Sharon Y. Eubanks was the attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice who headed up the team that prosecuted the U.S. government's massive, 1999 case against the major cigarette manufacturers.
For 25 years, Eubanks served as an attorney representing the people of the United States. She spent three years litigating antitrust cases at the Federal Trade Commission and 22 years at the U.S. Department of Justice. From 2000 to 2005 she served as lead counsel for the United States in the largest civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) enforcement action ever filed, United States v. Philip Morris, et al., the federal tobacco litigation. Following a nine-month trial, the federal district court found that the defendant tobacco companies committed fraud and were engaged in numerous racketeering activities in violation of federal law. In October 2007, Eubanks joined the Washington, D.C. law firm of Holland & Knight, providing legal services to the poor who otherwise would not have legal representation. She works on prison litigation reform issues and representing detained children who are denied basic constitutional and civil rights during their imprisonment.
U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit against the tobacco industry
Eubanks was the lead attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice's 1999 racketeering case against the tobacco industry, but withdrew from the case in December, 2005, saying her supervisor failed to support her work on the tobacco case influenced her decision to retire after 22 years with the department. Her withdrawal followed a stunning reversal in the case the previous June in which the Justice Department disregarded the recommendations of its own witness, Dr.Michael C. Fiore, and greatly reduced the amount it sought from the tobacco industry for smoking cessation programs -- from $130 billion to $10 billion. Fiore had recommended the $130 billion. Eubanks said that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case, and that Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging her team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.
Eubanks reported that a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty for wrongdoing. She also said that he and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. They also ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said. "The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public." Government witnesses corroborated that they were asked to change their story, and one expert witness withdrew from the case.
After strong criticism from Democrats, the department started an investigation into whether political appointees inappropriately pressured the trial team to slash the proposed penalty against the companies.
Eubanks told The Washington Post that "The political appointees to whom I report made this an easy decision," referring to her leaving the DOJ after 22 years. 
Related Sourcewatch resources
- University of Colorado at Boulder Biosketch of Sharon Eubanks, accessed July 23, 2009
- Carol D. Leonnig Prosecutor says Bush Appointees Interfered with Case Washington Post, March 22, 2007
- Melissa McNamara Lead Gov't Tobacco Lawyer Quits CBS News, December 1, 2005