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October 22, 2009

Trouble in paradise among the AUSAs?

Puerto Rico sounds like a cool place. Great beaches. Plenty of rum. Beautiful people.

And don't forget: conflict and tension with the U.S. attorney's office.

On Wednesday, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan E. Milanes had a lawsuit he filed against the Justice Department transferred from Washington, D.C. to Puerto Rico. The decision to transfer the suit, made by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, was a set-back for Mr. Milanes. Still, his suit continues -- and, in the way these things work, it still sheds light on what he says was going on in his old office.

Milanes was assigned to narcotics, supervised by a Ms. Jeanette Mercado.  As Judge Kessler summed it up:

"(Milanes) alleges that Mercado created a hostile work environment. When Plaintiff complained about his work environment, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, allegedly retaliated by denying Plaintiff’s children the benefit of having the Department pay for them to attend an English language school in Puerto Rico, while still giving that benefit to her friends in a 'Girls Club' at the office."

The alleged 'Girls Club' was, presumably, an informal kind of deal.

In any event, Milanes further claims Mercado retaliated against him by assigning him the oldest and weakest narcotics cases, threatened him with disciplinary action, attempted to sabotage his trial work and blocked him from taking a sweet overseas assignment.

Judge Kessler, noting that Milanes originally filed the suit in Puerto Rico, granted the Justice Department's request to transfer the case back to the island.


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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