(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)


Subject: FW: L[ittle] R[ock] federal judges wanted Kenneth Starr investigated
Date: Fri, 3 May 2002 21:51:24 -0700
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Little] Rock federal judges wanted Kenneth Starr investigated
Their request, and its denial, have been kept secret.

By Doug Smith

March 22, 2002

In 1999, Francis Mandanici requested an investigation of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr for possible conflict of interest and other improprieties in the Whitewater investigation. Federal Judge John F. Nangle of St. Louis -- a staunch Republican, like Starr -- not only denied the request in 2000, he derided Mandanici mercilessly, saying Mandanici's allegations were "nonsense" and "ridiculous," and he threatened disciplinary action against Mandanici, not Starr.

What Nangle did not say, and what was not revealed to the public until this month, was that six federal judges in Little Rock, Democrats and Republicans, also had asked for an investigation of Starr, and Nangle denied their request too. Nangle put the judges' request for an investigation of Starr, and his denial of the request, "under seal," meaning the proceedings were unknown to the public. Unknown, that is, until March 6, 2002, when Robert Ray, Starr's successor as independent counsel, issued a public report that mentioned the judges' seeking an investigation of Starr, and Nangle's rebuff. The files themselves are still sealed, so it's not known if Nangle used the same intemperate language on the district judges as he did on lawyer Mandanici.

According to Ray's report, the Little Rock judges specifically asked for the appointment of a special prosecutor "to investigate whether any person improperly sought to have Judge Henry Woods removed from the trial of the then sitting Governor of Arkansas Jim Guy Tucker." Starr asked for and got Woods' removal from the Tucker case. The judges apparently later amended the request to include matters raised by Mandanici, a Connecticut public defender and Starr critic who accused Starr of eliciting false testimony and other wrongdoing, including a conflict of interest in Starr's dealings with Richard Mellon Scaife, a right-wing multimillionaire in Pennsylvania who financed anti-Clinton propaganda.

Three Little Rock judges -- Woods, William R. Wilson Jr. and James M. Moody, all Democratic appointees -- alleged specific wrongdoing, according to Ray. Two Republican appointees, Chief Judge Susan Webber Wright and Stephen M. Reasoner, filed a separate petition concurring in the request for an investigation of Starr's office but "expressing their reluctance to join in the majority's specific allegations of misconduct." Judge George Howard Jr., a Democratic appointee, recused from the matter entirely. Ray's report is not entirely clear on this point, but apparently the other Little Rock district judge, G. Thomas Eisele, a Republican appointee, participated in some aspects of the investigation request and not in others. Ray said the judges began seeking an investigation of Starr's office apparently after some of the judges had received "copies of handwritten and typewritten documents" that allegedly supported charges of improper influence.

Ray said Nangle found that "there is absolutely no basis for the motion of the Eastern District Court judges" for an investigation of Starr's office. Nangle had been appointed by the chief judge of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis to hear complaints against Starr. Before he was named independent counsel, Starr had been solicitor general under the first President Bush, whom Clinton defeated. Before he was appointed judge, Nangle was a member of the Republican National Committee and had been named "Mr. Republican" in Missouri.

Despite Nangle's denial of their request, the Little Rock judges' action may have had an effect, anyway. In 1999, while the request for an investigation was hanging over him, Starr resigned as independent counsel.

Mandanici said this week that he would probably file a motion seeking release of the judges' petition for an investigation and Nangle's denial of the petition. "Certainly it could have affected the presidential election if the public knew that prior to that very close election at least five federal judges had filed a grievance against Starr's office that possibly could have affected his decision to resign rather than possibly becoming a liability for the Republican cause if the scandal broke," Mandanici said. "The single judge who decided the matter had released his decision concerning my grievance and he also should have released his decision concerning the grievance filed by the judges."

Starr had been appointed originally to investigate real estate dealings involving Jim McDougal and Bill and Hillary Clinton, but he kept expanding his jurisdiction, including bringing charges against Tucker, an old political rival of Clinton's; McDougal and McDougal's ex-wife, Susan. The Clintons were not parties to the case. In 1995, Woods threw out the indictment of Tucker and the McDougals, saying it was unrelated to Starr's assignment to investigate Clinton's business dealings.

Although he had not asked Woods to recuse from the case, Starr asked the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule Woods and remove him from the case. Starr alleged "the appearance of a conflict of interest" by Woods. He submitted newspaper and magazine articles reflecting that Woods knew the Clintons and that he'd been active in Democratic politics before he was a judge. A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit, all conservative Republican appointees, cited an article from Vanity Fair magazine in reversing Woods and removing him from the case. Judge Howard tried the case instead. Tucker and the McDougals were convicted of fraud.

Judge Woods said that he was the first judge in the history of Anglo-American jurisprudence to be removed from a case because of "newspaper accounts, magazine articles and television transcripts." He acknowledged being friends with the Clintons, but said he didn't understand what the Clintons had to do with the Tucker-McDougal case.

Judge Woods, who died March 14, was left with only a slight scar from the Whitewater terror. Many innocent victims suffered worse.

Copyright (c)2002 Arkansas Times Inc.  ##



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