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News briefs: June 24

Jun. 23, 2013 - 03:01PM   |  
By Staff reports   |   Comments

Hiring practice may get airing in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will likely announce June 24 whether it will hear the appeal of a disabled Navy veteran who alleges he was unfairly denied a federal civilian job.

In a lawsuit, Robert Donaldson alleges that the Coast Guard canceled a job opening to avoid giving him the position of marine transportation specialist, even though he was at the top of the list of eligible candidates. Last October, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the Coast Guard, saying the record showed Donaldson lacked the experience needed to do the job.

Kevin Russell, a Washington lawyer representing Donaldson for free, knew of no previous attempt to take a case involving similar veterans’ hiring preference rights to the high court.

While the court accepts only a tiny fraction of appeals, the case represents a widespread practice among agencies that should not be allowed to continue, Russell said.

Obama to nominate Comey as FBI director

President Obama at press time last week was expected to nominate James Comey, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, to be his next FBI director.

According to a White House official, the president picked Comey because of his two decades as a prosecutor and national security professional, and praised his track record for “unwavering toughness.”

If confirmed, Comey will replace outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Comey, who previously served as deputy attorney general and supervised operations for the Justice Department, was a key player in one of the most dramatic moments of the Bush administration. In 2004, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew Card tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft — who was ill with acute pancreatitis — to reauthorize a warrantless eavesdropping program while in his hospital bed.

Comey learned of Gonzales and Card’s plan and rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital room, along with Mueller. Both threatened to resign if the White House renewed the program. As a result, it was not reauthorized.

After stepping down at Justice in 2005, Comey went to work for the defense contractor Lockheed Martin as senior vice president and general counsel. In June 2010, he left to take a job at Bridgewater Associates, a Westport, Conn., hedge fund that manages $150 billion in global investments.

He left Bridgewater recently, but agreed this year to serve as a nonexecutive director to British banking behemoth HSBC’s financial systems at a particularly sensitive time for the bank. HSBC agreed in December to pay $1.9 billion to settle U.S. government charges of widespread money laundering.

Comey was one of five former U.S. and British government officials appointed to a panel the bank set up to combat financial crime in the aftermath of the settlement.

CBP workforce spared furloughs

None of Customs and Border Protection’s 60,000 employees will face sequester-related furloughs for the rest of fiscal 2013 after Congress agreed to move money around within its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, according to a message last week from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

CBP will also be able to continue the use of administratively uncontrollable overtime (AUO), an important source of income for Border Patrol agents, while maintaining a limited hiring freeze, cutting back on cash awards and reducing spending on travel and conferences, Napolitano said.

CBP had originally planned to eliminate AUO and furlough workers for up to 14 days by the end of September.

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