Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona

According to an announcement this morning from the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, U. S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke has resigned.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney.

We covered U.S. Attorney Burke and his goals for the office back in January 2010. (He also is a former member of the Arizona Attorney Magazine Editorial Board.)

The Arizona Republic reported on the resignation, noting that it follows on the heels of the recent “Fast & Furious” gun scandal, which has engulfed the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. Just today, other outlets reported that ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson had stepped down. The Washington Post reports he has been reassigned.

Republic columnist Laurie Roberts had one of the most intriguing—and quickest—commentaries on what she estimates occurred. (Though Arizona lawyer Faith Klepper has reminded me that lawyer Greg Patterson–who blogs as Espresso Pundit–predicted this back in June.)

Here is Dennis Burke’s resignation letter to President Obama (click to make it larger):

The full release is below. We’ll have more news on this as it become available.

Dennis K. Burke Resigns as U.S. Attorney for District of Arizona 

PHOENIX – Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, has delivered his letter of resignation to President Obama.

In an email to staff, Burke said:

“The work in every corner of this office – your work – has been significant and impressive.  When I first came to this office a decade ago as a line AUSA (Assistant United States Attorney), I knew this was an excellent office and did important work.”

Burke added, “My long tenure in public service has been intensely gratifying.  It has also been intensely demanding.  For me, it is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of my career and my life and allow the office to move ahead.

Burke was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona in 2009.  His resignation is effective immediately.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney, under the Vacancies Reform Act and by virtue of her position as First Assistant.  Burke added, “I thank Ann for agreeing to assume these responsibilities until the Attorney General or the President makes an interim or permanent appointment.”

RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-194(Burke)

Victor Riches, Arizona House Chief of Staff

Two stories percolating this week demonstrate solidarity in the face of adversity. Oddly enough, both come out of the Arizona Legislature.

I say “oddly” because recent actions from lawmakers demonstrate an almost unwavering support for a variety of themes: law and order, personal responsibility, a dislike for excuses. But those things fall away when it’s one of your own whose ox is being gored.

The first story is about the chief aide to the House Speaker. He was stopped for extreme DUI, and cocaine was even found in the car he was driving. But both Speaker Andy Tobin and former Speaker Kirk Adams stand by Victor Riches. They say they appreciate his “candor” about the 2010 incident.

Here is another story about the arrest. It quotes a criminal defense attorney who muses on the different type of treatment that differently situated defendants receive.

House Speaker Andy Tobin and former Speaker Kirk Adams

That follows on the heels of the Scott Bundgaard domestic-violence case. Laurie Roberts in the Republic writes about that again today.

As Roberts described it, the matter is “perhaps the longest misdemeanor investigation ever.” But how much more abbreviated it might have been if lawmakers decided not to throw their unwavering support behind the state senator.

Optimistic readers may hope this all signals a new openness among leaders to arguments that the facts underlying criminal charges are often complicated, and that no one should be demonized until they get their day in court.

A hopeful lot, they.

State Senator Scott Bundgaard

A controversial ad on the 14th Amendment that ran in Newsweek

Here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we are accustomed to reading well-cited material. In fact, you could argue that some of our articles are, shall we say, excessive in the endnotes department. (Authors: You know who you are.)

So used to it am I that I am occasionally stunned by the lack of documentation in news articles. How often do we get to the end of a newspaper story with more questions than when we started? And it’s even more annoying when the supporting information could have been obtained without much work on the reporter’s part.

That’s why Laurie Roberts’ column in today’s Arizona Republic is refreshing.

As some Arizona legislators head to Washington to protest the 14th Amendment, Roberts takes the opportunity to give her opinion (which is her job) and to shed some light (which is part of her job but too often ignored by reporters).

How does she do that? By going back to some original material. In so doing, she goes further than just adding her two cents to the debate over whether children born in this country to undocumented parents should be American citizens (she says they should be). But she adds some actual language spoken by a senator in 1866 on the topic.

Anchor Baby by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Amazing how little it takes to impress me, eh?

But so trifling has news coverage become that my heart races when I am given some actual evidence, or data, which my mind can then assess for itself.

She concludes her column with an insight into the so-called anchor baby debate—a vision of an America with two classes of citizens.

“Consider, for a moment, that the … proposal would give us a permanent underclass of people who can never become citizens. Generation after generation of people who have no allegiance to this country and no stake in what happens here. People who are told to go back to where they came from, even when where they came from is … here.”

Among the opinionated and loud debates over the topic, I must say that her question is intriguing. (The comments that follow her column online do not whole-heartedly agree with my “intriguing” compliment.) As we move into 2011 with a debate about a 19th-century amendment, let’s hope for more evidence to bring to bear.

Read her complete column here.