LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If you knew Tim Griffin only by what you’d read about him in the press of late, here’s how you might describe the new U.S. attorney from Arkansas:
Political hack. Hatchet man for the Republicans. Legal degree no doubt from Shyster Sam’s Law Schools R Us. Shoe-shiner for Karl Rove. Wholly unqualified for any post higher than, well, shoe-shiner for Karl Rove. Torpedoed the career of one of the Most Distinguished Lawyers in Arkansas — no, the world — as a reward for, well, shining Karl Rove’s shoes.
The final blow: Having been a major player in the Great U.S. Attorneys Purge and having raised the suspicious ire of nice-guy Mark Pryor, Arkansas’ junior U.S. senator and leading Griffin opponent, Griffin must be Evil Incarnate. End of story. Start of caricature.p>The other day, in an Editorial Observer column for the New York Times headlined “Why Have So Many U.S. Attorneys Been Fired? It Looks a Lot Like Politics,” Adam Cohen took aim at Mr. Griffin, who replaced his former boss as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Wrote Cohen: br> /p>
The firing of H. E. Cummins III is raising…questions. Mr. Cummins, one of the most distinguished lawyers in Arkansas, is respected by Republicans and Democrats alike. But he was forced out to make room for J. Timothy Griffin, a former Karl Rove deputy with thin legal experience who did opposition research for the Republican National Committee….An obvious question is whether the administration was more interested in his successor’s skills in opposition political research — let’s not forget that Arkansas has been lucrative fodder for Republicans in the past — in time for the 2008 election.br> Given his recent press — nearly all of it bad — you might suspect that J. Timothy Griffin of Magnolia, Ark., also had three heads to go with his obligatory horns, tail and pitchfork.
Luckily, lots of Arkansans know the real Tim Griffin, a fifth-generation Arkie, politico and lawyer who has a reputation for being aggressive, smart, and loyal. But just who is that H. E. Cummins III fellow? Oh, Cohen must mean Bud Cummins. He’s a swell guy who seemed to do fine as a U.S. attorney, but probably not even ol’ Bud would describe himself as “one of the most distinguished lawyers in Arkansas.” At least not with a straight face.
Cummins ran for Congress in the '90s, then served briefly in the Arkansas governor’s office as legal counsel before being appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Nobody complained about ol’ Bud’s legal experience.
NOW LET’S LOOK CLOSER at Griffin’s “thin legal experience,” shall we? First off, Griffin is a cum laude graduate of Tulane’s law school in New Orleans and is a member of both the Arkansas and Louisiana bars. He studied at Pembroke College in Oxford, England, and received his undergraduate degree in economics (again cum laude) at one of Arkansas’ finest private institutions, Hendrix College. (Locally famous, irony of ironies, as a liberal enclave.) Second off, he’s spent 10 years as an officer in the Army Reserve, during which time Major Griffin of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps served as a prosecutor at Fort Campbell, Ky. You may remember the notorious case about the private who tried to murder his platoon sergeant. Major Griffin prosecuted it — and 40 other criminal cases.
This also isn’t his first stint in the U.S. attorney’s office in Arkansas. He previously served as a special assistant in that office, under Distinguished Counselor Cummins, and handled drug and firearm cases. He organized a state-federal effort to reduce gun violence, an exercise styled Project Safe Neighborhoods. Assessing this “thin legal experience,” an editorialist in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote of Griffin: “For a partisan appointee, Tim Griffin makes a pretty nonpartisan law-and-order guy.”
Indeed, Adam Cohen’s favorite lawyer, Bud Cummins — excuse me, H. E. Cummins III — once called Griffin his “right hand” in the U.S. attorney’s office. But the most impressive endorsement of all comes from Griffin’s superior officers. Consider this from his Officer Evaluation Report in 2005, before he was promoted from captain to major: “[Captain] Griffin is an extraordinary soldier and attorney…. In addition to his outstanding management and leadership skills, [Captain] Griffin’s reputation for cogent and precise legal analysis, writing and advocacy is outstanding.” — Lieutenant Colonel Scott Romans.
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H/T to National Review Online