Lawyers learn early that if they are in danger of losing a case, their best strategy is to delay it. With the help of a friendly judge, that seems to be the Obama administration’s strategy in the case of fired AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin. It is past time for the case to move forward.
Mr. Walpin was fired in June after releasing two reports critical of close allies of President Obama’s. As a senator, Mr. Obama was a leading co-sponsor of a 2008 law requiring that inspectors general receive 30 days’ notice before being fired and that Congress receive a formal justification for any dismissal. As president, Mr. Obama gave Mr. Walpin no notice and offered Congress no reason for the firing other than a vague claim that he didn’t have “the fullest confidence” in Mr. Walpin.
Mr. Walpin originally filed suit in July demanding reinstatement to his job. The suit still languishes, seven months later, without the benefit of a single preliminary hearing. First the Obama administration asked for an extension of the ordinary time period to respond to the suit. Then, rather than addressing the merits of the case, the administration made a motion to dismiss without a hearing or trial. Mr. Walpin countermoved on Dec. 16 for summary judgment in his favor. One week later, the administration filed another motion to delay. Briefs went back and forth on that motion for another month, but Federal District Judge Richard W. Roberts has ruled on nothing.
Finally, noting that a scheduling hearing should by law be held no later than 90 days after the defense’s first “notice of appearance” and that 90 days expired on Dec. 15, Mr. Walpin on Feb. 3 filed a motion demanding a scheduling conference. Still no answer from the judge. However, on Friday, the administration moved to block all legal discovery on the numerous outstanding motions. Through all these delays, the Obama administration wards off the day when Mr. Walpin can use the legal discovery process to unearth documents or other evidence that might embarrass the White House.
Everything thus far calls attention to dirty tricks by the Obama team. The administration cited an ethical complaint against Mr. Walpin of which he was fully exonerated and suggested that the fired IG was losing mental capacity, which he quite clearly is not. Meanwhile, several of Mr. Walpin’s major contentions against Obama allies have been shown to have real substance.
This scandal is about the role of inspectors general to be independent watchdogs on behalf of the public. By firing Mr. Walpin without cause, Mr. Obama undermined the whole system of inspectors general and thus the ideal of honest governance.