As a practicing criminal defense attorney, a registered Democrat and a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, I have never before found myself aligned with Meese on any issue. Now, however, I find myself compelled to write in support of the viewpoint recently expressed by Meese concerning the conduct of independent counsel McKay.
If I understand Meese correctly, he contends it is improper for McKay, as a representative of the government, to publicly accuse Meese of specific criminal acts without affording Meese an opportunity to confront his accusers and a forum in which to vindicate himself. Indeed, Meese suggested the Justice Department would fire a prosecutor for doing what McKay had done. Meese seems to be saying that traditional notions of due process and fair play require the government to abstain from publicly branding someone a criminal unless formal charges are contemplated, thereby giving the accused a forum in which to present his defense.
I advanced the identical argument approximately 10 years ago on behalf of an individual who had been publicly branded an organized crime figure by a commission appointed by then California Atty. Gen. Evelle Younger. In that case, as in the case of Meese, no formal charges were contemplated. Ironically, the vice chairman of the commission which made the accusations was Edwin Meese III.