[JURIST] US District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Thursday rejected [opinion, PDF] a motion to dismiss [PDF text] criminal charges against former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [defense profile; JURIST news archive] in connection with the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Libby had asked that the case be dismissed [JURIST report] because Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] was improperly appointed to head the CIA leak investigation [JURIST news archive], arguing that Fitzgerald's appointment should have been approved by Congress and that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should have supervised the investigation.
In his opinion, Walton wrote:
The integrity of the rule of law, which is a core ingredient of the American system of government, is challenged to the greatest degree when high-level government officials come under suspicion for violating the law. And a criminal investigation of any individual, prominent or not, for suspected violations of law must be above reproach to preserve respect for the fairness of our system of justice. There must therefore be a process by which the perception of fairness withstands the scrutiny of the American public when prosecution authority is called upon to investigate public officials. Creating that perception of fairness obviously starts with those who are charged with the responsibility of conducting the investigations. For obvious reasons, the Attorney General recused himself in this case and the Deputy Attorney General concluded that someone removed from the hierarchy of the Department of Justice should investigate individuals holding some of the country's highest executive branch offices. Obviously, the process for selecting who would investigate the underling allegations in this case must comport with the law. For all the reasons set forth above, this Court concludes that the delegation of authority to Special Counsel Fitzgerald violated neither 28 U.S.C. §§ 516 and 519 nor the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. Accordingly, the defendants motion to dismiss is denied.Libby faces obstruction of justice and perjury charges [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] in connection with the investigation into the leak of Plame's identity. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges last November. AP has more.