or death as a result of the Nation's nuclear weapons testing program during the Cold War Era. In July 2000, RECA Amendments were enacted which significantly expanded the scope of the Act. Major changes included new categories of beneficiaries, expansion of eligible diseases, and geographic areas. Annual capped mandatory appropriations did not keep pace with the increased number of new claim filings and resulted in shortfalls of funds for eligible claimants. However, I am pleased to report that the Trust Fund is currently solvent. In FY 2005, Congress ensured adequate long-term funding by requiring that payments to certain RECA claimants be made from the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Trust Fund. Additional legislation conferred mandatory and indefinite funding status for the remaining RECA claimants beginning in FY 2006. To date, over 15,200 claims have been approved, representing over $1 billion paid to eligible claimants or their surviving beneficiaries.
By concentrating on the Civil Division's top priorities, this testimony provides little elaboration on the thousands of cases and matters that form the traditional core of our work.
The Civil Division has a longstanding commitment to maximizing the effectiveness of scarce Government resources. It is with pride that I can report that performance targets across the board were met or exceeded in FY 2005, as we succeeded in recovering substantial funds owed to the Government, defeating unmeritorious claims, and prevailing in the vast majority of cases involving challenges to the programs of some 200 client agencies.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
PRESIDENT'S BUDGET REQUEST
The President's FY 2007 request seeks 1,208 positions (834 attorneys); 1,176 FTEs; and $213,286,000, which includes a program increase of 114 positions (86 attorneys) and $9,566,000 for immigration litigation. Also included in this request are the base resources required to maintain the superior legal representation services that have yielded such tremendous success, and additional funds to support the Office of Immigration Litigation's important mission.
At this time, Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to address any questions you or Members of the Subcommittee may have.
Mr. CANNON. Thank you, Mr. Keisler. I can assure you that we're going to revisit the issue of immigration and what's going on there. Thank you for your presentation.
Mr. McKeown, right? Mr. McKeown.
TESTIMONY OF MATTHEW J. McKEOWN, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC, ON BEHALF OF SUE ELLEN WOOLDRIDGE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. MCKEOWN. Thank you.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Watt, Members of the Subcommittee, I would like to convey Assistant Attorney General Wooldridge's apologies for not being here today because of her family emergency. She apologizes that she couldn't be here today.
The division's mission is to enforce civil and criminal environmental laws to protect the health and environment of our citizens, to defend suits challenging environmental and conservation laws, and the 410 lawyers in the division currently are responsible for 6,800 cases in every judicial district.
The division is committed to ensuring that American taxpayers are getting their money's worth. Altogether, the division has secured civil penalties, criminal fines, and clean-up costs for the U.S. Treasury that far exceed the division's share of the Department's budget.
In the criminal enforcement context, the division continued to have great success with its initiatives to prevent shipping from illegal discharges in inland waterways as well as the initiative to protect workers from endangerment.
Over the years, the division has come to recognize the importance of developing partnerships with U.S. attorneys' offices, State attorneys general, and other State and local officials across the Nation. So it's a pleasure to be here with Mr. Battle today. In pursuing joint enforcement cases, we are able to leverage our resources and increase our effectiveness.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I would stand for further questions that the Committee may have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Wooldridge follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF SUE ELLEN WOOLDRIDGE
Chairman Cannon, Congressman Watt, and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today, along with my colleagues from the Department of Justice. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the Environment and Natural Resources Division, one of the principal litigating Divisions within the Department, and to answer any questions that the Subcommittee may have about the Division.
I will first summarize the Division's work and outline the scope of our responsibilities, which are essential to the implementation of Congressional programs to protect the nation's environment and its natural resources, and to defend the programs and activities of federal agencies. The Division has a long and distinguished history, and our attorneys have built a record that demonstrates their commitment to legal excellence. I will then discuss the resources that the Administration is requesting for the Division as part of its fiscal year 2007 budget.
OVERVIEW OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION
The Environment and Natural Resources Division's mission is to enforce civil and criminal environmental laws to protect the health and environment of United States citizens, and to defend suits challenging environmental and conservation laws, programs and activities. We represent the United States in matters concerning the protection, use and development of the Nation's natural resources and public lands, wildlife protection, Indian rights and claims, and the acquisition of federal property. Our enforcement activities are a critical component of environmental protection and help ensure that our citizens breathe clean air, drink clean water, and will be able to enjoy the country's public lands, wildlife and other natural resources for generations to come. In addition, the Division defends a wide range of vital federal programs and interests in cases that involve such diverse and critical matters as military training programs, government cleanup actions, resource management programs and environmental regulations. We represent virtually every federal agency and currently are responsible for over 6,800 active cases in every judicial district in the nation, utilizing the efforts of approximately 410 lawyers. Our principal clients include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, the Interior, Transportation and Homeland Security. The Division is committed to ensuring that American taxpayers are getting their money's worth. Altogether, the Division has secured civil penalties, criminal fines, and cleanup costs for the U.S. Treasury that far exceed the Division's share of the Department's budget. For instance, the last fiscal year was a record breaking year in the Division's efforts to secure commitments by polluters to take action to remedy their violations of the nation's environmental laws. Actions taken by the Division in federal courts resulted in nearly $9.6 billion in settlements and court-ordered injunctive relief directed specifically at obtaining corrective measures to protect the nation's health, welfare and environment. While this number will fluctuate each year depending on the nature of the cases being resolved, it is truly a superb result, more than doubling our previous record of approximately $4.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2004. Additionally, courts imposed nearly $137 million in civil penalties for violations in environmental cases. According to EPA statistics, the environmental benefits attributable to these enforcement efforts include the reduction or treatment of nearly 400,000 tons of pollutants from the environment. The Division has obtained benefits for human health and the environment that provide an impressive return on the taxpayer's dollar.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
These results reflect, among other things, the Division's continuing successes in addressing Clean Air Act violations within the petroleum refining industry. In the last fiscal year, the Division secured important and valuable settlements with ConocoPhillips Co., Valero Energy Corp., Sunoco Refinery, Inc., Citgo Petroleum Corp., and Chevron USA, Inc. More recently, the United Statesalong with the States of Illinois, Louisiana, and Montanaentered a settlement with Exxon Mobil that requires the defendant to reduce air pollutant emissions by more than 51,000 tons per year, at a cost of approximately $537 million, and to pay nearly $15 million for both a civil penalty and environmentally beneficial projects.
Conserving the Superfund to ensure prompt cleanup of hazardous waste sites is also a top priority. In Fiscal Year 2005, the Division secured the commitment of responsible parties to clean up hazardous waste sites, at costs estimated at nearly $647 million. An additional $266 million in cost recovery to help finance future cleanup work was also secured. The Division continues to secure cleanups of unprecedented size and scope. Just this February, the Division reached a consent decree resolving our claims against Atlantic Richfield and NorthWestern Corporation in connection with the Milltown Reservoir Operable Unit, one of the numerous Superfund Sites within the Clark Fork River Basin in Montana. Under the terms of this decree, ARCO and NorthWestern will: remove the Milltown Dam and the millions of cubic yards of contaminated sediment accumulated behind it, at an estimated cost of $106 million; contribute toward the State's $12 million natural resource restoration plan; reimburse most of EPA's costs; and comply with various FERC requirements in connection with the decommissioning of the dam. The United States, on behalf of certain federal agencies, is also reimbursing $2.5 million of EPA's past costs. Other major Superfund cases that the Division resolved this past fiscal year require cleanup actions in Colorado, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Division also continues its national enforcement program to protect the nation's water by ensuring the integrity of municipal wastewater treatment systems. For example, in United States Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), the United States entered into a Consent Decree with WSSC, the sewerage authority for Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland, under which WSSC will undertake injunctive measures including inspection, rehabilitation, and repair requirements and changes in the operation and maintenance of its collection system. WSSC will also perform four ''supplemental environmental projects'' to reduce pollution loadings to the Chesapeake Bay and will pay a $1.1 million civil penalty, which the United States and Maryland will split. Five citizens groups intervened.
In the criminal enforcement context, the Division continues to have great success with its enforcement initiative to prevent ships from illegally discharging pollutants into the oceans, coastal waters and inland waterways. Recent whistleblower awards to crew members should further aid detection and deterrence. In one recent case, United States v. Wallenius Ship Management, Pte., Ltd., the defendant Singapore shipping company and the former chief engineer of a vessel it managed pleaded guilty to violations associated with the illegal dumping of oily wastes and the overboard dumping of plastics. After a tip by crew members, the Coast Guard inspected the ship and discovered a multi-piece bypass system hidden in various locations. The company will pay a $5 million fine with an additional $1.5 million payment devoted to community service projects and will serve a three-year term of probation and implement an environmental compliance plan. In another recent case, MSC Ship Management (Hong Kong) Ltd. pleaded guilty to having discharged approximately 40 tons of sludge through a bypass pipe manufactured on the ship and an even larger volume of oil-contaminated bilge waste. The company also made false statements to the Coast Guard, directed subordinates to lie to the Coast Guard, concealed evidence, falsified its oil record book and sought to cover up the falsification of records. The company was sentenced to pay a $10 million fine and will pay an additional $500,000 for community service projects.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Division has also successfully prosecuted several companies owned by McWane, Inc., the largest manufacturer of cast iron piping in the United States, with one major case still pending. McWane and its divisions have been cited by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) hundreds of times since the mid-1990s. In United States v. Union Foundry, an Alabama division of McWane pled guilty to a willful violation of an OSHA regulation that led to an employee's death and to violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company was ordered to pay a $3.5 million criminal fine, perform community service valued at $750,000 and serve three years probation. In United States v. Tyler Pipe, a Texas McWane division pled guilty to presenting false statements and to violating the Clean Air Act. It was ordered to pay a $4.5 million criminal fine and serve a five-year probation term, during which it must perform specified upgrades at a cost of approximately $24 million. In United States v. Pacific States, McWane and a company executive pled guilty to Clean Air Act violations in connection with operation of an iron foundry division in Utah. McWane was ordered to pay a $3 million criminal fine and serve a three-year probation term. In United States v. McWane, Inc., a jury convicted the corporation (acting through a Birmingham-based division) and three high-ranking company officials of crimes related to six years of Clean Water Act violations. A fourth defendant pled guilty. McWane was ordered to pay a criminal fine of $5 million and perform community service valued at $2.7 million.
Over the years, the Division has come to recognize the importance of developing partnerships with U.S. Attorneys' Offices, state Attorneys General and other state and local officials across the nation. In so doing, we are able to leverage our resources and increase our effectiveness. We have numerous successful examples of joint enforcement with the State Attorneys General. In one recent case involving the Clean Water Act's provisions governing discharge of storm water from large construction sites, the Division obtained a consent decree with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.the nation's largest retailer and one of its largest commercial developersthat resolved claims covering 24 locations in 9 states. The United States was joined in the settlement by the States of Tennessee and Utah. Wal-Mart will pay a civil penalty of $3.1 million, undertake a supplemental environmental project to protect sensitive wetlands or waterways, and implement a $62 million compliance program. This settlement is serving as a model in ongoing negotiations with other large commercial and residential developers.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Although the public is generally familiar with the Division's role in enforcing environmental laws, about half of our attorneys' time is actually spent on non-discretionary cases. Many of our cases involve defending the United States for alleged violations of the environmental laws, for example, in connection with federal highway construction, airport expansion, or military training. Effective representation by Division attorneys in these cases is critical to agency implementation of Congressionally mandated programs and protection of the public fisc. In one recent case, Basel Action Network v. Maritime Administration, the Division successfully defended the Maritime Administration's decision to export 13 obsolete shipping vessels to the United Kingdom for dismantling, recycling, and disposal. The presence of deteriorated ships in the fleet has been a point of controversy in the past, and the Administration has worked hard to remove obsolete vessels. The Division's successful work in this case allowed the agency to move forward with a critical disposal program. In Air Pegasus of D.C. v. United States, the Division represented the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with respect to the FAA's restriction of airspace near and over the Capitol in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. In response, a company sued the United States for a Fifth Amendment taking because it could no longer operate a heliport near the U.S. Capitol. We successfully argued that the company did not have a compensable right to access public airspace. In Center for Native Ecosystems v. Forest Service, the Division represented the Forest Service in an Administrative Procedure Act claim challenging its livestock grazing authorizations in the Pole Unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest, near Laramie, Wyoming. Plaintiffs alleged violations of state water quality standards applicable at federal facilities under the Clean Water Act as well as claims under the Endangered Species Act. The court recently held for the Forest Service, determining that it had complied with the applicable water quality standards and Endangered Species Act requirements.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the wildlife and natural resources context, we have in the past year successfully defended a variety of federal agencies. For example, in Oceana v. Evans, both environmental and industry groups challenged fishing regulations promulgated under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by NOAA Fisheries. The environmental groups argued that the regulations did not sufficiently limit over-fishing and did not adequately analyze and protect essential fish habitat. Industry groups argued that the over-fishing restrictions were too stringent and exceeded the Secretary's authority. The Court ruled for NOAA on all important claims. In Northwest Environmental Advocates v. NMFS, we successfully defended the Army Corps of Engineers in a lawsuit that sought to enjoin it from proceeding with a channel deepening project in the Columbia River needed to provide for navigation to the Port of Portland. The plaintiffs challenged the Corps' actions under the Endangered Species Act as well as the National Environmental Policy Act. The Corps had worked hard to resolve difficult issues of sediment transport in the Columbia River and impacts on the salmon species, consulting with NOAA Fisheries, preparing a substantial environmental analysis, and even using outside peer reviewers to consider whether the Corps and NOAA had considered the best available scientific information. The Court ruled for the Corps on all counts, allowing the dredging to proceed.
We also have protected the taxpayer from invalid or overbroad monetary claims against the United States, claims that sometimes involve hundreds of millions of dollars. As part of our responsibility to protect the public fisc against unwarranted claims, the Division prevailed against claimants who sought to recover for the conversion of railroad rights-of-way to multipurpose trails on an untimely basis. The Federal Circuit adopted the Division's argument on when the statute of limitations begins to run in such cases in Caldwell v. United States. Following that precedent, the Division succeeded in having three such cases dismissed this past year. The Division also succeeded in clarifying the compensation rights of landowners served by the Bureau of Reclamation. In Klamath Irrigation District v. United States, the Klamath Irrigation District and numerous other irrigation and improvement districts, businesses and individuals sought approximately $100 million based on the Bureau of Reclamation's operation of the Klamath Project during a serious drought in 2001. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the United States as to plaintiffs' takings claims, finding that any interest in project water was contractual and not a property interest compensable under the Fifth Amendment.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Division's docket also includes non-discretionary eminent domain litigation. This work, undertaken pursuant to Congressional direction or authority, involves acquiring land for important national projects. In one recent case, the Division represented the United States in litigation to acquire land needed for construction of a second fence and patrol zone along the San Diego-Tijuana border. Following a trial in which the landowner demanded just compensation of nearly $75 million, the jury returned a verdict that just compensation for this taking was $1.2 million. The Division also exercised the federal government's power of eminent domain to acquire land to: expand the National Defense University and Fort McNair; establish a port facility in Florida for the Navy to use in shipping weapons around the globe; provide a security buffer for the U.S. Southern Command headquarters; expand the safety zone next to the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona; facilitate the Army's transformation of a light infantry division to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team; improve security at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington; and expand a Nellis Air Force Base flight zone.
The protection of tribal resources has been among the duties of the Division from its earliest days. The United States holds title to 56 million acres of lands in trust for the benefit of Indian tribes and their members, and the Division initiates litigation and defends suits seeking to protect these lands and resources from incursion by third parties. The Division represents tribal and federal interests in water rights, land-into-trust, and land claims adjudications. Recently, the Division settled three complex major water rights adjudications in which the United States had asserted water rights claims for the benefit of tribes. In the Snake River Basin Adjudication (Idaho), the Division worked with the Interior Department, the State of Idaho, and the Nez Perce Tribe to craft an historic settlement, ratified by Congress in the Snake River Water Rights Act. The Division also worked with the Department of the Interior, the State of Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community, and private water users to settle the Gila Community's water claims in In Re Gila River System and Source (Ariz.), which Congress ratified in the Arizona Water Settlements Act. A settlement in Arizona v. California concluded a 54-year-long original action in the Supreme Court, which dealt with, among other things, the claims of the Quechan Indian Tribe to water rights in the Colorado River. As part of its work litigating to protect land held in trust for Tribes, the Division recently settled Seneca Nation v. New York (Cuba Lake), an action asserting an unlawful trespass on tribal lands. This 150-year-old dispute was resolved by a settlement among the United States, New York, and the Seneca Nation.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Division's work also includes defense of the United States in some thirty-one tribal trust lawsuits brought by twenty-eight different Indian Tribes alleging that the U.S. has mismanaged tribal assets and failed to provide an ''accounting'' of the money collected, managed and disbursed by the U.S. on behalf of the Tribes. These cases concern the scope of the duty owed to Tribes for land that the government has held in trust since the late 1800s and that has been used, among other things, for grazing, logging, and oil and gas exploration. Some of these cases seek an order requiring the U.S. to perform a multi-million dollar, multi-year accounting, and others seek a money judgment for losses the Tribes claim they have suffered. New claims may be filed through December 31, 2006. Over 250 Tribes have potential trust accounting and trust mismanagement claims. In the thirty-one cases filed so far, the Tribes claim they are owed more than $220 billion. The Division recently reached a settlement with one Tribe and is in settlement discussions with a number of others.
ENRD'S BUDGET REQUEST FOR FISCAL YEAR 2007
The Division receives its annual appropriation from the General Legal Activities (GLA) portion of the Justice Department's appropriation. For fiscal year 2007, the President has requested $95,051,000 for the Division within the Justice Department's GLA appropriation. The increase of $2,277,000 over the FY 2006 appropriation is due to mandatory adjustments and allowances, including pay raises, other salary adjustments, and rent adjustments, which will allow the Division to maintain its current level of operations.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Environment Division takes pride in an exceptional record of assuring that polluters are made to comply with the law, violators of criminal laws are punished appropriately, and responsible private parties are made to clean up Superfund sites rather than leaving the taxpayer on the hook. We are also justly proud of our efforts to defend the Executive branch agencies when their actions are challenged over matters which are within the Division's jurisdiction. Both our complex and challenging affirmative and defensive work is vitally important to the implementation of both Executive and Congressional programs and priorities regarding public health and the environment, to the protection of the public fisc, and to the advancement of the public interest generally.
I would be happy to answer, to the extent that I am able, any questions you might have about the Division and its work.
Mr. CANNON. Thank you. To the point. Appreciate that.
And Mr. White, you're recognized for 5 minutes.
TESTIMONY OF CLIFFORD J. WHITE, ACTING DIRECTOR, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES TRUSTEES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. WHITE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Watt.
I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the U.S. Trustee Program's recent efforts to promote the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system and our request for appropriations for fiscal year 2007.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Over the past year, we've continued to make progress in combating bankruptcy fraud and abuse. Last year, we took more than 50,000 civil enforcement actions in and out of court, yielding $594 million in debts not discharged, fines, penalties, and other monetary results. Over the past 3 years, we've taken about 165,000 actions, yielding more than $1.7 billion in monetary results.
We also continue to enhance our criminal enforcement capability. Led by a headquarters unit of 4 former career Federal prosecutors, plus an additional 25 program attorneys in the field who have been designated as special assistant U.S. attorneys, last year we increased the number of criminal referrals by 12 percent.
We successfully carried out numerous other duties, such as expediting business reorganizations and overseeing private trustees. For these and other efforts and for establishing performance-based management systems, the Office of Management and Budget rated the U.S. Trustee Program as ''effective'' and gave us a numerical score that's among the highest 15 percent in the executive branch.
Beginning on October 17th of last year, the U.S. Trustee Program assumed substantial new responsibilities to enforce and to implement many of the key provisions of the new bankruptcy reform law. As reported to you at a hearing last July, the program engaged in an extraordinary effort to develop comprehensive implementation plans so that we were prepared to carry out our duties on the general effective date of the new law.
Now, the magnitude of the challenge of implementing bankruptcy reform increased with the additional burden of administering more than 725,000 cases that were filed during the 4 weeks before the effective date. Despite the difficulties presented by the pre-bankruptcy reform filing surge, we believe we've made great progress in enforcing and implementing the new law. We're acquiring valuable information every day as we gain experience enforcing the statute.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In the area of means testing, we're timely processing chapter 7 cases and identifying cases that are presumed abusive under the new objective statutory standard. We're bringing motions to dismiss in more than 70 percent of the presumed abusive cases and are exercising our discretion not to file cases in which the debtor has special circumstances, such as expense adjustments caused by Hurricane Katrina.
In the area of credit counseling and debtor education, we've approved well over 350 providers covering all districts within our jurisdiction. We excepted four districts from the requirements because of the impact of Hurricane Katrina.
We are timely processing applications, and we have denied applicants on grounds such as failure to provide information in connection with ongoing IRS audits, for inappropriate relationships with third parties which may generate benefit for a private party, and for failure to make appropriate disclosures to clients about fees.
Now that the initial approval process is concluded and reapprovals are underway, we're working closely with the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission to refine the application and post-approval auditing process. We will shortly publish a slightly revised application as an interim rule and will publish a more comprehensive rule for public comment not long thereafter.
We're also carrying out numerous other responsibilities under bankruptcy reform, including in such areas as small business chapter 11 cases, debtor audits, and studies and data collection.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Administration has requested FY '07 appropriations of $236.1 million. This represents an increase of 11.6 percent over FY '06. The request includes $11.2 million in mandatory adjustments and $12.7 million in program enhancements that would be devoted exclusively to bankruptcy reform.
These enhancements are $4.8 million to fund debtor audits required under the new law; and $7.9 million in enhancements requested but not appropriated last year, including 51 additional positions, related facilities expansion, information technology, and studies and reports due to Congress.
The U.S. Trustee Program is funded by bankruptcy fees. The FY '07 revenue projections submitted with our budget follow Congressional Budget Office filing projections that were made before the October spike in filings and before the subsequent decline in filings.
This is an unprecedented opportunity for the U.S. Trustee Program to make bankruptcy reform work for all stakeholders in the systemdebtors, creditors, and the general public. The new law provides us with important new tools to enhance the integrity and efficiency of the system. Enforcement and implementation of the law has presented many daunting challenges, but we believe that we are now off to an excellent start.
I again thank you for the opportunity to appear here today and will be pleased to answer any questions from the Subcommittee.
[The prepared statement of Mr. White follows:]
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CLIFFORD J. WHITE, III
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the United States Trustee Program's (USTP or Program) recent activities, including our implementation of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA). This past year has been extraordinarily busy for the Program and the bankruptcy system. I will update you today on achievements in our key areas of responsibility, as well as highlight our significant progress in making the new bankruptcy reform law work as intended by Congress for the benefit of debtors, creditors, and the public.
The United States Trustee Program is the component of the Department of Justice whose mission it is to promote the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system by enforcing bankruptcy laws, appointing and overseeing private trustees, and carrying out important regulatory and administrative duties. In addition to our obligations under titles 11 and 28 of the United States Code, the Program has been given vast new responsibilities under the BAPCPA.
PROMOTING THE INTEGRITY AND EFFICIENCY OF THE BANKRUPTCY SYSTEM
The USTP continues to make significant progress in combating bankruptcy fraud and abuse and taking other important actions to promote the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCivil Enforcement
For the past five years, the centerpiece of the Program's anti-fraud and abuse efforts has been the National Civil Enforcement Initiative. The Initiative focuses on wrong-doing both by debtors and by those who exploit debtors. The Program combats debtor fraud and abuse primarily by seeking case dismissal if a debtor has an ability to repay debts and by seeking denial of discharge for the concealment of assets and other violations. The Program protects consumer debtors from wrongdoing by attorneys, bankruptcy petition preparers, creditors, and others by seeking a variety of remedies, including disgorgement of fees, fines, and injunctive relief.
Since FY 2003, more than 165,000 civil enforcement and related actions have been brought by the Program, yielding $1.75 billion in monetary results. In FY 2005, more than 50,700 actions were initiated that generated nearly $594 million in potential returns to creditors through debts not discharged and other remedies. USTP attorneys prevailed in over 96 percent of the actions resolved by judicial decision or consent in the fundamental areas of dismissal for substantial abuse (11 U.S.C. §707(b)), denial of discharge (11 U.S.C. §727), fines against bankruptcy petition preparers (11 U.S.C. §110), and disgorgements of debtor attorneys' fees (11 U.S.C. §329).
Following are illustrative examples of the variety of cases brought under the National Civil Enforcement Initiative.
The Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon revoked the discharge of a debtor who tried to discharge $1,931,157 in unsecured debt. Discovery initiated by the U.S. Trustee's office in Portland suggested the debtor had transferred to his girlfriend more than $400,000 from a company he controlled, and then concealed the transfer. He also allegedly made false statements and false oaths in his bankruptcy case.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
In response to a motion by the U.S. Trustee's New York office seeking dismissal for substantial abuse, a debtor converted to chapter 11. The debtor, a financial consultant, earned almost $300,000 per year and listed $470,735 in unsecured debt. Although his wife did not work, the debtor scheduled the following monthly expenses relating to his four-year-old son: $1,650 for an apartment for an au pair, $516 for the au pair, $1,375 for a private school, and $560 for day care. Other scheduled monthly expenses included $6,307 for apartment rent and utilities, $3,600 for recreation, $1,600 for clothing, $1,121 for dry cleaning, $650 for transportation, $560 for maid service, and $450 for telephone. The debtor also maintained a condominium in Marseille, France.
The Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California granted a motion to dismiss by the U.S. Trustee's Los Angeles office, preventing the discharge of $316,571 in debt on 79 credit cards. The debtor, who lived with his parents, claimed no secured debt, no income, and no expenses. The U.S. Trustee sought dismissal for substantial abuse because the debtor incurred the credit card debt at a time when he earned less than $8,000 a year.
On motion of the U.S. Trustee's Pittsburgh office, the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania barred an attorney from practice before the bankruptcy court after she misappropriated client funds. During a chapter 13 proceeding, the attorney attended the closing of a sale of her clients' real property. A check for approximately $104,000 was made payable to the chapter 13 trustee to pay off the mortgage. The attorney deposited the check into her own account instead of delivering it to the trustee. The sale proceeds were used, at least in part, to pay the attorney's federal tax debt and to pay other clients from whom she misappropriated funds.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Program has also pursued instances of creditor abuse. One recent example involved conduct by the financing arm of a national consumer goods manufacturer that was unfairly pressuring unrepresented debtors to reaffirm debt on goods, even though the manufacturer had asserted no lien or security interest in the goods and the debtors did not need to enter into a reaffirmation agreement in order to retain the goods. A coordinated response resulted in the courts denying the creditor's attempts to have debtors reaffirm dischargeable debts.
Criminal enforcement is another key component of the Program's efforts to promote the integrity of the bankruptcy system. In 2003, the Criminal Enforcement Unit (CREU) was established to coordinate the criminal referral responsibilities carried out by our 95 field offices and to directly assist prosecutors in pursuing bankruptcy crimes. CREU has made a marked difference in the quality of our criminal program by providing extensive training, developing resource materials, and enhancing coordination for the benefit of USTP staff, federal prosecutors, and other law enforcement personnel.
In FY 2005, the Program made 744 criminal referrals, a 12 percent increase over FY 2004. In many cases, USTP lawyers directly prosecuted or assisted the prosecution team in cases initiated as a result of criminal referrals made by Program offices. Four veteran career prosecutors within CREU, plus approximately 25 attorneys in field offices across the country who have been designated as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, are available to try cases involving bankruptcy crimes. In addition, the majority of Program field offices participate in bankruptcy fraud workings groups which are headed by U.S. Attorneys' offices and often involve the FBI, USPIS, IRS-CI, and HUD-OIG. With the enactment of 18 U.S.C. §158 as part of the BAPCPA, every United States Attorney office is required to designate a prosecutor and every FBI field office an agent who will assume primary responsibility for bankruptcy fraud cases. This provision will further strengthen existing working groups by formalizing points of contact and provide a foundation for establishing working groups where currently none exist.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Some recent examples of successful prosecutions that originated with criminal referrals from the USTP follow.
A former commodities trader and investment firm executive was sentenced in the Northern District of Illinois to 190 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution following his conviction on 18 counts of bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, and one count of using a fire to commit wire fraud. The defendant intentionally set fire to his residence to obtain insurance money, making it appear as if the fire were set by his elderly mother, who died in the fire. After receiving the insurance proceeds, he secreted them in an offshore account in Curacao. He later filed bankruptcy and concealed the offshore account containing more than $300,000. The case was prosecuted by the Program's Regional Criminal Coordinator in Chicago, and an Assistant U.S. Trustee from Atlanta testified as an expert witness.
A debtor in the Western District of Tennessee was sentenced to 46-months in prison for her use of two stolen Social Security numbers in two bankruptcy filings and her failure to disclose prior bankruptcy filings. The debtor was also ordered to pay restitution. The Memphis office referred the matter for investigation and a trial attorney from that office served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.
A bankruptcy attorney in the Southern District of Texas was sentenced to 30 months in prison and five years probation based on her guilty plea to wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud. The attorney defrauded her clients and their creditors by incurring unauthorized charges on her clients' credit cards and by taking possession of and using collateral her clients intended to surrender to creditors. The Program's Houston office referred the matter and assisted in the investigation and prosecution.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Chapter 11 Reorganizations
The Program carries out a wide array of responsibilities in chapter 11 reorganization cases. Our primary role is to ensure that cases proceed expeditiously and with transparency in accordance with law. By statute, our principal responsibilities include: the appointment of official committees of creditors and equity holders; objections to the retention and compensation of professionals; the review of disclosure statements, particularly in smaller cases; and the appointment of trustees or examiners when warranted. Chapter 11 cases often present the Program with highly complex issues of law and require time intensive financial reviews.
In FY 2005, the Program filed nearly 3,000 motions to convert or dismiss chapter 11 cases. The grounds for such motions, which are critical to the effective functioning of the reorganization provisions of the Bankruptcy Code, typically include failure to file financial reports or dissipation of estate assets without a reasonable likelihood of rehabilitation.
Provided below are some recent examples of important actions taken by the Program in larger chapter 11 cases:
After much negotiation, the Program reached a stipulated agreement with the management services provider in the chapter 11 case of Enron Corporation to reduce by $12.5 million the success fee it requested for its work in the case. In reviewing the provider's motion for a $25 million success fee, the U.S. Trustee initiated an investigation that uncovered unacceptable billing practices and billing irregularities. The bankruptcy court held a hearing on the motion, but withheld its ruling pending the filing of a response by the U.S. Trustee. The stipulated agreement was approved by the bankruptcy court on March 24, 2006.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin Capital v. Unsecured Creditors' Liquidating Trust (In re Commercial Financial Services, Inc.), 427 F.3d 804 (10th Cir. 2005), affirmed a ruling by the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Tenth Circuit, denying fees to the financial advisor for the committee of asset-based securities holders. Upon objection by the Tulsa office and the unsecured creditors' committee, the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma denied fees of more than $1.9 million sought by the financial advisor, which were determined according to a flat monthly rate. The bankruptcy court did, however, allow fees of $905,000 based on an hourly rate supported by contemporaneous time records. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed this ruling and the financial advisor appealed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the bankruptcy court appropriately exercised its powers to require the financial advisor to report the number of hours it worked and to calculate a reasonable fee looking to rates charged by other financial advisors employed in the case.
Based upon action brought by the Boston office, the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts agreed that a chapter 11 trustee should be appointed in related cases filed barely 180 days after the debtors' reorganization plan was confirmed in a prior chapter 11 case. In addition to objecting to the debtors' request for financing, the U.S. Trustee noted potential conflicts of interest of various professionals and the debtors' failure to inform the court of the failed prior chapter 11 case or to produce current financial information. Within about six months after being appointed by the U.S. Trustee, the chapter 11 trustee negotiated sales of the debtors' assets, including the sale of a manufacturing facility for approximately $181 million, a sum sufficient to pay general unsecured claims in full and provide a substantial distribution to equity holders.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrivate Trustee Oversight
One of the core functions of the United States Trustees is to appoint and supervise the private trustees who administer consumer bankruptcy estates and distribute dividends to creditors. The Program also trains trustees, evaluates their overall performance, reviews their financial accounting, and ensures their prompt administration of estate assets.
In FY 2005, over 1.6 million consumer and other non-business reorganization cases were filed under chapters 7, 12, and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code in the 88 judicial districts covered by the Program. The U.S. Trustees oversee the activities of the approximately 1,800 private trustees appointed by them to handle the day-to-day activities in these cases. With distributions by these trustees of about $5.3 billion last fiscal year, the Program's effectiveness in this area is critical. The Program has continued to strengthen its partnership with the private trustee organizations to address areas of mutual concern and enhance the operation of the bankruptcy system. In preparation for assuming new responsibilities under bankruptcy reform, the Program worked closely with the trustees and provided extensive training.
Two other ongoing efforts that have been undertaken to enhance consumer bankruptcy case administration are: the development of uniform trustee final reports which will improve access to case data and allow for greater analysis of the bankruptcy system; and coordination with the Internal Revenue Service on the use of a new protocol that enables trustees to obtain the federal tax refunds of debtors directly from the Service.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In January 2006, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review of USTP operations under the Program Assessment Rating Tool and awarded the USTP its highest rating of ''effective.'' The Program's numerical score placed it among the top 15 percent of highly performing agencies in the Executive Branch. The OMB rating reflected the USTP's efforts over the past five years to adopt performance-based management systems, including better measurements of results achieved and tying programmatic success to budget formulation.
The United States Trustee Program has responsibility for carrying out many key features of the bankruptcy reform law. From enactment of the BAPCPA in April through the general effective date of October 17, 2005, the Program engaged in an extraordinary effort to develop comprehensive implementation plans and issue guidance necessary to accomplish our new and expanded responsibilities.
The magnitude of the challenge of implementing bankruptcy reform increased substantially with the additional burden of administering the unprecedented number of bankruptcy cases filed immediately prior to the October 17 effective date. In the four weeks leading up to that date, more than 726,500 cases were filed in the 88 judicial districts covered by the Program. By contrast, post-October 17 filings have decreased substantially, with only about 115,000 cases having been filed in the subsequent five months. The filing rate is increasing at a moderate pace.
Despite the difficulties presented by the pre-BAPCA filing surge, we have made great progress implementing and enforcing many of the new law's important provisions. Moreover, we are acquiring valuable information every day as we gain experience in enforcing statutory provisions and in carrying out wholly new responsibilities that were not previously part of our mission. We expect that we will be engaged in a significant amount of litigation as bankruptcy courts are called upon to interpret statutory provisions for the first time. Of important note is our coordination with the Justice Department's Civil Division in defending the early challenges to the constitutionality of the debt relief agency provisions of the BAPCPA.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The new law provided substantial additional responsibilities to the Program primarily, but not exclusively, in five major areas: means testing; credit counseling and debtor education; small business chapter 11s; debtor audits; and studies and data collection. This past year, we have dedicated significant resources to developing appropriate policies, procedures, and systems to ensure successful implementation. A critical part of our work has been outreach to the bench, the bar, other state and federal agencies, the private trustee organizations, and industry and consumer groups.
The means testing provisions of the BAPCPA provide an objective approach for assessing a debtor's eligibility for chapter 7 relief. Under the means test, debtors with income above their State median income will be presumed abusive if they have a certain level of disposable income after the deduction of expenses allowed under the statutory formula. Among other things, United States Trustees must file a statement within 10 days of conclusion of the section 341 meeting of creditors if the case is presumed abusive. Within 30 days thereafter, the UST must file a motion to dismiss the case or provide an explanation as to why such a motion is not warranted.
The Program has worked extensively with the Judicial Conference's Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules in its development of the necessary official forms and accompanying rules to perform the means test. In addition, in the absence of a mandate by the Administrative Office of United States Courts to require data tagging software, the Program deployed its own partially automated system to expedite calculations of debtor information under the statutory means testing formula. Moreover, the Program made a major investment in training field personnel to perform the means test, including guidance to attorneys on the appropriate exercise of discretion in deciding whether to file a motion to dismiss a case under the presumed abuse standard. To that end, we issued a directive to ensure that our staff consider the adverse financial impact of Hurricane Katrina to generally constitute special circumstances that outweigh the presumed abuse criterion for dismissal.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
As of March 31, 2006, of the cases where a review had been completed, the Program had filed 84 motions to dismiss under 11 U.S.C. §707(b)(2) and 32 declination statements explaining why a motion to dismiss was not appropriate. The most common reasons for declination have been the debtor was a victim of Hurricane Katrina which supports an expense adjustment as a ''special circumstance,'' or the debtor experienced a post-petition change in status that supports an income adjustment, such as seasonal employment or disability.
Credit Counseling and Debtor Education
The credit counseling and debtor education provisions of the reform law provide potentially salutary protections for consumer debtors by helping ensure that debtors enter bankruptcy with full knowledge of their options and exit with information to help them avoid future financial calamity.
The USTP is charged with responsibility to approve eligible providers of credit counseling and debtor education services. Individual debtors generally must seek counseling from these providers as a condition of filing and receiving a discharge of debts. Although enforcement practices differ according to local court rules, USTP offices often are the primary agency ensuring debtor compliance.
The USTP has determined that there is adequate capacity to provide debtors with credit counseling and debtor education services in every district within our jurisdiction, except for the four districts impacted most significantly by Hurricane Katrina. In those four districts, the Program temporarily waived the statutory requirements for credit counseling and debtor education due to infrastructure impediments and the dislocation of a large numbers of residents. As of the end of March 2006, the Program had approved 142 credit counseling agencies covering 88 judicial districts for pre-bankruptcy counseling. In addition to offering Internet and telephonic access, there are 754 walk-in locations for credit counseling throughout 82 judicial districts. For post-bankruptcy debtor education, by the end of last month, the Program had approved 241 debtor education providers covering 88 judicial districts. In addition to debtor education providers offering Internet and telephonic access, there are 915 walk-in locations in 82 judicial districts.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Applications and reapplications from credit counseling agencies and debtor education providers are received and processed continuously. We are currently processing complete applications within 30 to 45 days of receipt, and work with applicants where there are deficiencies to collect additional information as needed so they can qualify for approval. Common reasons for the delay or denial of approval of credit counseling agencies are failure to demonstrate nonprofit status, failure to provide information in connection with on-going audit of an agency's activities by the Internal Revenue Service, failure to demonstrate independence of the board of directors, and inappropriate relationships with a third party which appear to generate private benefit to an individual or group. The delay or denial of debtor education provider applications generally relate to inadequate materials; failure to employ trained personnel; and fee disclosure issues.
The Program is working with the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission to refine the application and post-approval auditing process. In addition, we are proceeding with formal rule-making and, in the near term, expect to publish slightly revised applications as Interim Rules. Thereafter, we will publish in the Federal Register more comprehensive, proposed final rules for public notice and comment. This process will give the Program more latitude in developing standards that address the myriad issues that arise in the regulation of credit counseling agencies and debtor education providers.
Small Business Chapter 11 Cases
The small business provisions of the BAPCPA establish new deadlines and greater uniformity in financial reporting to ensure that cases move expeditiously through the chapter 11 process before assets are dissipated. They also provide important new enforcement tools to the United States Trustees. To implement the BAPCPA's oversight provisions, the Program developed a new Monthly Operating Report (MOR) form for small business chapter 11 cases to make financial reporting simpler and more uniform. A pilot of the MOR is being conducted and, at a recent meeting of the Judicial Conference's Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules, the Program presented its initial analysis. While it is still early in the process, the Committee voted to recommend the MOR form, with a few modifications, to be published for public comment as a proposed Official Form which the BAPCPA requires be promulgated by the Judicial Conference. The Advisory Committee also sought input from the USTP on drafting a form small business plan and disclosure statement which will be issued for public comment as well.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Although it is too soon to measure the effect of the small business provisions in cases filed after October 17th, our field offices are tracking the new deadlines and routinely use the new initial debtor interview (IDI) provision to identify important issues early in the case. For example, the IDI process recently helped identify two cases as health care businesses that may require appointment of an ombudsman to protect patients. Other information yielded from the IDIs has included early disclosure of the failure of debtor businesses to file tax returns and the identification of financial irregularities requiring immediate corrective action or case dismissal.
Under BAPCPA, the USTP must contract for random and targeted audits to verify the financial information provided by debtors. This provision will help the Program identify fraud, deter the filing of false financial information, and potentially provide a baseline for measuring fraud, abuse, and errors in the bankruptcy system. The debtor audits mandated by the BAPCPA will commence on October 20, 200618 months after the law's April 20, 2005, enactment date. Independent auditors will conduct random audits of no fewer than 1 of every 250 cases in each judicial district. They will also conduct targeted audits of cases filed by debtors with income and expenses higher than the norm of the district. An estimated 7,338 cases will be audited in the first year, with 6,338 random audits and 1,000 targeted audits. The Program expects to issue a Request for Proposals for contract auditors by the end of May.
Studies and Data Collection
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The BAPCPA requires the EOUST to undertake several studies, including (1) consulting with experts in the field of debtor education to develop, test, and evaluate a financial management training curriculum and materials; (2) evaluating the impact of the use of the IRS standards for determining the current monthly expenses under 11 U.S.C. §707(b) on debtors and bankruptcy courts; and (3) evaluating the impact of the new definition of ''household goods'' in section 313 of the BAPCPA.
Data collection and extraction will be important to the successful completion of these studies, particularly those of the IRS standards and household goods, and to the effective and efficient processing of cases. Last year, a Senate Appropriations Committee Report endorsed the idea of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) working with the U.S. Trustee Program on the development of data tags to provide an automated approach to extracting essential data from bankruptcy forms for such purposes as analyzing the means test, selecting cases for targeted debtor audits, conducting the evaluation studies, reporting to Congress, and processing cases more efficiently. A document containing data tags is sometimes referred to as a ''smart form'' that is, a form that is data-enabled so that, when it is saved into the industry standard Portable Document Format (PDF), it contains searchable data. I am pleased to report that the Program, in conjunction with the AOUSC, developed a smart form standard that was released to the bankruptcy form software vendors. AOUSC is now considering whether to make smart forms mandatory.
FISCAL YEAR 2007 APPROPRIATIONS REQUEST
The Administration has requested FY 2007 appropriations of $236.1 million, including 1,519 positions and 1,486 workyears. This represents an increase of 11.6 percent over FY 2006. Included in the request is $11.2 million for mandatory adjustments to base necessary to meet pay and rent increases and to fund second year costs associated with the 270 new positions approved in FY 2006. The budget also requests program enhancements totaling $12.7 million. The program enhancements would be devoted exclusively to bankruptcy reform$4.8 million to fund the new debtor audits required under the BAPCPA which will commence on October 20, 2006; and $7.9 million in enhancements requested, but not appropriated last year, including $5.1 million and 51 new positions for means testing and credit counseling, $2.3 million for related facilities expansion, $1 million for information technology, and $500,000 for statutorily mandated studies.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The USTP is funded entirely from bankruptcy filing fees and chapter 11 quarterly fees. As fees are collected, they are deposited into the U.S. Trustee System Fund and available to the Program as appropriated by the Congress. The FY 2007 revenue projections that accompany the USTP budget request follow Congressional Budget Office estimates for bankruptcy filings. These estimates were made prior to the pre-October 17 bulge in bankruptcy filings and without regard to the subsequent concomitant filing decrease.
This is a time of unprecedented opportunity for the United States Trustee Program to make bankruptcy reform work for all stakeholders in the bankruptcy system, including debtors, creditors, and the public. The new law provides many important tools that will assist the USTP in enhancing the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system. Enforcement and implementation of the new law has created many daunting challenges, but we believe that we are off to an excellent start.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the recent activities of the United States Trustee Program. I am pleased to answer any questions from the Subcommittee.
Mr. CANNON. Thank you, Mr. White.
Mr. Watt has another engagement. So we're going to defer and recognize him for questioning.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Watt?
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And let me assure the witnesses that the fact that I have to be somewhere else doesn't indicate a lack of interest init just is I had my day kind of messed up when we got all off schedule here. So I apologize for having to rush out.
Mr. Battle, let me just ask you if you can give me a little bit more information about this gang violence initiative. What falls under the gang violence rubric, and what kinds of things your U.S. attorneys are going to be doing in terms of re-entry?
I asked this question of the Attorney General at a prior oversight hearing and didn't really get a clear understanding of what was being proposed. Maybemaybe it would be better for you to submit something to me in writing, if you have something. But at least elucidate a little bit for me.
Mr. BATTLE. Thank you, Member Watt.
One of the things we learned about a year ago, after the Attorney General announced the gang initiative, we went out and we canvassed the U.S. attorneys' offices to find out what the gang problem looked, walked, and talked like in their various communities. We had, at that point, been involved with the Project Safe Neighborhoods program for a number of years.
And some of the feedback we were getting from U.S. attorneys was that some of the violence that was going on in the communities was being identified to them by the locals as perhaps being taken on as the involvement of some of the traditionally known gangs at that time, such as the Bloods and the Crips, but in other communities, different kinds of organizations. And one of the things that we've tried to do is identify exactly what that would be.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
What we found out was that there was no real formula, no real similarity, but that each gang problem in each of the 90-plus districts was something that looked a little bit different, so that the U.S. attorneys were tailoring their response with their local partners based upon what exactly was going on in their community.
A somewhat definition of a gang would be, of course, an activity taken on by three or more persons that would be involved together for the purpose of carrying out a specific act of violence or an act of criminality.
We have since gained a little bit more focus and learned that no longer is it confined to the Crips and the Bloods, but there is a problem with MS-13 individuals being imported from parts of South and Central America, that these gangs are particularly violent.
We've also learned that there are gangthere's gang activity that sort of transcends free society into the prison system. And in both situations, there is an activity on the part of all law enforcement to gain and share intelligence.
So, to answer your question in some respects, it is a work in progress, but it is not something that is not being responded to. It's just being responded to on a case-by-case basis, peculiar to each particular district's needs as they identify their gang problem through their partnerships.
On the re-entry question, sir, again several districts applied for and have re-entry coordinators. This was done before the gang initiative. Six sites were announced by the Attorney General several weeks ago. The re-entry program is, in fact, a work in progress and, again, does, I apologize, look a little bit different in each community.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
But what they're looking to do is reach out, working with State and local partners as well as Federal prison officials, to try to reach individuals close to their release dates and try to tailor, learn from them what they are going to need when they're released and provide those things to catch them when they do meet their release date and find their way back into the community.
There's a faith-based component to it. There is a connection between the community and release officials for parole purposes and things of that nature. Probation departments are involved. There are educational components in situations where people need to get degrees or GEDs. And there's a component that would assist them or is being proposed to assist them in finding jobs.
Those are some of the things that I've heard being discussed by the various U.S. attorneys, and each community's response is different depending on their resources at the State and local level and what their needs are. We think that which has been proposed by the Attorney General will simply add to those resources.
Mr. WATT. Can you talk to me a little bit about the status of Project Seahawk and what plans have been made for transitioning it to the Department of Homeland Security?
Mr. BATTLE. Yes, sir. In fact, as we speak and, from what I recall, the Presidentsince Homeland Security was not in existence when Seahawk first came into existence, what we have learned now, appropriately, is that because Homeland Security, dealing with port security, is best suited, with the resources that it has, to deal with that very issue.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
It should be a seamless transition now to have responsibility and oversight for Seahawk to go to the Department of Homeland Security as opposed to the U.S. attorneys' offices. They have the resources and the expertise to do that.
And so, what we're really talking about is a program that's going to continue in its present form, but it's going to have oversight by an Agency that is best suited with the resources to do it because the people that work there have been doing it for a long time.
And the U.S. attorney of South Carolina will be a part of that. He will have a seat on the board, and he will certainly have a connection.
Mr. WATT. Mr. White, are we still ramping up the number of bankruptcy judges required to do the bankruptcy reform bill? Where are we on that? And what additional resources are needed there?
Mr. WHITE. Well, that's, of course, not directly within our jurisdiction. But, yes, I am aware that bankruptcy judges are being recruited in furtherance of the additional judgeships that were created in the bankruptcy reform law.
I don't have any more specific information on that. That's not part of our budget submission.
Mr. WATT. Okay. Mr. Keisler, I'm wondering whether theyour division has pursued any debt collection activities against corporate wrongdoers who have defrauded the Federal Government? Are you involved in those kinds of litigation? And give me kind of the extent of that effort and what's happening there.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. KEISLER. It's a very vigorous and robust effort, sir. We have 77 attorneys within Washington, the Civil Division, who do nothing but work on fraud against the Government. And they work in partnership with attorneys in the different U.S. attorneys' offices, which also have been aggressively pursuing this.
In each of the last
Mr. WATTS. Is that primarily against individuals, or isis it part individuals, part corporate?
Mr. KEISLER. Part of each, but predominantly corporate. Certainly, if you look at the amount of money recovered, overwhelmingly the dollars come from corporate defendants. Sometimes there are individuals involved. Often, they are individuals who are corporate officers at the same corporations that we're also filing suit against.
The largest component by industry is the health care industry. You know, when the False Claims Act was first revitalized in 1986 with the qui tam provisions, the archetypal fraud defendant was a defense contractor. We still have defense contractors as significant fraud defendants. But over time, the health care industry has really become the lion's share of our fraud recoveries.
I think it's a combination of the enormous amount of money that goes out from the Federal Government, the complexity of the regulations which I think creates temptations to try to game the system. But we are very aggressively pursuing this, these issues against anyone we get information has dealt fraudulently with the United States taxpayer.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. WATTS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate your allowing me to go and still get to my meeting, and I'll yield back to the Chairman.
Thank you all.
Mr. CANNON. The gentleman yields back. I ask unanimous consent that all Members of the panel have 5 days to submit written questions for the panel. All Members of the Committee. Hearing no objection, so ordered.
Thank you, Mr. Watt.
Gee, where do we start here? Let's start with MS-13. This is a problem that goes beyond our cities here in America, where we've destabilized Honduras, probably also El Salvador. Are you working with those other countries to try and get a handle on this problem?
Mr. BATTLE. I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman. I didn't hear the first part of your question.
Mr. CANNON. I should have directed it to you, Mr. Battle.
Mr. BATTLE. Okay.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CANNON. But on MS-13, we now have a problem where we've got other countries destablized by our deportation of criminals. In fact, I believe that we have a treaty responsibility with Mexico and probably these other countries to inform them when we're sendingwhen we're deporting felons.
Are we working with these other countries to help crush this problem, which is destablizing at least Honduras and probably El Salvador?
Mr. BATTLE. From what I understand, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division just recently attended a conference in El Salvador, and we sent a member from EOUSA to be there who's been working on the gang problems with us in the U.S. attorneys' offices.
From what I understand, and I was not present at that conference, there was much discussion with some of the member countries there that would fit within the categories that you've referred to, to talk about how to get their hands around this. And there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm amongst them to work together.
Mr. CANNON. Weif I just might note for the future, we're likely to do something this year or maybe later this year with immigration reform. That means we're going to focus on many, many criminals who are now hiding from the system. And thosethe deportation of those criminals is going to be destabilizing to many countries.
So what we're doing here with MS-13 is like we're way beyond the power curve. I mean, this is justwhat has happened in Latin America is just atrocious. What is now reverberating in our own communities is the backside of that atrociousness.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
But it's a problem that's going togoing to surge in the next year or two or three as we focus on the criminal element here in America that is going to be dispossessed and probably ready to join a gang in some other country and then ready to bring their crimes back here because they're familiar with America.
So I'm hoping that there is somesome focus on that since you guys are going to be the first defense on that. This is not going to be a State problem so much as a Federal problem.
Mr. BATTLE. That's correct, Mr. Chairman. And again, the Assistant Attorney General reported to me or at a meeting that I attended that there seemed to be a level of cooperation that is moving in the direction of addressing that and many problems connected thereto.
The U.S. attorneys' offices are aware of the fact that some of the individuals who have come from those parts of the world entered the U.S. and at some point parked for a while, if you will, in the western part of the United States, most importantly, central California.
Well, they've now fanned out in different parts of the country. So we are watching the program.
Mr. CANNON. We've got these thugs here in northern Virginia and Maryland. This is a big problem.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Does your office have any coordinating activities withwith prosecutors, Federal or others, in Mexico or Central America?
Mr. BATTLE. From what I understand, we have been trying to work with Mexican authorities. I don't know the answer as to the others.
Mr. CANNON. Just this is a growing problem, and it's going to just burgeon here if we are successful passing a bill that focuses on these criminals who are now hiding among us and preying, to a large degree, on their own ethnic minorities. And as thatas they get shoved out, they're going to prey on other people and become better known and more difficult to deal with.
So we've talked about methamphetamine prosecutions are up 5.5 percent. With all due respect, and I'm not sure of the numbers, but it seems to me that the abuse of meth has probably increased at a much more rapid rate than that Nation wide. Where are we going with this?
Are we bustingin fact, you may have some comment on the displacement of the FBI's role in meth enforcement with DEA and the lag there. How is that working?
Mr. BATTLE. From what I understand, there is a meth working group that's been stood up, and there's a conference to talk about those things in the next coming months. One of the things I've also learned, Mr. Chairman, is that methamphetamine, for some odd reasons, hasn't found its way to a lot of parts of the United States.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. CANNON. Right.
Mr. BATTLE. And it seems that, again, it's one of those peculiarities that started out on the west coast and is starting to make its way very, very slowly east. In fact, I just recently attended a conference ofof drug court individuals in New York State during which most of them had not had any contact with methamphetamine coming through their court system.
We have our hands around it, and we've seen it develop from mom and pop organizations and people cooking in the backs of trailer parks and in basements in homes. And now there's intelligence indicating that it's being imported into the United States from Mexico.
The DEA is very much aware of that. They're on top of it. They've embarked upon a very aggressive educational program for schools and for parents, for young people. And we arewe are very much responding to the problem.
Perhaps those numbers don't tell the whole story, but I can tell you that our effort to target it is taking on a lot of the resources in the U.S. attorneys' offices. And drug prosecutions have gone up in that area because we've identified it as a problem in many of the offices.
Mr. CANNON. Again, this is a problem where we have mom and pops. And for odd reasons, Utah had a lot of mom and pops, but we're now seeing terrific inflows from Mexico. That has to stop. This is an incredibly destructive drug. I was justah, it's amazingly destructive.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
We need to havewe'll talk next year about this. It's not in all parts of the country yet, but where it is, it is growing very rapidly, and it is massively destructive.
One other item you talked about, Mr. Battle, is child pornography and what you're doing there. This is a matter of grave concern. It seems to me that if we're going to get a handle on it, we need to not only work at a Federal level, but also empower States to be involved.
One of the problems with that is that the States have regularly been overridden by the Federal courts when it comes to defining obscenity. It may be that wizard White would have recognized obscenity when he saw it, but no Federal court has granted that dignity to a State court that I'm aware of.
And do you have any thoughts on that and what we can do there?
Mr. BATTLE. What I can tell you, Mr. Chairman, is that we arelike we do in a lot of other areas, most recently in dealing with criminal activitiesis partnering very closely with our State and local counterparts in dealing with these types of crimes.
We've found that that's absolutely necessary, and that was my experience in western New York because this is a game of intelligence. Because a lot of the involvement of people in this area takes place in private settings and places that are otherwise, in some respects, undetectable.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
And so, with the announcement of the initiative most recently by the Attorney General, that came about based upon a recognition of the need for this because of information coming in from the U.S. attorneys' offices of what we were finding and how difficult it was to go about and ferret out this type of activity.
So we willwe will use some of the models that we have in the past in dealing with partnerships on that level with Project Safe Neighborhoods and others to get underneath and deal with this type of crime, and we will be very aggressive in doing so.
Mr. CANNON. Let me ask you a constitutional question. I recognize that that may not be your focus. But it seems to me that the idea that obscenity is protected by the first amendment really derives from the idea that obscenity is some kind of communication and that we find now with modern studies that the parts of the brain that deal with speech are not the same parts of the brain that deal with pornography and addiction to pornography.
Would it be helpful if the Federal Government jurisdiction or the Federal court jurisdiction on this subject was limited so that States could find obscenity and not be overturned by the Federal courts saying that obscenity was speech or that the particulars in any given case constituted speech and, therefore, could not be restrained?
Mr. BATTLE. Mr. Chairman, that's way over my head.
Mr. CANNON. Say ''yes,'' so I could have a record because this has been one of my pet areas here, you know? [Laughter.]
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
You don't need to do that, of course.
Mr. BATTLE. I'll have to get back to you on that one.
Mr. CANNON. I think this is one of the problems of our time. My Attorney General in Utah tells me that of people that look at child pornography, 40 percent, according to some studies, are people who then go out and touch and hurt children.
If that is the case, and we're trying to figure that out, that is an epidemic. That is a problem that is way beyond anything we've ever thought of before and will require some different rethinking of that issue. And your office, in particular, is going to be on the cutting edge of that. So we will deal with that issue again in the future.
Mr. Keisler, we talked about immigration, and you're certainly aware of some of the criticism of what's going on there. For instance, Judge Posner was very critical.
He pointed out that ''the panels of this court reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals in whole or part in a staggering 40 percent of 136 petitions.'' He goes on to say, ''Our criticisms of the board and the immigration judges have frequently been severe.''
I don't know thatand he's a very, very thoughtful judge. I don't know that you could be more harsh than he was in this case. And this is Benslimane against Gonzalez.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This raises a whole bunch of questions. You're asking for, I think, 86 new immigration judges. Or not judges, but rather attorneys to help prepare these cases. Are you familiar with this case and the criticism that's been levied?
Mr. KEISLER. I am, Mr. Chairman. And certainly, when any judgeand certainly as respected a judge as Judge Posneruses language like that, we listen. We sit up and take notice.
The immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals, as you know, are not themselves within the Civil Division. They're a separate component of justice.
Mr. CANNON. Right.
Mr. KEISLER. But, you know, the Attorney General, in response to the kinds of concerns that Judge Posner and, I must say, some others have expressed, has initiated a top to bottom review of the situation with immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He's charged the Deputy Attorney General and the Associate Attorney General with examining that situation and deciding whether, both in terms of the quality of the decisions and the professionalism, we're doing all that we should be doing.
And what the Attorney General has said is that an alien appearing before the Board of Immigration Appeals or an immigration judge may or may not be entitled to the particular relief that he or she seeks, but they are certainly entitled to be treated with professionalism and respect, and it's very important to him that they are.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Certainly, from the perspective of my division, which litigates in defense of those decisions, the quality of those decisions is very important to our success in defending them before the Courts of Appeals. And language like Judge Posner's in an opinion generally precedes an order vacating the decision that we're trying to defend.
So I think it is absolutely a commitment of the Department, from the Attorney General on down, to make sure that we find out whether those kinds of criticisms are warranted and, to the extent that they are, the situation is corrected.
Mr. CANNON. Let me say it's very, very important to me that we treat people with respect. These people may end up here. We want them to love America and not hate the process, certainly not hate our great institutions.
Are we not seeing a self-fulfilling prophecy here. As you have failed arrests, record-making, presentations, decisions through that process, you're ending upand then manymany decisions being overturned, are you not then encouraging more people to appeal their decisions? And is that what's causing this big sucking sound that we hear that it's going to require another 86 attorneys?
Mr. KEISLER. Well, you know, there is no single factor. I thinkour judgment is that the reason for the increased workload is not so much that as it is two other things. One is that the Department of Homeland Security has stepped up enforcement efforts. And insofar as enforcement activity has increased, you're going to have more challenges in court to those actions that are taken.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The other thing is that the rate of appeal has gone up. It used to be in 2001 6 percent of board decisions were appealed. It's now 29 percent. Now some of that may be precisely
Mr. CANNON. And in that 29 percent, you're getting a huge number of overturns
Mr. KEISLER. Well, actually
Mr. CANNON.meaning that you're encouraging more people to appeal.
Mr. KEISLER. Right. We still actually have a pretty good success rate, Mr. Chairman, about 90 percent Nation wide. But certainly, in some circuits, like the 7th Circuit, it's going down.
And that doesyou know, every loss sets a bad precedent, a precedent that someone can cite in a later case. Every loss is an encouragement to someone to say, ''Maybe I should take it up. Maybe I can win like this other person did.'' So, certainly, there is a certain cycle to it, just like you said, in which defeats lead to more defeats.
The other thing that I think is happening is that it used to be there was an extraordinary backlog in the Board of Immigration Appeals, and it would take yearsup to 6 years sometimesto resolve a case there. When that backlog was reduced, which I think was in everybody's interest because, whether an alien is going to achieve lawful status through that process or be ordered removed, it should happen sooner rather than later, rather than be tied up in administrative process.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
But it used to be somebody who maybe wanted to stay in the country for a few years could park themselves, so to speak, by filing an appeal of an immigration judge decision with the Board of Immigration Appeals, and it would just sit there. Now that the Board of Immigration Appeals is operating so much more efficiently, if you want to do that, you have to file a petition for review in the Court of Appeals. That's where you get the time to stay here.
So what that means to me is that since I don't see enforcement efforts from the Department of Homeland Security going down and since I don't see that phenomenon of our Board of Immigration Appeals being more efficient changing, this problem of increased litigation is one we're going to be living with for the foreseeable future, and that'sthat's why we're hoping for some more resources.
Mr. CANNON. And if you get some kind of immigration reform, you're looking probably at the huge increase in throughput of appeals.
Mr. KEISLER. Well, it'syou know, each ofthe situation is so much in flux, it's hard to know exactly which bill and which provision. There are some provisions in bills that have been discussed that would reduce the workload and some which would increase it.
For example, you know, one proposal has been that in certain situations an alien seeking to challenge a removal decision would have to get a certificate of reviewability from a single judge. And if the judge denied that, there would be no further appeal. If that were passed, I presume there would be a diminution in the workload.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
There are other provisions which would create new judicial review opportunities, and those would presumably raise it up. So what the net effect will be of whatever bill is ultimately enacted, if one is, it's hard to tell. But it could go in either direction.
Mr. CANNON. It's hard to tell if one will be enacted, but I suspect one will be. It's impossible to guess what the details will be, but you're going to have a great deal more activity at some level.
Mr. KEISLER. I think that's right.
Mr. CANNON. And so, we need to be sort of focused on that. That could happen next cycle, the next budget cycle. So I'm deeply concerned.
Let me ask a little deeper question here. I have a terrific concern, having served, by the way, in the Interior office as an Associate Solicitor and been associated with Interior Board of Land Appeals and other ALJ systems. Is part of the problem you're having here the result of having ALJs that really aren't independent?
Mr. KEISLER. I don't think it's a question of independence because I don't think insofar as Judge Posner and others have identified problems with the immigration judges is that they have been subjected to undue influence in any way.
If there is a problem with the immigration court system, I think that's something that the review that the Attorney General has initiated willwill tell us. And not being part of that review, I wouldn't want to prejudge a diagnosis of that situation.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. CANNON. Do you have a sense thatthat, for instance, in the attempt to clear up the backlog, there's been a focus on judges, some pressure on judges to get things done? Thatnot having them pre-decide, but at least pushing them to make decisions?
Mr. KEISLER. I think it is certainly the case that immigration judges have had to work especially hard in the last several years. And while I haven't seen statistics on it, I would expect that many of the immigration judges are processing many more cases than they used to and, I'm sure, would feel they could do even a better job if they had fewer such cases.
One way the backlog in the Board of Immigration Appeals was dealt with was to say that in many cases, you know, single judges rather than three-judge panels would be deciding. So that doesn't necessarily mean each judge is deciding more cases. It might affect it in the other way.
But I certainly have the sense that immigration judges feel they could do a better and more thoughtful job if they didn't have so many cases.
Mr. CANNON. Do you get any sense that they react to pressure or respond to the direction of where they think the Attorney General may want them to go, as opposed to being independent?
Mr. KEISLER. I haven't seen that. I'm not in the best position to know. And as I said, the people who are really reviewing the immigration court system right now really will be in the best position to see how that job is being done. But I haven't had any sense that immigration judges or Board of Immigration Appeals judges are doing anything but calling them as they see it.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. CANNON. You know, II'll just tell you this panel is very concerned about ALJs and their role and the fact that you've got an Administration writing regulations to become law, often creating regulations through enforcement that never go through a process, and then are appealed to and decided by judges who are appointed by or serve at the will ofof the Administration.
This is a major concern of mine. We're going to come back and look at the ALJ system, and we'll watch the BIA judges in particular on this issue. And so, we'll look forward to that report as it happens.
Let me ask one other question. I've heard reports that DOJ declined some FCA cases because of resource shortages. Is that the case? Are we leaving money on the table here because we don't have the lawyers to handle them?
Mr. KEISLER. I haven't found myself in a situation where I had what I thought was a really compelling case and I said, you know, let's decline it because I can't figure out how we would staff that.
Because it's not simply the 77 lawyers in the civil frauds unit. It's all of our U.S. attorneys' offices, many of which have extremely active offices. So, you know, while we don't give the reasons why we decline a case, I haven't in my tenure found a situation where there's a case I've really wanted to do that I felt I didn't have the manpower to take care of.
Mr. CANNON. The job is tough, and I would never sit up here and tell you how to do it. You did mention earlier, when you were talking aboutabout HHS payments, Medicare payments, that there are a lot of them and thereforeand there are also some rules that are confusing or in which somebody could hide.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
There are rules that are really confusing and where doctors can't get direction. And we've had a couple of guys in my district who had gone through hell based on these kind of claims, and I'd just encourage a balance there. It's very hard to deal with. You've got to get the bad guys, but there ought to be a process. You need to be thinking about a process for deciding when a case is not meritorious and then dropping it.
Not your division, but the Criminal Division, you know, brought a case, a very famous case against ourthe organizers of the Salt Lake Olympics, and the case was dismissed after the presentation of evidence. It was horribly humiliating, and there was 5 million bucks in it or so in attorneys' fees for the defendants.
We had another FTC case in Utah where there were a couple of million dollars spent in defense fees, and the case was dropped at the end of theat the most humiliating presentation of evidence I've ever seen. It's a huge responsibility that I hope youI'm sure you're concerned about. But I just throw it out because I worry a bit about the prosecutorial power, which is overwhelming.
Mr. McKeown, can you give us a bit of an update on Cobell. I actually haven't had a lot of complaints about it recently. So I suspect it's not in such a terrible state. But where are we there, and what do we need to worry about?
Mr. MCKEOWN. Mr. Chairman, if it's okay, I would like to defer to my colleague, who actually manages the Cobell litigation.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CANNON. That's right. That's right, it didI was trying to get you off the hot seat here.
Mr. KEISLER. No, it's my pleasure. Mr. McKeown and I share Indian trust litigation because the Civil Division handles Cobell, which is the lawsuit brought by the class of individual account holders, and the Environment and Natural Resources Division handles the tribal trust cases, which are very similar in a lot of ways, but brought by the tribes.
You know, the litigation has been ongoing since 1997. It has been, you know, regrettably an unusually contentious piece of litigation, as you know, Mr. Chairman. And we have several matters right now pending or recently decided by the Court of Appeals, which I think will help shape the litigation going forward.
Most notably, in the fall, the Court of Appeals issued a decision vacating an injunction that would have defined in a particular way that kind of accounting the Department of the Interior would have to do that the Department of the Interior estimated would cost $10 billion to $14 billion to account for accounts that have at present about $400 million in them.
The Court of Appeals said that one of the things that has to be taken into account in deciding what kind of accounting to do is the cost because there's always going to be a tradeoff between what you do and how accurate you make sure it is and what it's going to cost. And that Interior Department is owed a certain degree of deference in making that tradeoff. So we thought that was a very positive decision.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have issues before the Court of Appeals now. In particular, there's been a District Court order requiring the shutdown of Internet connectivity at several offices and bureaus within the Department of the Interior, and we've appealed that. And that was argued a couple of weeks ago. And we're awaiting a decision on that.
So there is certainly ongoing activity in the case.
Mr. CANNON. Perhaps one of you would know, this shutting down of Internet access is terrifically difficult for Interior or for users. Are there other things going on here in this case now that are disruptive to the Interior Department?
Mr. KEISLER. Well, yes, Your Honor. Or
Mr. CANNON. I wish.
Mr. KEISLER. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANNON. No, actually, I like my job. [Laughter.]
Mr. KEISLER. It's an old habit. I'm used to the other forum. But, yes, there are.
For example, there was an order issued which has been stayed, but if it were to go into effect would require that the Department of the Interior include in every written communication it sends out that might reach any member of the class, regardless of what the subject matter iseducation, health, whatevera statement that all trust-related information may be unreliable.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So regardless of whether it's about something related to an interior school system that is run that goes to the parents or a benefit form for a particular program, it would be required to bear this legend, all trust-related information mustyou know, may be unreliable.
We have appealed that. We sought a stay. The Court of Appeals has stayed it and heard argument on that issue, too.
There are also quite a few people who serve or have served at the Department of the Interior or the Department of Justice who are currently subject to orders to show cause why they should not be held in contempt. That's obviously a difficult personal situation, but I think, you know, there's nothing more I can say about that. Right now, those proceedings will run their course.
So, yes, there are other issues that are pending that have been difficult for the Department of the Interior.
Mr. CANNON. Is Judge Lamberth still the trial judge on this case?
Mr. KEISLER. Yes, sir.
Mr. CANNON. Have you made any motions to change judges?
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KEISLER. We requested that the Court of Appealsin one of our most recent appeals, we requested that when it remand the case, it direct that the case be reassigned to a different District Court judge, and that request is pending with the Court of Appeals.
Mr. CANNON. Thank you.
Mr. White, just one question. Could you give us a sense of what's going on with bankruptcy? We've had a couple of stories in my district about the plummeting number of filings. I suspect that's because many people filed early, and now we have a little bit of a dearth.
But are we into this long enough to have a sense ofany kind of sense what the effect is going to be?
Mr. WHITE. Well, I think the initial indications are positive, and I'll give a couple of examples. But you're quite right that the numbers of filings have gyrated quite a bit since just prior to October 17th. We had a bulge of almost three quarter of a million cases filed in the 4 weeks leading up to bankruptcy reform and only about 140,000 cases in the 5 months thereafter.
Obviously, it's still too early, with regard to passage of time and number of filings, to draw any firm conclusions, but we'd suggest that there have been two positive signs as we begin implementing and enforcing the provisions of bankruptcy reform that were given to us.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First, with regard to means testing. Of the cases, what we're finding is that in the means test, the subjective formula that the debtor's financial statements are put through, we're finding that about 10 percent of the chapter 7 cases that filed are found to be presumed abusive. So it's a helpfulit's a helpful indicator and identifier of abuse.
But the statute has given us flexibility, looking at special circumstances and other factors, that we don't have to file motions to dismiss in cases that we don't think merit it. So in 7 out of 10 of those cases that are presumed abusive that aren't voluntarily dismissed by debtors, we are filing motions.
Now, again, it's a small universe of cases at this point. But the numbers, the percentages, they seem to make sense. The system seems to be working. We have an up and running system. The true test will be when the filings go up.
Also in the area of credit counseling, which is a major innovation in the bankruptcy reform statute. In fact, it is potentially one of the most far-reaching and positive consumer protections in the statute. We have approved, as I say in the testimony, almost 400 credit counselor and debtor education providers.
So the capacity has been there with the small number of filings. We still need to do more to ensure that as filings go up that we are ablewe able to solicit and approve applications from capable providers.
One of the concerns we had early on and that this Subcommittee expressed at the hearing lastlast summer was also that unscrupulous providers, because it has been a troubled industry, not be approved. We think we've done a pretty good job with regard to screening out unscrupulous providers and, in fact, have gotten positive statements to that effect, even public statements from some of the consumer organizations.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
So we think that the start of the process with credit counseling, and debtor education likewise, has some positive signs. Too early, but we do think we're off to an excellent start and there's an infrastructure there. The true test will come as filings go back up.
Mr. CANNON. Ten percent presumed abusive seems to be on the upper edge of what we were anticipating. Is that a temporary thing? Do you think that's going to go down? Or does thatI mean, obviously, this is an odd period, when you had so many pre-filings.
Mr. WHITE. Right. Yes.
Mr. CANNON. Do you think that number is going to hold, or is there reason to think it would change?
Mr. WHITE. It would be tooI don't think I could give an informed response to that question because the one thing we can probably guess about the filers that we have now is that it's an anomalous group because we had that bulge of 725,000 cases. So I wouldn't dare make projections from that number.
Mr. CANNON. Thank you. Are there any issues that have come up that have been difficult to implement that we need to maybe take a look at in adjusting the bill?
Mr. WHITE. Not at this point, Mr. Chairman. If, with the passage of time and more experience, we believe that there could be greater clarity or changes in the statute, then we would make those suggestions. But I have nothing to recommend at this time.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. CANNON. Just one more question. Mr. McKeown, you mentioned that much of ENRD's caseload involves defending Federal agencies. Would you give a typical example of ENRD's involvement in defending Federal agencies?
Mr. MCKEOWN. Oh, I think the best example, Mr. Chairman, is the defensive litigation we've done with the President's Healthy Forest Initiative. In one project for the Biscuit fire in Oregon, we successfully defended nearly a dozen requests for preliminary injunctions in six different lawsuits. And as you well know, if you can bat that kind of an average defending against PI requests, that's something to be very proud of.
And since it's a presidential initiative, we're particularly proud that we were able to do that for our client.
Mr. CANNON. Thank you.
We have several written questions we will submit to you based upon their relevance. We appreciate your being here today, appreciate the job that you're doing, and thank you for coming.
And with that, this Committee will be adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:04 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PAUL D. CLEMENT, SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for inviting me to submit testimony regarding the Office of the Solicitor General in connection with the Committee's hearing.
I. THE SOLICITOR GENERAL'S DUTIES
When Congress created the position of Solicitor General in 1870, it expressed high ambitions for the Office: the Solicitor General is the only officer of the United States required by statute to be ''learned in the law,'' 28 U.S.C. Section 505. The Committee Report accompanying the 1870 Act stated: ''We propose to have a man of sufficient learning, ability, and experience that he can be sent . . . into any court wherever the Government has an interest in litigation, and there present the case of the United States as it should be presented.''
In modern times, the Solicitor General has exercised responsibility in three general areas.
1. The first, and perhaps best-known, function of the Solicitor General is his representation of the United States in the Supreme Court. The late former Solicitor General Erwin Griswold captured the nature of this responsibility in observing:
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The Solicitor General has a special obligation to aid the Court as well as serve his client. . . . In providing for the Solicitor General, subject to the direction of the Attorney General, to attend to the ''interests of the United States'' in litigation, the statutes have always been understood to mean the long-term interests of the United States, not simply in terms of its fisc, or its success in particular litigation, but as a government, as a people.
This responsibility, of course, includes defending federal statutes challenged as unconstitutional on grounds that do not implicate the executive branch's constitutional authority when a reasonable defense exists. The Solicitor General also defends regulations and decisions of Executive Branch departments and agencies, and is responsible for representing independent regulatory agencies before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court practice of the Solicitor General includes filing petitions for review on behalf of the United States. In this regard, as the Supreme Court has stated:
This Court relies on the Solicitor General to exercise such independent judgment and to decline to authorize petitions for review in this Court in the majority of the cases the Government has lost in the courts of appeals.
The Solicitor General also responds to petitions filed by adverse parties who were unsuccessful in the lower federal courts in criminal prosecutions or civil litigation involving the government. Where review is granted in a case in which the United States is a party, the Solicitor General is responsible for filing a brief on the merits with the Court, and he or a member of the Office presents oral argument before the Court. The Solicitor General also files amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, briefs in cases involving other parties where he deems it in the best interest of the United States to do so. Although most amicus filings occur only after review has been granted, the Solicitor General also submits amicus briefs at the petition stage when invited by the Court to do so or, in rare instances, when Supreme Court resolution of the questions presented may affect the administration of federal programs or policies. The Supreme Court requested the Solicitor General to file an amicus brief at the petition stage 14 times during the October Term 2004 and has done so 13 times during the current Term (2005). The Solicitor General generally seeks and receives permission to participate in oral argument in those cases in which the government has filed an amicus brief on the merits.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
2. The second category of responsibilities discharged by the Solicitor General relates to government litigation in the federal courts of appeals, as well as in state appellate courts. With the exception of those government agencies granted independent litigation authority in the lower courts, authorization by the Solicitor General is required for all appeals to the courts of appeals from decisions adverse to the United States in federal district courts. The Solicitor General's approval is also required before government lawyers may seek en banc, or full appellate court, review of adverse decisions rendered by a circuit court panel. Additionally, government intervention or participation amicus curiae in federal appellate courts (as well as state appellate courts) must be approved by the Solicitor General. In addition, once a case involving the government is lodged in a court of appeals, any settlement of that controversy requires the Solicitor General's assent. In cases of particular importance to the government, lawyers from the Office of Solicitor General will directly handle litigation in the lower federal courts. Recent examples include the Microsoft antitrust appeal, important criminal sentencing issues when addressed by the courts of appeals en banc, and cases involving enemy combatants.
3. In the third category of responsibilities are decisions with respect to government intervention in cases where the constitutionality of an Act of Congress has been brought into question at any level within the federal judicial system. In such circumstances, 28 U.S.C. Section 2403 requires that the Solicitor General be notified by the court in which the constitutional challenge has arisen and be given an opportunity to intervene with the full rights of a party.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The various decisions discussed above for which the Solicitor is responsible are arrived at only on the basis of written recommendations and extensive consultation among the Office of the Solicitor General and affected offices of the Justice Department, Executive Branch departments and agencies, and independent agencies. Where differences of opinion exist among these components and agencies, or between them and the Solicitor General's staff, written views are exchanged and meetings are frequently held in an attempt to resolve or narrow differences and help the Solicitor General arrive at a final decision. Where consideration is given to an amicus curiae filing by the government in non-federal government litigation in the Supreme Court or lower federal appellate courts, it is not uncommon for the Solicitor or members of his staff to meet with counsel for the parties in an effort to understand their respective positions and interests of the United States that might warrant its participation.
II. ORGANIZATION OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL'S OFFICE
The Office of the Solicitor General, when fully staffed, consists of 48 individuals, of whom 22 (including the Solicitor General) constitute its permanent legal staff and the remainder serve in managerial, technical, or clerical capacities. Of the 22 attorneys, four are Deputy Solicitors General, senior lawyers with responsibility for supervising matters in the Supreme Court and lower courts within their respective areas of expertise. Seventeen attorneys serve as Assistants to the Solicitor General. These lawyers are assigned a ''docket'' of cases presenting a wide spectrum of legal problems under the guidance and supervision of the Deputies. Additionally, OSG employs four lawyers who are recipients of the Bristow Fellowships, a one-year program open to highly qualified young attorneys, generally following a clerkship with a federal court of appeals' judge. Bristow Fellows assist the Deputies and Assistants in a variety of tasks related to the litigation responsibilities of the Office. All of the attorneys in the Office have outstanding professional credentials.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
The authorized personnel levels and budget of the Office of the Solicitor General have remained relatively stable in recent years. The Fiscal Year 2007 funding request level is 49 workyears and $9,977,000.
Most of these funds are committed for nondiscretionary items. For example, only two items, personnel-related costs and GSA rent, consume over 85 percent of the budget. However, the Office is employing various strategies to offset the otherwise rising costs, such as re-engineering our brief preparation process, modifying service/maintenance contracts and reducing overtime costs.
III. OFFICE WORKLOAD
The following statistics may provide a helpful way of measuring the Office's heavy workload given the relatively small staff of attorneys. During the most recent completed Term of the Supreme Court, the October 2004 Term (July 1, 2004 to June 28, 2005), the Solicitor General's Office handled approximately 3,237 cases in the Supreme Court. We filed full merits briefs in 58 cases considered by the Court (and presented oral argument in 52 of those cases),(see footnote 1) which represented 69% of the cases that the Supreme Court heard on the merits in that Term. The government prevailed in 73% of the cases in which it participated. We filed 22 petitions for a writ of certiorari or jurisdictional statements urging the Court to grant review in government cases, 911 briefs in response to petitions for certiorari filed by other parties, and waivers of the right to file a brief in response to an additional 2,230 petitions for certiorari. In response to invitations from the Supreme Court, we also filed 16 briefs as amicus curiae expressing the government's views on whether certiorari should be granted in cases in which the government was not a party. The above figures do not include the Office's work in cases filed under the Supreme Court's ''original'' docket (cases, often between States but involving the federal government, in which the Supreme Court sits as a trial court), and they also do not include the numerous motions, responses to motions, and reply briefs that we filed relating to matters pending before the Court.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
During this same one-year period, the Office of the Solicitor General reviewed more than 2,455 cases in which the Solicitor General was called upon to decide whether to petition for certiorari; to take an appeal to one of the federal courts of appeals; to participate as an amicus in a federal court of appeals or the Supreme Court; or to intervene in any court. Thus, during this one-year period, the Office of the Solicitor General handled well over 5,722 substantive matters on subjects touching on virtually all aspects of the law and the federal government's operations.
In carrying out the foregoing responsibilities, the other members of the Office and I have endeavored to adhere to the time-honored traditions of the Office of the Solicitor Generalto be forceful and dedicated advocates for the government, as well as officers of the Court with a special duty of candor and fair dealing.
RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS FROM MICHAEL A. BATTLE, DIRECTOR, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]
RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS FROM PETER D. KEISLER, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CIVIL DIVISION, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]
RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS FROM MATTHEW J. MCKEOWN, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]
RESPONSE TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS FROM CLIFFORD, J. WHITE, ACTING DIRECTOR, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES TRUSTEES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WASHINGTON, DC
[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]
(Footnote 1 return)
Of the 58 merits briefs filed, some were consolidated resulting in 1 oral argument.