Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara recently got smacked down by a New York judge for a press release that the judge considered to be a little over the top.
And in what will come as no surprise to anyone with a glancing familiarity with Sen. Chuck Schumer’s reputation for being media-friendly (and that’s an understatement), Bharara is a former chief counsel to the New York Democrat.
Sounds like somebody took a a page from his old boss’s playbook.
The dressing-down came during a panel discussion at a law conference earlier this month, when U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan chided Bharara for employing some rather purple prose in touting the federal corruption charges his office brought against a New York State senator and New York City Council member.
First, Sullivan read aloud the offending passage in a “mocking tone,” according to an account of the panel discussion by Law360 (subscription required): “‘Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government. The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself.”‘
Zippy stuff, to be sure. Schumer, a known soundbite aficionado, would be proud. But Sullivan was less than impressed. His verdict? “That sounds like the theme from Mighty Mouse.”
Bharara wasn’t on the panel to answer the criticism, so Richard Zabel, deputy U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, came to his hyperbolic colleague’s defense — as any good attorney might. He noted that federal government attorneys are under orders to use press releases “to explain to the public what’s going on” (well, that’s part of their mission).
“The purpose of a quote is to be quoted and draw attention to the case,” Zabel said.
That’s true. And it seems that Bharara was successful on that score. The quote got picked up in plenty of media outlets.
So it appears that Bharara’s channeling of Schumer’s credo is correct: Modesty is for the unquoted.