Early Tuesday morning, the petition to the U.S. Administration to fire Carmen Ortiz reached the prerequisite 25,000 signatures. Carmen Ortiz was the prosecutor that drove the prosecution against Aaron Swartz, which many mean contributed or led to his tragic suicide. The U.S. Administration, by its own rules, must now take the petition seriously and respond to it.
The United States Administration has a means for citizens to directly petition them – 25,000 citizens need to sign a petition for the administration to act on it. Acting on it doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing and complying, but it does mean that every petition that reaches this goal is taken seriously enough to respond to it – in action, words, or both.
Early Tuesday morning, a petition to fire Carmen Ortiz reached the prerequisite 25,000 signatures – as of this writing, it stands at 28,157 signatures. Carmen Ortiz was the prosecutor that led the draconian case against Aaron Swartz, who was generally regarded as a prodigy fighting for civil liberties and net liberty. The petition states that prosecutor Ortiz’ overreaching, draconian, and disproportionate prosecution is a danger to life and liberty:
A prosecutor who does not understand proportionality and who regularly uses the threat of unjust and overreaching charges to extort plea bargains from defendants regardless of their guilt is a danger to the life and liberty of anyone who might cross her path.
It remains to be seen whether the administration will act on the petition, but we can’t recall a previous successful petition being directly aimed at a named official in this manner, which does require a bit of afterthought.
Further, it’s arguable that if the U.S. Administration doesn’t react on what has happened and lets the actions of the prosecutor’s office go unsanctioned, it sends a strong message that might makes right. That will eventually lead to vigilante retaliation – and we’d be surprised if several branches of Anonymous haven’t already gone to town trying to dig up anything they can get on Cortiz, to strike back with any kind of skeleton previously hidden deep in closets.
Overall, there is a feeling that Aaron Swartz’ death has to mark the beginning of a change. This petition could be a ticket and an opportunity for the administration to begin such a change, if nothing else, just by firing an overreaching prosecutor. That would be a symbolic action that would still send a message, albeit a weak one, but it would go a long way for many. In contrast, a nonaction from the administration would be a signal that vigilante justice is the only remaining option, which would be unfortunate on many levels.
There is also an ongoing petition to fire assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann, also connected with the events that led to the tragic suicide of prodigy Aaron Swartz. That petition has yet to reach its goal.