Whitehouse.gov petition to remove US Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz

I don't think the "We the People" petitions at Whitehouse.gov have an effect on what the Obama administration decides to do, but I signed this one anyway:

Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz

It is too late to do anything for Aaron Swartz, but the who used the powers granted to them by their office to hound him into a position where he was facing a ruinous trial, life in prison and the ignominy and shame of being a convicted felon; for an alleged crime that the supposed victims did not wish to prosecute.

A prosecutor who does not understand proportionality and who regularly uses the threat of unjust and overreaching charges to extort plea bargains from defendants regardless of their guilt is a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path.


  1. If nothing else, it might discourage other overzealous prosecutors who are considering entering politics.  There are plenty of wealthy people in tech who identify or at least sympathize with Aaron who would be willing to fund alternative candidates.  If Ortiz entertained any notions of running for governor, she should know better now.

  2. The problem goes beyond Carmen Ortiz. Far too many lawyers take prosecutor jobs in the hope of moving on to something else they want, and then they aim to score scalps. Particularly when they want to run for office. I’m thinking of another person known to the Boingboing editors who was treated this way (and who, thank God and/or FSM) is very much with us and thriving today. 

      1. Much as I share your indignation, I can’t concur that Wall Street is a low hanging fruit. The manpower required to prepare indictments for those creeps is huge. They made sure of it. 

        1. Well, maybe for the financial crimes, but how about for laundering money for drug cartels?  That ought to be a slam dunk, given the extra-ordinary resources available to prosecute the War on Drugs:


          I mean, I realize that, sure they can hire great lawyers, but when the government seizes the proceeds of drug profits they don’t even have a trial first normally.

          1. “Well, maybe for the financial crimes, but how about for laundering money for drug cartels? ”

            Any indictments for this stuff involve doing transaction-by-transaction audits of the relevant accounts. And the audit has to be done by lawyers. Financial firms defend themselves using the same trick that prosecutors use to overwhelm small fry defendants: present the other side with truckloads of paper that they will have to examine.

            Compare with Swartz’s case. His indictment was over the top and mendacious, but it took no effort to put together. 

            Now if you want the DOJ’s budget and hiring to be changed to make financial policing feasible more often, you have my support. 

          2. Seeing what they are doing with the resources they have now in this case does not make me feel they need more resources to help them do more of it.

  3. Signed. I wish the creator had taken a minute to make sure his first sentence was coherent, though. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

  4. Signed as well.

    The Swartz case is anything but an isolated example. Ms. Ortiz has built quite the resume for herself and her minions by racking up draconian punishments this way.  The Federal prosecution system around Boston has degenerated to a hideous level that would make Inspector Jaevert right at home. 

    It’s certainly not about justice and fairness anymore.  It’s abut career advancement for opportunistic, self-promoting prosecutors who game the system. 

    More evil than the offenses it claims to deter.

      1. EH:
        Whether psychology is a hard science is a matter of some debate.

        Psychology is not a science at this time.  It is a field of study.

    1. Serious pressure on the local US Attorney – and serious pressure is mounting – usually will have a trickle-down effect to the responsible line prosecutor(s).  A separate petition should be redundant.

  5. I’d like to see a petition on whitehouse.gov that forces the Obama administration to actually respond to petitions made on petitions.whitehouse.gov 

    1. There already was one! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/were-listening-seriously

      … whether it worked or not: questionable.

  6. I don’t understand why anyone bothers with these white house petitions. At best, you’re going to a response from the white house explaining why they’re not going to do what you want them to do. Has there ever been a case of one of these petitions leading to an actual policy change?

    1. I don’t understand why anyone bothers with these white house petitions.

      They make international news. It’s not the petitions that effect change; it’s the embarrassing editorials across the developed world.

      1. I think people do sincerely believe that Slactivism gets results though, which is infuriating. I suppose the PR is useful, but never seems to shame a shameless government.

    2.  Because from their point of view, anyone who does not speak out approves.  It’s the same thing as not voting – if you can’t be bothered to complain they don’t have to care about you, at all.  It’s how they think, and it’s pretty practical.

      Ever notice how the more votes the Libertarians got, the more laissez-faire the mainstream candidates got?  And the Libs never even got 15% of the vote!

      If 10% of the electorate voted Green it would change the platform of every major party candidate in the country.

      1. “Because from their point of view, anyone who does not speak out approves.”

        What does it matter if they don’t give a shit about the people who speak out either?

    3. Team Obama understand data.  They thrive on it.  It was key to their winning the 2012 election.  Whitehouse.gov petitions are an extension of that.  They’ve deliberately created a data source.  Of course they’re keeping an eye on it.

      Will Obama act on it?  In this case “enough signatures” would be a whole lot (1,000,000+ I’d guess). 

      How many signatures would it take to piss of the prosecutor?  A lot less.  100,000 maybe.  Maybe less.  It helps put this issue on his permanent record.  Make it part of every job interview he has.  If he teaches, make it something his student’s call him on. 

      And it gives a chance for people to register that there’s a larger systemic issue here.  That may well percolate through the justice system and result in discussions and changes we can’t anticipate.  There is some luck involved here.

      Bottom line – It takes under two minutes and can only help.

  7.  No policy change will happen here, but Ortiz’s political career (she has her eye on the Massachusetts Governorship) could have a rough time if her primary opponents point out over 25,000 people signed a petition to remove her from office for grandstanding over-prosecution. 

    We don’t often get a chance to stop a Greg Stillson before they get started; this might be one such time.

    1. Any politician worth his or her salt would spin this to show how they stood their ground against an extremist groundswell. Expect to see “Vote Ortiz for President” stickers in the coming years.

  8. This prosecutor wants a political future. The petition thwarts, or at least increases the degree of difficulty, in ways that are not easily measurable. If nothing else it gives his/her opponents something to talk about. It costs nothing and may do something and it went over the top in less than a day. The dopes that run the country do pay some attention to proletariats screaming.

  9. Does Carmen Ortiz need to be reappointed for Obama’s second term? If so, then this petition could show him that she is a political liability. The timing of this petition might be perfect for this. And chances are that she has previously made political enemies, so this might give Senators the justification they need to hold up a reappointment.

    Edit: After a little checking it appears that her term started in 2009, so she will be up for rea

    Edit 2: Ugh! It appears that one of the PATRIOT Act renewals allowed for indefinite appointments of US Attorneys. It used to be 4 years, plus 120 days otherwise a District Court would appoint a temporary US Attorney. Now a US Attorney can serve until replaced. So the only way Ortiz can be removed is through being fired by the President, resigning, appointing a new US Attorney at the end of her term (which I think ends in November), or impeachment and trial in the Senate. So most of the pressure needs to be on Obama.

  10. The petition reached the required number of signatures in less than three days. I bet that’s a big spike in stats, which should be enough to get a pondered response. I don’t expect Obama to fire Ortiz, but her political future will be seriously undermined, especially if people around Boston can make a bit of noise at her public appearances. Somebody on G+ was drawing comparison with Susan Gaertner in Minnesota, whose political future was killed by her aggressive stance on the “RNC 8” case, which discredited her with left-leaning voters. 

  11. Firing these two is just a start. JSTOR and PACER should be nationalized. Science and the law belong to everyone. These institutions had a time and purpose but that day is done.

  12. If only Andrew Breitbart were still around to post an out-of-context quote from her.  THEN the Obama Administration would fire her, no questions asked.

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