With House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wi.) facing criticism and ethics questions for pressuring a federal court to increase a defendant’s sentence, a congressional aide tied to the controversy has been fired, the Chicago Tribune reports. Jay Apperson, chief counsel of a subcommittee, was the staffer who brought the case to Sensenbrenner’s attention, and he has publicly defended Sensenbrenner’s unusual intervention.
Apperson suddenly left the subcommittee last week. A Capitol Hill official familiar with the matter said Apperson’s departure “had everything to do” with his role in the controversy, in which Sensenbrenner directly wrote the chief judge of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to demand an increased sentence for a drug courier. House rules prohibit communicating privately with judges on legal matters. In addition, general rules of litigation prohibit contacting judges on a case without notifying all parties, which Sensenbrenner did not do. The American Judicature Society, a non-partisan group, criticized Sensenbrenner for “attempting to bully federal judges.”