The Prosecutor with Whom Chris Christie Has an “Ongoing Financial Relationship” Resigns

Remember how Chris Christie told a bunch of Republicans that he still had a bunch of AUSAs in NJ? Remember how he had an "ongoing financial relationship" with one of them, Michele Brown, to the tune of $46,000?

Well, he’s "got" one fewer AUSAs now.

The federal prosecutor at the center of the controversy over a loan made by New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie has resigned.

In her resignation letter dated today, Michele Brown, the acting first assistant U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said it has been an "honor and privilege" to serve, but she does not want to be "a distraction" for the office.

I wonder if she really resigned, or got resigned, when it became clear that it’s not cool for federal prosecutors to accept loans from their boss. Or maybe she didn’t want to be a distraction from Christie’s campaign?

Though I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this scandal.

Update: Nope, we haven’t. It appears that Brown was getting some bonuses.

The office has not disclosed Brown’s salary or raises, but Christie said she was at the top of the pay scale, so she got no salary bumps along with her recent promotions. She and others in the office did receive undisclosed bonuses, however.

Can someone explain how this is different from Margaret Chiara, who was fired because she allegedly gave bonuses to her favorite AUSA?

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40 replies
  1. windje says:

    Christie is the worst kind of dirty.

    How did he get off the firings list?

    1. Leaked about an ‘investigation’ into Bob Menendez in the course of a Senate race.

    2. Gave a $52M corporate ‘deferred prosecution’ monitoring contract to John Ashcroft. plus more contracts to ‘friends’

    Kind of wonder if I’m ever on a jury whether I’ll believe word one of a case brought by a republican prosecutor, . . .and whether or not I should ask the about the political leanimgs of the prosecutor so as to place appropriate weight on the testimony and arguments presented.

    Its getting so I would be inclined to look out the window if a republican prosecutor stated the sky was blue.

  2. Citizen92 says:

    As far as I can tell, Michele Brown was never even a member of the NJ Bar. She was at one time a member of the California Bar, but that membership has expired.

    I really find it difficult to understand how a #3 legal official in the US Attorney’s office is not a member of the Bar in which state she practices and appears in court (although Bmaz has offered that, technically, such an official does not to be a member). Still…

    Also, now that she has resigned, will she continue to be able to make her mortgage payments? Isn’t the husband out of work? Now might be a good time to ask Mr. Christie or Michele for copies of canceled checks that were used to pay that mortgage.

    • scribe says:

      Because to be in the US attorney’s office you have to be familiar with federal law. That’s what you are enforcing. Only rarely will anyone from the US Attorney’s office find themselves in a state court. 99 44/100 percent of the time, they are in federal court.

      You have to understand that a lawyer is admitted to the bar of a state by passing that state’s bar examination. This allows that lawyer to practice in the state courts and only that state’s courts. To be allowed to practice in federal court, the lawyer then has to seek admission to the bar of the federal district court, and the circuit court of appeals (if they want to appeal from the district court) and, if they desire, the US Supreme Court (if they want to keep appealing). These are all different bars. In states with more than one federal district court (like New York, Texas, California, PA, etc.) you have to seek admission to each of the districts in which you might want to practice. The admissions to these federal courts do not take any additional examination – they require payment of a fee, swearing an oath, and filling out an application which indicates that you have read and agree to abide by the rules of the court. It takes about 5 minutes except for reading the rules, which take longer. IIRC, in addition the US Supreme Court requires that you be admitted to the bar of a state court for two years before seeking admission. And then you get a nice certificate. I have three district court admissions and certificates and one circuit admission and certificate, myself.

      I know any number of attorneys who are members of 6, 8 or 10 different federal circuit courts of appeal. They are not members of all the state bars within those various circuits. They might only be a member of one state bar.

      FWIW, about 10 years ago a judge (Greenaway) was nominated to the bench of the US District Court in New Jersey. He had been the general counsel of Johnson and Johnson (the band-aid people), a huge presence in NJ. He had never been a member of the New Jersey bar – because he didn’t have to be. There was a bit of a hue and cry from the NJ bar about it, and he sought and got admission. But neither his nomination nor his confirmation was contingent on it.

      And he still sits on the bench.

      Does that help you get over her not being a member of the New Jersey bar?

    • Cynthia Kouril says:

      you are not required to be a member of the bar inthe sate where the AUSA is assigned. You just have to be a memeber of the bar of SOME state.

      The reasoning is that you are applying federal law, not local state law.

      • gerryphillyesq says:

        When did her membership in the California Bar expire? Does she currently have no state bar affiliation? You’re right that you have to be a member of some state (or the D.C.) bar. If she isn’t an active member of the Bar in any state and her non-active status occurred while Christie was still U.S. Attorney that could spell a big problem for him.

    • bmaz says:

      Here is the provision from my jurisdiction:

      U.S. Government Attorneys. Any attorney
      representing the United States Government in an official
      capacity, or who is employed by the office of the Federal
      Public Defender in an official capacity, and is admitted to
      practice in another U.S. District Court may practice in this
      District in any matter in which the attorney is employed or
      retained by the United States during such period of federal
      service. Attorneys so permitted to practice in this Court are
      subject to the jurisdiction of this Court to the same extent
      as members of the bar of this Court.

      • gerryphillyesq says:

        It’s been a few years since I was admitted to Federal practice, but admission to the initial District Court requires as a prerequisite admission and a certification of good standing from a state bar. If Ms. Brown’s California admission has lapsed and she is not a member in good standing of another state bar (or the District of Columbia) I believe she cannot continue to practice in federal court.

        • bmaz says:

          I think that is probably true sooner or later (California Federal court likely will not not drop her until notified by California Bar or otherwise noticed I assume). My guess is all she needs to do is pay her dues and/or complete CLE in California; however, now that she is not a “government attorney” she would look to be done in NJ.

  3. scribe says:

    Q:

    Can someone explain how this is different from Margaret Chiara, who was fired because she allegedly gave bonuses to her favorite AUSA?

    A.

    Margaret Chiara and her favorite AUSA were both women, and to Regent Grad Sara-the-dessert-maker that sounded like . . . lesbianism. Something G-d does not countenance and, therefore, DoJ won’t either.

    But, hey, if we keep talking about this, I’m sure Christie supporters will try to and find some way to bring up Bill Clinton getting a blowjob.

  4. NorskeFlamethrower says:

    AND THE KILLIN’ GOEZ ON AND ON AND…

    Citizen emptywheel and the Firepup Freedom Fighters:

    I wonder if this case isn’t gunna show up in the workload of a special prosecutor lookin into the misuse of USA’s? The rotting corpse of the Bush regime is bein’ pulled inch by inch into the public square…by the Spring of 2010 the stinkin mess will be completely exposed and it will be years before the prosecutions are completed and the fascists bastards are all held accountable…there is no way that a Democratic administration and a Democratically controlled Congress will be able to lipstick-up this dead pig.

    KEEP THE FAITH AND PASS THE AMMUNITION, DON’T RUSH ‘CUZ THERE ARE TOO MANY TO MISS!!

  5. Twain says:

    What was Christie getting from this “relationship?” Seems to me that it’s too late for Christie to repair this but then, I don’t live in NJ.

  6. runfastandwin says:

    If I had to guess, I’d say we’re going to hear a little something about the old Appalachian Trail…

  7. maryo2 says:

    To scribe @4:

    To be allowed to practice in federal court, the lawyer then has to seek admission to the bar of the federal district court

    Is the admission seeking form and/or the response letter from the bar of the federal district court publicly available?

    • maryo2 says:

      We know she has no state bar membership. Her California membership expired and was not renewed (per citizen92). She was never a member of the NJ bar. There’s a test for that, but no test for the bar of the federal district court (per scribe).

      Can we find out if she ever took the test for the NJ bar? Did she fail it or never desire to take it?

  8. maryo2 says:

    EPUed from two threads back – because of the Christie involvement in choosing Ashcroft for the monitor.

    Scott Muller’s firm’s current web site says:
    “He pioneered the use of the corporate “deferred prosecution” to resolve a federal criminal investigation …has advised on public corruption, financial reporting and accounting, insider trading, securities, tax, antitrust, environmental, federal procurement and debarment matters. “
    http://www.davispolk.com/lawyers/scott-muller/

    And TPM says that Ashcroft made millions as a corporate monitor. … the “then US Attorney Chris Christie, was a subordinate of Ashcroft’s at DOJ. Ashcroft was reportedly given the job — said to be worth between $28 and 52 million to the Ashcroft Group, at Zimmer’s expense — with no public notice and no outside bidding.
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpoi…..sees_d.php

    It seems weird that Muller would insert lines into a draft saying that Ashcroft had signed off on expanded torture techniques, and then later (in 2007) assist in the “deferred prosecution” scam to payoff Ashcroft.

    • Cynthia Kouril says:

      It used to be that the judge before whomn that case was pening picked the monitor, then the US Attonernies and the dfenese bar decided that looked too insiderish and mentioned it politely at a few bench and bar confereneces. After that, there were RFP/RFQ type processes and processes where the target would pick a short list and the USAO could veto monitors off the list. ANd other processes that looked a bit more fair.

      When Christie gave out those 3 contracts just off his rolodex, there was a collective gasp in NYC, especailly among the IPSIG/monitorship community.

      MUch tut tut tutting and dire prdictions of this coming back to bite,,,,somebody

  9. scribe says:

    It seems everyone here seems pretty well convinced that Michelle Brown is not presently an active member of any state’s bar. Let me amp up their rhetoric a bit and move the story along, with a bit more red meat. In New Jersey, practicing law without a license where the person so practicing is receiving some money or value in return is a fourth-degree crime (i.e., the lowest degree). N.J.S.A. 2C:21-22. Every paycheck she got would qualify.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      New Jersey is also a state with no reciprocity. If she didn’t take and pass the NJ bar exam she is ineligible for admission and cannot practice law in the state (outside of Federal Court where her eligibility is separately in question as per above).

      • hvdub says:

        Admission to practice before the District Court in New Jersey is limited, by Local Rule 101.1 to attorneys licensed to practice in New Jersey. And only to New Jersey licensed attorneys. There is a 3d Cir. ruling to that effect, Matter of Roberts, 682 F.2d 105 (3d Cir. 1982).

        It would seem that the dear lady, if she appeared before the District Court was indeed practicing without a license, unless she had applied for and was granted, in each case, permission to appear pro hac vice.

  10. JohnnyTable70 says:

    Brown’s resignation does nothing in terms of a potential investigation into her “loan” from Christie. Both of them still have legal exposure concerning their lack of disclosure as well as how they submitted their tax documents to the IRS (under pains and penalty of perjury) but if AG Holder won’t even investigate torture, this won’t even be investigated for fear of “partisanship” which is doubly ironic since Christie practiced gamesmanship as US Attorney.

  11. scribe says:

    ALL RIGHT. STOP IT ON THE ADMISSION TO THE BAR STORY.

    I got to the current, official list of attorneys admitted in New Jersey and checked it out.

    Michelle A. Brown, Executive Assistant US Attorney, District of New Jersey, was admitted to practice in New Jersey in 2007 and is in good standing.

    This part of the story – abnout her non-admission to practice – is OVER.

    • gerryphillyesq says:

      Thanks for the info. So given the fact that there is no reciprocity we can assume she took and passed the NJ Bar Exam in either February or July of 2007. When was she hired and did she begin her duties as Asst. US Atty? If it was before either of those dates is it possible that she was studying for the NJ Bar on government time?

      • scribe says:

        Q. When did she begin her duties as Asst. US Atty?

        A. Before 2007.

        Now, before you go getting all wound up about going after her for some supposed prior “being un-admitted and still practicing”, think it through.

        The facts we’ve adduced show she was actively admitted in California until the end of 2008. So, she had an active admission there and that would have been good enough.

        Local Rule 101.1(f) for the District of New Jersey (a one-plus MegaByte .pdf, see page 83/131) says the following:

        (f) Appearance by Attorneys for the United States
        An attorney admitted to practice in any United States District Court may practice before this Court in any proceeding in which he or she is representing the United States or any of its officers or agencies. If such attorney does not have an office in this District he or she shall designate the United States Attorney to receive service of all notices or papers in that action. Service upon the United States Attorney or authorized designee shall constitute service upon a government attorney who does not have an office in this District.

        The first sentence of that Rule is the pertinent one – the other two deal with attorneys representing the US who work elsewhere and have to come to Jersey for one reason or another during the pendency of a case.

        The first sentence makes clear that, if an attorney is (a) representing the United States and (b) is admitted to any US District Court, then (c) they can appear in the District of New Jersey without formally being admitted either to the bar of the New Jersey state courts or bar of the District of New Jersey. That’s where she is/was.

        As to the second and third sentences of that rule, the usual example to show that would be the attorneys from one of the specialized sections at Main Justice who work with the local US attorneys and AUSA all over the country on specialized cases. Suppose you have a plane crash in which the US is a defendant – the theory of the case is that air traffic control allegedly screwed up. There is a section of specialist attorneys at Main Justice who do aviation tort cases – and only aviation tort cases – defending the government against those claims. Anywhere in the country where they may occur. So, Main Justice would designate two or three of them to work alongside the local AUSA who would be the “generalist” “trial” attorney. Those specialists could be admitted anywhere, but being admitted to any US District Court is sufficient to get them into court in the D.N.J.

        So, this part of the story is OVER. Otherwise we wind up looking like Orly Taitz ISO the Real Obama Birth Certificate.

        • gerryphillyesq says:

          Thanks again. My concern is not about her being unlicensed and practicing. But knowing that New Jersey won’t permit a lawyer to waive into the jurisdiction the question becomes one of how did she find the time to prepare for the New Jersey bar exam while working for the US attorney’s office. The bar exam is no walk in the park. Preparation requires study and practice and usually a bar prep course. Did she take vacation time? Was she granted a leave by her boss (Christie)? If she was granted a leave, was she treated in any way differently from other employees of the US Attorney’s Office who were similarly situated?

          • scribe says:

            It matters not where or how she got the time to prepare for the bar exam, whether she was able to waive in or get admitted on motion or not.

            The fact is: the one issue presented is whether or not she is admitted in New Jersey and currently active.

            The Lawyer’s Diary list says she is. That list is both official and authoritative. That ends the discussion as far as I am concerned.

            Next issue.

            • gerryphillyesq says:

              You missed my point. There is a cloud over Christie because of his financial arrangement with this particular US Attorney. Does his special relationship to this employee extend to giving her time to prepare for the New Jersey bar exam so that she would be able to continue to practice law in New Jersey after leaving the US Attorney’s office? What is their relationship and does how does it reflect on his character and qualifications to be Governor? If you’re running an anti-corruption theme in your campaign you need to be above reproach yourself.

            • bmaz says:

              Yep, that will about do it then. Thanks for finding that Scribe. However, under this provision of your local rules, I do not think she would be practicing law without a license by appearing in Federal court there as an AUSA, even without NJ bar membership:

              (f) Appearance by Attorneys for the United States
              An attorney admitted to practice in any United States District Court may practice before this
              Court in any proceeding in which he or she is representing the United States or any of its officers
              or agencies. If such attorney does not have an office in this District he or she shall designate the
              United States Attorney to receive service of all notices or papers in that action. Service upon the
              United States Attorney or authorized designee shall constitute service upon a government
              attorney who does not have an office in this District.

              • scribe says:

                You are correct, BMAz. As I explained @30 upthread, Local Rule 101.1(f) pretty conclusively resolves the issue in her favor.

                As to whether she took the bar or not – I dunno and I don’t care. The fact of the matter is, she was admitted. New Jersey is probably like just about every jurisdiction I can think of – persnickety about who they admit and making sure all their paperwork is properly filled out and organized. No one is getting over on them.

                And, FWIW, as to most lawyers, once they’ve been admitted and practicing for 10 or 15 or 20 years, they probably could take a bar exam cold (i.e., without studying) and pass it.

                • bmaz says:

                  Oops, you had that up there? Missed that. I am mostly buggered up with work and have only been flitting in and out save for last night’s post. Agreed, doesn’t matter how it occurred, if NJ says she is a bar member, that is it. I’ll say this much, I might could pass other bars, but I sure as hell don’t want to take any more at this point.

    • Citizen92 says:

      Scribe, thanks for clearing that up. Never intended to waste anyone’s time, just a question from a non-lawyer.

      The source for the original info was Martindale-Hubbell online. Martindale-Hubbell records (obtained via LexisNexis today) still show Ms. Brown as admitted CA but not admitted NJ. In fact, the online notation actually says … “(not admitted New Jersey).”

      Here are the February 2007 NJ Bar results successful candidates. Ms. Brown is not among them.

      (The list for the July 2007 results is unfortunately not available through the Wayback Machine).

      • scribe says:

        There is one official list of attorneys admitted in New Jersey, and it ain’t Martindell-Hubble. Martindell-Hubble is, at its core, a backhanded way of lawyers advertising holding over from the days (which ended in the 70s and 80s) when it was illegal for lawyers to advertise. You pay to be included in Martindell-Hubble.

        The official list is contained in a publication called the “New Jersey Lawyer’s Diary and Manual”. It’s published annually. You can buy one for around a hundred bucks.

        Any other list is not official and is not cognized as “reliable” by anyone.

        The official list for 2009 says she was admitted in 2007 and is active.

        That ends the discussion.

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