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Benjamin Civiletti: Wikis

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Benjamin Civiletti


In office
1979 – 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Griffin Bell
Succeeded by William French Smith

Born July 17, 1935 (1935-07-17) (age 74)
Peekskill, New York, United States
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Johns Hopkins University
University of Maryland Law School
Religion Roman Catholic

Benjamin Richard Civiletti (born July 17, 1935, in Peekskill, New York) served as the United States Attorney General during the last year and a half of the Carter administration, from 1979 to 1981. He is now a senior partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Venable LLP, specializing in commercial litigation and internal investigations, and in 2005 became the first U.S. lawyer to charge $1000 an hour. He is also currently one of the three members of the Independent Review board. The IRB is the board that the Teamsters Union must answer to when allegations of corruption and mafia infiltration surface.

Civiletti was educated at Johns Hopkins University, where he received a bachelor's degree in psychology, and at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was awarded a Juris Doctor (J.D.) in 1961.

Civiletti was serving as the Deputy Attorney General when his boss Griffin B. Bell resigned. He was elevated to the top job in the Justice Department on July 19, 1979. Although Bell was not involved in the shake-up and resigned voluntarily, it occurred during a major Cabinet shakeup in the Carter administration. On the same day, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. and Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal also resigned. Transportation Secretary Brock Adams soon followed.

Civiletti had come to Bell's attention when he was forming the Justice Department for the newly elected President by Carter's close confidant, Charles Kirbo, a law partner of Bell's who had once been involved in a case with Civiletti. Civletti served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division and was elevated to Deputy Attorney General after the resignation of Carter's initial Deputy Attorney General, former Pittsburgh Mayor Peter Flaherty.

Following the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Civiletti served on a secret tribunal that did not receive public participation or oversight, to determine whether or not Metalclad, a US corporation, could demand compensation for a hazardous waste landfill that the Mexican government had blocked from operating. Civiletti ultimately co-signed a decision to award damages to Metalclad in the amount of $16,685,000 USD. Funding for such compensation is achieved through tax dollars.

As Attorney General Civiletti argued several important cases on behalf of the U.S. government. Notably, he argued before the International Court of Justice on behalf of Americans being held captive in Iran during the Iran Hostage Crisis. He also argued before the US Supreme Court in support of the government's right to denaturalize Nazi war criminals.

Legal offices
Preceded by
Peter F. Flaherty
United States Deputy Attorney General
1978–1979
Succeeded by
Charles B. Renfrew
Preceded by
Griffin B. Bell
United States Attorney General
Served under: Jimmy Carter

1979–1981
Succeeded by
William French Smith
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