U.S. Attorney for the central district of California in Los Angeles Thomas P. O’Brien “is facing sharp criticism from prosecutors within his office who say he is pressuring them to file relatively insignificant criminal cases to drive up statistics that make the office eligible for increased federal funding.” The unnamed prosecutors say the practice — which O’Brien has denied — “amounts to a quota system” and detracts them from working on more significant cases:
The disgruntled prosecutors in Los Angeles say they are now spending an exorbitant amount of time working on less significant cases — mail theft, smaller drug offenses and illegal immigration — to reach quotas. They cited the recent disbanding of the office’s public integrity and environmental crimes section, a unit with a history of working on complex police corruption and political corruption cases, as evidence of a shift toward high-volume, low-quality prosecutions.
The corruption unit, which O’Brien disbanded last month, was handling the ongoing investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis’s (R-CA) ties to a lobbying firm and earmarks its clients have received. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey for a detailed explanation as to why the unit was disbanded.