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Profile: Jay B. Stephens
Jay B. Stephens was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Justice Department starts an internal review of the Inslaw affair, but the content of the review will be disputed. The review follows a meeting at which Inslaw representatives made three requests (see March 13, 1985): that the department negotiate on a resolution of the disputes between it and Inslaw; that it consider a new proposal made by Inslaw for additional work; and that it investigate allegations of misconduct against departmental personnel. The review is ordered by Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen and performed by Deputy Associate Attorney General Jay Stephens.
Jensen's Version - According to Jensen, the review is to look at the bias allegations. He will say he recalls discussing the results of Stephens’ review, adding that, based on Stephens’ assessment of the allegations, no review by the Office of Professional Responsibility is merited.
Stephens' Version - However, Stephens will tell the House Judiciary Committee under oath that he does not undertake a review of the misconduct allegations, but only looks at Inslaw’s business proposal. The committee will point out that this is in “direct contradiction” of Jensen’s version. While examining the proposal, Stephens receives several telephone calls from Inslaw attorneys Charles Work and Elliot Richardson. He feels they are lobbying the department very hard because they believe Inslaw has what the committee will call “some special relationship” with the department. According to a report by the committee, Work and Richardson attempt to convey that, “based on a longstanding relationship between the department and Inslaw, the department should look favorably on Inslaw’s new business proposal.”
Outcome of Review - However, Stephens reports to Jensen that the need for Inslaw’s business proposal is questionable and the department thinks the work can be done in-house. Jensen then writes to Richardson, saying that the department does not have an immediate need for the work, and will not act on the proposal.
Comment by House Committee - The committee will comment, “Because the department did not adequately investigate Inslaw’s allegations, the company was forced into expensive, time-consuming litigation as the only means by which the department’s misappropriation of Inslaw’s enhanced PROMIS could be exposed.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
In an analysis of an Inslaw proposal for the resolution of the PROMIS dispute, the Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA), a Justice Department component, says that Inslaw has not made any proprietary enhancements to the software. “It appears [to the department] that there are no proprietary enhancements,” says the analysis sent by William P. Tyson, the EOUSA director, to Jay Stephens, the deputy associate attorney general. “All proposals received from Inslaw attempt to force the department into acknowledging Inslaw’s proprietary interest in the US attorneys’ version of PROMIS by offering a license agreement for software maintenance,” Tyson adds. According to the memo, accepting Inslaw’s proposal “would, in effect, ratify Inslaw’s claim that the software is proprietary; not only the micro-computer version which Inslaw proposes to develop, but also the Prime mini-computer version currently operational in 20 districts.” The Justice Department’s position means that it would have unlimited rights to the software. The House Judiciary Committee will later comment that the department “may have used its ‘unlimited rights’ posture as a pretextual basis for its national and international distribution of Enhanced PROMIS outside of the department.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Two days after sneaking classified documents out of the National Security Council (see November 25, 1986), Oliver North’s secretary, Fawn Hall, downplays the significance of the “shredding party” she and North engaged in days before, when they had worked to destroy evidence of North’s criminal activities surrounding the Iran-Contra affair (see November 21-23, 1986). When asked by Jay Stephens of the White House counsel’s office about reports of her and North shredding documents in North’s office, Hall replies as she has been coached to respond by North’s lawyer, Thomas Green. Hall later testifies, “I told him that we shred every day, and I led him to believe that there was nothing unusual about what had occurred.” [United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 12/13/2007]
Attorney General Janet Reno announces that all 93 US Attorneys must resign promptly, allowing the Clinton administration to appoint its own prosecutors for the positions. All 93 US Attorneys are Republicans appointed during the Reagan and Bush administrations, and US Attorneys are routinely replaced after a change in administrations, particularly when the incoming president is of a different party than the outgoing president. Jay B. Stephens, the US Attorney for the District of Columbia, suggests that the Clinton administration wants to derail his ongoing investigation of Representative Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), a key Clinton ally thought to be involved in political corruption. While stopping short of directly accusing Reno or President Clinton of desiring to interfere in the case, he says, “This case has been conducted with integrity, and I trust the decisions in this case will not be made based on political considerations.” If Stephens or his successor indicts Rostenkowski, the congressman would have to relinquish his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, costing Clinton a key political ally in that powerful body. Reno denies any connection between the Rostenkowski investigation and the firings. Stephens is being treated like the rest of the US Attorneys, she says, and she would consider allowing some to stay on if they were critically involved in ongoing investigations. All 93 US Attorneys knew they would be asked to leave office if Clinton won the election, and 16 have already resigned. Reno says she wants the resignations “so that the US Attorneys presently in position will know where they stand and that we can begin to build a team.” Some Clinton administration officials call Stephens’s veiled allegations “absurd,” and say that it is surprising it has taken this long to ask for the US Attorney resignations. [New York Times, 3/24/1993; Providence Journal, 3/24/1993] The Rostenkowski investigation will be pursued by Stephens’s successor, Eric Holder, and Rostenkowski will be found guilty of mail fraud and sentenced to jail. [Washington Post, 4/10/1996]
Bruce Fein, an associate attorney general under the Reagan administration, accuses the Clinton administration of “politicizing” the Justice Department by asking for all 93 sitting US Attorneys to resign (see March 24, 1993). All 93 US Attorneys are Republican political appointees, and many expected to be asked to leave when President Clinton won the election in November 1992. But Fein accuses Clinton of “accommodat[ing] Democratic spoils” by asking the Reagan and Bush appointees to leave, and says the resignations will stop the investigation of Representative Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and one of Clinton’s close allies in Congress. Fein accuses that the resignations are being carried out for “partisan political reasons,” though he cites no evidence to back this claim. “That genuflection to the Democratic Party undermines public confidence in the administration of justice, a consequence [Attorney General Janet] Reno was purported to deplore.… [M]aking allegiance to the Democratic Party the chief concern in selecting federal prosecutors creates, at a minimum, an appearance that justice will be skewed, not evenhanded.” Removing US Attorney Jay Stephens while his office is investigating Rostenkowski constitutes an “obvious political conflict of interest,” as, Fein says, a Democratic US Attorney can be expected to exonerate Rostenkowski. Moreover, Fein writes, “partisan Democrat” Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Congressional delegate from Washington, DC, will help select Stephens’s successor, and Norton, Fein says, “is thus likely to lobby for a US Attorney benignly disposed toward Rostenkowski.” [New York Times, 3/24/1993; San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/4/1993] The Rostenkowski investigation will be pursued by Stephens’s successor, Eric Holder, and Rostenkowski will be found guilty of mail fraud and sentenced to jail. [Washington Post, 4/10/1996]
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