The Main Justice has broken an interesting story (since picked up by the NY Times and TalkingPoints, along with Volkh Conspiracy) that suggested a lot of tangents to me– the Washington insider’s sense of entitlement, junk science and “shaken baby syndrome,” my dislike of Max Baucus, among others.
The Main Justice story is about Max Baucus putting up (and then withdrawing) his girlfriend Melodee Hanes for a U.S. Attorney slot back home in Montana:
Baucus Girlfriend Withdrew as U.S. Attorney Candidate
By Andrew Ramonas | December 4, 2009
A Department of Justice official who is in a relationship with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) withdrew as a finalist for Montana U.S. Attorney to live with the senator in Washington, a Baucus spokesperson confirmed to Main Justice today.
Melodee Hanes, the Montana senator’s former state director, withdrew earlier this year after Baucus sent her name and two others to the White House as his recommendations for the state’s top federal prosecuting job.
“Senator Baucus is currently in a mature and happy relationship with Melodee Hanes. They are both divorced, and in no way was their relationship the cause of their respective divorces,” Ty Matsdorf, a spokesperson for Baucus, said in a statement to Main Justice.
This last statement– which certainly comes under the headings of “things you don’t want your spokesperson to have to say outloud” and “probably protesting too much”– plays out interestingly as you read along in the story.
Baucus and Hanes mutually agreed she should withdraw from consideration for U.S. Attorney “after much reflection … because they wanted to live together in Washington, D.C.,” the statement said. …
Not because it might be at best unseemly to put up one’s girlfriend for a presidential appointment…
Hanes and Baucus, who both ended their marriages within the last year, are living together in Baucus’s Capitol Hill home, purchased in June.
“She was recommended for the position because of a very close and personal relationship with Max Baucus and she withdrew because of a very close and personal relationship with Max Baucus,” Thomas Bennett, Hanes’ ex-husband, told Main Justice. Bennett and Hanes divorced in December 2008. …
I like the writer putting the barb at the end of that first sentence in the paragraph by just identifying the source of the quote.
Hanes said in a statement reported by The Associated Press in March that she withdrew because she had “been presented with other opportunities that I felt I could not bypass.” Hanes stepped down as the senator’s state director in June. She worked for Baucus’s Senate re-election campaign in 2002 as regional finance director and became a member of his Senate staff in 2003.
One of the Volkh conspirators (where I learned about this story) observed:
[S]pending the last six years working as a Senator’s field office and state office director (i.e., not even working as a lawyer) hardly seems like the kind of credentials one expects from a U.S. attorney candidate, and certainly not one purportedly recommended “solely on the basis of her credentials.”
Back to the Main Justice story…
Hanes served as a county prosecutor in Montana for three years before joining Baucus’s Senate staff. She was also a law professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and has written extensively on child and sexual abuse issues.
And about that three years as a county prosecutor, someone at DailyKos found this interesting Eighth opinion highlighting the relationship between Hanes, the prosecutor, and her ex-husband Bennett, the state medical examiner:
This is a sad and difficult case. A young boy is dead, while his father’s conviction for the death rests on judicial proceedings that have raised multiple questions of fairness and just prosecution. Every court that has reviewed this case has been struck by certain aspects of the trial and actions of prosecutors that violate the fundamental notions of fair play on which our legal system is based. For example, the Iowa District Court for Polk County, addressing Morales’s application for post-conviction relief, found prosecutor Hanes’s instruction to withhold medical records from the defense team prior to the second autopsy “suspicious at best” and the prosecution-arranged meeting at which Kevin’s treating physicians changed their opinions about the nature of Kevin’s brain injury “questionable.” Morales v. Iowa, No. PCCE 37829, slip op. at 3, 19 (Iowa District Court for Polk County Apr. 30, 2001). The Iowa Court of Appeals, while affirming the denial of post-conviction relief, “agree[d] with Morales that certain questionable activities and practices, which became known after his trial, cast a level of doubt on some evidence used to convict Morales in the death of his son.” Morales v. Iowa, No. 2-520/01-1328, 2002 WL 31529176, *10 (Iowa Ct.App. Nov. 15, 2002). The District Court reviewing Morales’s habeas corpus petition aptly observed that the “pretrial and trial process [in Morales's case] at best falls short of our expectations for so serious an endeavor.” Morales v. Ault, No. 4:03-cv-40347, 2005 WL 5166197, 1 (S.D.Iowa Sept. 28, 2005). The District Court summarized the most egregious errors as follows:
A prosecutor instructed that evidence be withheld. Prosecutors arranged a meeting between the Medical Examiner and treating physicians, arguably to impact their trial testimony to be more consistent with that of the Medical Examiner. Important microscopic slide evidence, relied upon by the Medical Examiner, was not pursued by defense counsel or produced by the prosecution during the trial, and the slides were destroyed while the case was on appeal. Similar opinions by this Medical Examiner, often based upon such slides, have arguably been discredited in other cases. The treating surgeon has now recanted his trial testimony, at least to the extent of placing any reliance on the opinions of the Medical Examiner. Defense counsel failed to pursue the slides, failed to interview treating physicians before their trial testimony, failed to investigate the Medical Examiner even by simply networking with other defense lawyers, failed to pursue the meeting between the Medical Examiner and other physicians in relation to their apparent change in position at trial from their prior reports, failed to make objections necessary to preserving a record for appeal, and failed to make an adequate offer of proof regarding the romantic relationship between a prosecutor and the Medical Examiner.
For some articles about shaken baby syndrome as junk science, check here and here. One of the better CLE talks I’ve heard was about 8 or so years ago (maybe slightly more), Clive Stafford Smith about junk science in criminal cases, talking about how little real scientific method (in the sense of Daubert‘s requirements for admission of scientific expert opinion) there was in many areas of forensic science. One of his examples was shaken baby syndrome.
Back to MainJustice on Baucus and Hanes–
It is unclear when Baucus and Hanes entered into a personal relationship. A person familiar with the Max Baucus family told Main Justice that people at the June 2008 wedding for Zeno Baucus, the senator’s son from his first marriage to Ann Geracimos, observed the senator and Hanes dancing in a way that appeared “beyond professional.”
Baucus and his ex-wife, Wanda, announced their divorce in April after 26 years of marriage. Wanda and Max Baucus said in a joint statement in April reported by The AP that they “parted ways amicably and with mutual respect.” …
“Our marriage has been an interesting journey often of intense work with many people who have become cherished friends,” the statement from Wanda and Max Baucus said, according to the AP. “We are grateful for the opportunities we have had together and now as we pursue individual lives we appreciate everyone’s understanding and respect for our privacy.” …
UPDATE 2:08 a.m.: Baucus spokesman Matsdorf told Main Justice that the relationship between Baucus and Hanes began in the summer of 2008. Hanes and Thomas Bennett, her ex-husband, divorced in December 2008. Baucus and his ex-wife, Wanda, announced their divorce in April 2009.