U.S. Senate Approves Mukasey as AG

Anne Winter
WASHINGTON — Michael Mukasey, a staunch but independently minded conservative, has been confirmed by a 53-40 U.S. Senate vote as attorney general.

After the Senate confirmation, President Bush said that Mukasey will lead the Justice Department to protect American citizens from criminals and terrorists, an agenda that reportedly appears to be taking priority over fighting obscenity.

When Bush first nominated Mukasey in September to replace former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, he acknowledged that choosing him had much to do with the former New York judge's objective antiterrorism focus.

"Judge Mukasey is clear-eyed about the threat our nation faces," Bush said. "He knows what it takes to fight this war effectively and he knows how to do it in a manner consistent with our laws and our Constitution."

However, during his confirmation hearings, Mukasey said that if he were confirmed, he would reevaluate the Justice Department's obscenity law enforcement strategy.

Following a statement made by Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, regarding the government's "terrible record enforcing adult obscenity law," and that “pornography and obscenity consumption harms individuals, families [and] communities,” Mukasey agreed and said that he recognizes that adult materials can have a negative effect on society and promised to review the Justice Department's obscenity prosecution policy.

Despite this statement, adult industry attorneys say they are not worried about a potential shift in obscenity prosecution.

“Frankly, that concerns me not one little bit,” Free Speech Coalition chairman Jeffrey Douglas told XBIZ. “For any candidate looking to fill that position [of attorney general], this would be a typical response. Janet Reno might have said something very similar — it doesn’t mean that they have any intention of actually changing their prosecutorial strategy.”

Mukasey served in one of the country's busiest New York City courts and presided over several significant terrorism trials, including the 2002 prosecution of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, convicted of lending support to al Queda.

The Bush administration refused Padilla of legal representation, but Mukasey challenged Bush's authority and ruled Padilla had the right to attorney.

This is a good sign, Democrats and adult industry attorneys say, because it shows Mukasey is willing to recognize the rule of law even when it goes against the Republican administration.

"I think his credentials are pretty clear about indicating what the executive is looking for in an [attorney general]," adult industry lawyer Robert Apgood told XBIZ. "The fact that the guy has done terrorist cases in the last 10 years prior to his retirement says a lot about what the president's office thinks is important in an attorney general and where the priorities are."

Adult industry lawyer Lawrence Walters told XBIZ that though he's found no information about Mukasey with regard to adult, he has ruled in favor of the 1st Amendment in several cases, including U.S. vs. Carlin Communications in 1987.

"It shows [Bush] is becoming weaker and weaker as a president as time goes on," Walters said. "He can't push through these right-wing ideologue candidates any longer, so he had to find someone that, while they're conservative, was certainly qualified but will follow the rule of law when required."

Attorney Robert Apgood told XBIZ that it may not cross Mukasey's mind to go after the adult industry and that it's not likely it ever will.

"I've talked to some guys in the FBI and they're not really interested in 2257 in the least," Apgood said. "I think Mukasey's more interested in terrorism and things like that than he is [in] chasing adult entertainment."