US attorney general Gonzales 'Lawyer of the Year'
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Alberto Gonzales spent much of 2007 fighting in vain his ouster as US attorney general, but that has earned him a consolation prize: a top law magazine named him on Wednesday its "Lawyer of the Year."
US President George W. Bush's longtime personal legal council and, from February 2005 to September 2007, the nation's top justice official, Gonzales was the year's legal headliner, according to ABA Journal, the magazine of the American Bar Association.
But that was, according to ABA Journal editor Edward Adams, mainly due to his central role in scandals over the Bush administration's secret warrantless wiretap program, its legal justifications for rough interrogation of "war on terror" detainees that critics said permitted torture, and an alleged effort to fire at least eight US attorneys for political reasons.
"George W. Bush appeared to be grooming the man he affectionately calls 'Fredo' for the US Supreme Court," the magazine wrote.
"But after Gonzales appeared veracity-challenged when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he resigned in August," it said, referring to hearings into the US attorneys firing scandal.
The magazine also cited Gonzales's role as White House counsel and then attorney general in "what now appears to have been a stealth campaign to reinstate pre-Watergate presidential authority."
"His determination to do so is epitomized in a now-infamous hospital-room meeting with an incapacitated John Ashcroft (Gonzales's predecessor as attorney general) in an unsuccessful effort to gain approval for a secret wiretapping program.
"The highlight: Ashcroft's wife sticking her tongue out at Gonzales and his entourage as they retreated from Ashcroft's bedside."
"We selected the Lawyer of the Year based on who was the most newsworthy lawyer," Adams told AFP, refusing to assess what Gonzales' impact was. "Clearly he was influential, there can be no doubt about that."
But among those named as runners-up is David Addington, a top aide of Vice President Dick Cheney who is also credited in the drive to increase the president's executive powers.
"Addington shares his boss's belief that the president should have unlimited powers in time of war -- and should have carte blanche in dealing with the thorny issues of torture, secret detention and warrantless eavesdropping," it said.
A Gonzales assistant deeply involved in the sacked prosecutors scandal, Monica Goodling, also earned a runner-up nod for her "overly zealous and questionably legal actions" that led to her resignation and then Gonzales's.
Other runners-up included both Cheney aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Libby for perjury in the case over the outing of a CIA agent.
Howard Stern, the colorful lawyer and lover of the late Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith, and "Michael Clayton," the George Clooney-starring movie about a washed-up attorney who does the right thing, were also runners-up.
The magazine also took the uncommon step of naming its Lawyer of the Year for 2008, 12 months ahead of time: Michael Mukasey, Gonzales's replacement.
Adams said there was little doubt Mukasey would spend much of the year wrestling with the large legal issues Gonzales left behind -- like those on torture and domestic spying.
"We do think that those issues will be at the forefront of legal news next year," he said.
Disgraced US attorney general Gonzales 'Lawyer of the Year' - Yahoo! Singapore News