Mary Gets Quite Contrary


Mary Beth Buchanan, who makes a strong case for the title of worst U.S. attorney in the country, says she won't abide by the customary practice of all U.S. attorneys submitting their resignations with the swearing in of a new administration.

"It doesn't serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time," she said yesterday.

U.S. attorneys serve at the discretion of the president and may be hired and fired at will, although their appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. When a new president is elected, U.S. attorneys of both parties generally tender their resignations.

Instead, the Republican said she plans to continue her work in the Western District of Pennsylvania. More than that, she said she would consider working in the Obama administration. She would not discuss what her future might hold beyond the U.S. attorney's office.

"I am open to considering further service to the United States," Ms. Buchanan said.

It was Buchanan, you might remember, who prosecuted Tommy Chong for selling glass-blown bongs over the Internet.  Soon after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that fighting porn would be a priority during his tenure, Buchanan brought the first federal obscenity case in 20 years, against porn producer Extreme Associates.  She also prosecuted Karen Fletcher, believed to be the first person convicted on federal obscenity charges for distributing written material. Despite an embarassing defeat in court, Buchanan is also still pursuing charges against Pennsylvania medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht, a case so reeking in political opportunism that former Bush 41 Attorney General Dick Thornburgh agreed to represent Wecht, and has since publicly accused Buchanan of using her office for baseless, partisan prosecutions of Democrats.

I've written pretty extensively of what I think is one of Buchanan's most outrageous cases.  It's her prosecution of Dr. Bernard Rottschaefer, a Pennsylvania physician Buchanan put in prison for allegedly writing Oxy prescriptions in exchange for sex.  Since Rottschaeffer's conviction, Buchanan's case has fallen to pieces, as each of the five witnesses who testified to getting illegal prescriptions from Rottschaeffer have since been shown to have lied.  Buchanan refuses to reopen the case.  She also refuses to pursue perjury charges against her star witness, Jennifer Riggle, who explicitly conceded in letters to her boyfriend that she lied on the witness stand.

Buchanan has made no secret of her ambition for elected office.  During her tenure as a federal prosecutor she has actively sought out high-profile, often dubious cases to win favor with her superiors in the Bush administration.  It's mostly worked.  She's been promoted twice.  But it also makes it extremely unlikely she'd have a place in an Obama administration.

Buchanan isn't delusional.  She's calculating.  My guess is that this is a stunt to force Obama to fire her, at which point she'll make a public stink, play the martyr, then attempt to parlay the resulting controversy into a run for the Senate, or perhaps for governor of Pennsylvania.