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U.S. attorney in Florida was on termination list

Greg Miller, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida and former assistant U.S. attorney in Tampa, said the news shocked him.

By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published May 23, 2007


In November, U.S. Attorney Greg Miller flew from his home in Tallahassee to Washington to accept a prestigious award from the U.S. Justice Department.

A few days later, his name appeared on a list with eight other U.S. attorneys who were candidates to be fired, according to documents obtained by the Washington Post.

The documents showed 26 prosecutors were considered for termination, contradicting testimony by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who said no more than eight were targeted.

Miller, 53, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, said he was shocked by the news.

"I have never been asked to resign," he said. "Nor have I ever been told by anyone at the Department of Justice that my performance was lacking or that I was being considered for termination."

On Feb. 24, 2005, the day Miller's name first appeared on a list of attorneys to be fired, he was in Alexandria, Va., leading a training seminar at the request of the director of the Executive Order of U.S. Attorneys, he said.

Miller's name popped up again on a Sept. 13 memo the attorney general's chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, sent to the White House recommending the termination of nine prosecutors.

Just nine days earlier, Miller said he received a letter notifying him he had won an award for superior performance in public service.

Miller was appointed as U.S. attorney in 2002. He became a prosecutor in 1983, working as an assistant state attorney in Pasco and Pinellas counties. Miller also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Tampa and Tallahassee.

Miller said he doesn't know of any reason he would have been dismissed.

"We had no ongoing investigation of government corruption," he said. "We always have sensitive investigations, and we never know when someone is upset."

The number of names on the Justice Department lists raises new questions about how many prosecutors were actually considered for dismissal. Critics also say the fact that many of the attorneys never knew their jobs were in jeopardy suggests the current administration approached the termination of the country's top prosecutors in a casual manner.

Charles Rose, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, said the current administration's treatment of U.S. attorneys is unprecedented.

"They serve at the pleasure of the president, who can fire them at any time. But it has never happened for political reasons," Rose said. "It's never happened in the middle of an election cycle."

Rose said the recent testimony of Justice Department officials before Congress shows an agency run amok, where politics trumped the rule of law.

"If they are not allowed to act with autonomy, there's no government structure to keep the executive branch in check," Rose said. "That is the definition of an abuse of power."

Hearings are scheduled to continue today before the House Judiciary Committee with testimony from Monica Goodling, the former counsel for Gonzales.

Times staff writer Lucy Morgan contributed to this report. Carrie Weimar can be reached at cweimar@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3416.