MainJustice.com was a website that published news about the U.S. Department of Justice. Concerned that some people would view it as a part of the government, the site informed visitors, “We are an independent news organization and not part of the government.”
Over the years, MainJustice.com covered a broad range of stories. One day you could read an article about the director of prison services facing drunk driving charges. The following day you could find a piece about a U.S. senator’s girlfriend applying for the U.S. Attorney General position in what others called “nepotism in Washington.”
Try to visit MainJustice.com today, and you will discover the website is no longer publishing.
What could have happened to the website that once promised readers “insider news about the U.S. Department of Justice”? We took some time to follow the website’s history and some of the famous controversies that it covered.
The History of MainJustice.com
MainJustice.com appears online for the first time in July 2009. The website was the brainchild of Mary Jacoby, who became its editor when it was established.
Before setting up Main Justice, Jacoby had worked as a reporter for several top media houses, including the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and the St Petersburg Times of Florida.
The Story Behind the Name
In an archived page of MainJustice.com, the creators of the website say that one of the questions they often received, “even in Washington,” was about their name.
So, the page tells the story behind the name: “Main Justice is the informal name for Justice Department headquarters in Washington. Just as the White House is synonymous with the president, Main Justice is short-hand for the Attorney General and his top prosecutors, lawyers and policy-makers.” Adding, “These are the people this site is about and for: The government lawyers who drive the nation’s justice system.”
Serving the Hungry for High-Stakes News
In an article published by NiemanLab.org, Laura McGann provides an idea of what Main Justice tried to do. The Nieman Lab is an organization run by the Nieman Foundation whose mission is “to promote and elevate the standards of journalism.”
McGann starts by saying that Washington is a perfect bastion for content produced by online niche publications. She adds that such content could “be produced with relatively low overhead and then sold to readers hungry for the high-stakes news.” It is McGann’s view that MainJustice.com was attempting to capitalize on this concept.
When MainJustice.com was established, the website’s owners promised readers “insider news” about the Justice Department. But was this a promise they were able to keep?
To get our answer, we looked at some of the articles the website produced.
Drunk Driving Prison Director Faces Prospect of Being a Prisoner
One of the controversies reported by MainJustice.com involved a former director of the Justice Department Bureau of Prisons, Harley Lapping.
In an article entitled Bureau of Prisons Director Faces Drunk Driving Charges, Ramonas reports that Lapping faced charges linked to “drunk driving… reckless driving, negligent driving, and failure to obey the instructions of a traffic-control device.”
Ramonas reports that Lapping offered a profuse apology for his behavior, saying, “It is with great humility that I offer my most sincere apology to each and every one of you for failing to lead by example.” Notwithstanding the apology, Lapping would be fined $90 for a separate case of speeding within the month of the first drunk driving incident.
We can’t find much information about how the drunk driving case played out in court.
One Night in Prison for $84 Million Corruption
Lisa Brennan produces another exciting piece published by MainJustice.com in the article titled In Stunning End to Kazakh Bribe Case, Judge Lauds Giffen As a ‘Patriot.’
The piece tells the story of a U.S. businessman, James Giffen. He was accused of paying bribes to the tune of $84 million, including to the then President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The businessman was also accused of providing inaccurate information in his tax return.
In the article, Brennan tells how the Department of Justice case unrevealed, with intelligence officials and prosecutors failing to share information related to Giffen’s dealings in Kazakhstan.
According to Brennan, the case ended with the judge praising Giffen and sentencing him to the one night he spent in detention when he was arrested in 2003.
Acting Attorney’s Son Attempts To Bug a Senator’s Office
In an article published by MainJustice.com on January 26, 2010, Ryan J. Reilly reports about Robert Flanagan, arrested for attempting to bug a senator’s office. Robert Flanagan is the son of the then-acting U.S. Attorney, William J. Flanagan.
Reilly reports that Robert Flanagan had worked for a Republican senator in the previous year.
An FBI press release states that Robert Flanagan and three others had entered the building where the Democratic Party Senator Mary Landrieu’s worked, pretending to be telephone repairmen. They then proceeded to fiddle with some phones in the building.
One of the individuals named in the article as an accomplice of Robert Flanagan, James O’Keefe, disputed the article’s contents, taking the issue to court in New Jersey.
Bruce Alpert, reporting for Nola.com, writes that O’Keefe accused Main Justice of publishing articles about him with inaccurate information. According to Alpert, O’Keefe stated that “the publication was sharply and politically opposed to plaintiff’s activities as a journalist.”
Alpert also reports that O’Keefe’s libel case was dismissed by a New Jersey Federal Judge who said that the First Amendment protected Main Justice. The judge ruled that the article “accurately portrayed plaintiff’s legal standing at the time of the article.”
It’s not clear what the verdict for Robert Flanagan and others was. Some suggestions were that they “faced up to to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.”
What Then Happened to MainJustice.com?
The three pieces above, and many others on the website, show that the publication indeed carried some insider news. But why did it stop publishing?
In a notice published by MainJustice.com in 2015, the site announces that “the free Main Justice site no longer publishes regularly.” This announcement followed the sale of some subscription assets run by Jacoby to Law Business Research Ltd. Law Business Research is a global resource for legal professionals.
Jacoby is quoted saying, “I’m very excited to be joining the dynamic and high-quality editorial operation at Law Business Research.”
There is no information regarding what eventually happened to MainJustice.com.