WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court yesterday appointed Miami attorney Daniel S. Pearson as an independent counsel to investigate the financial affairs of Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown, making Mr. Pearson the fourth special counsel probing officials of the Clinton administration.
Mr. Pearson, 64, a former state judge and federal prosecutor, will be asked to determine if Mr. Brown broke the law in his private financial dealings or in his public reports of those transactions. Legal sources said the investigation of Mr. Brown, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, probably would last well into the 1996 presidential campaign.
Reid Weingarten, Mr. Brown's attorney, said he and his client will cooperate with Mr. Pearson, who "has a reputation for being scholarly, experienced and fair." Mr. Pearson is a member of Holland and Knight, Florida's largest law firm.
Miami attorney Neal R. Sonnett, former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said Mr. Pearson "brings all the right qualities" to his assignment. "He's extremely bright, with a marvelous reputation for integrity."
Mr. Pearson, a graduate of Yale University Law School, was an assistant U.S. attorney for South Florida from 1961 to 1963. He later served as a state appellate judge for nine years and taught courses in trial advocacy at the University of Miami. His law practice in recent years chiefly has involved appellate work.
Attorney General Janet Reno, after a 90-day preliminary investigation by the FBI, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in May to appoint a counsel to consider whether Mr. Brown violated federal law "with his acceptance of things of value" from Washington businesswoman Nolanda Hill and a company in which both formerly held an interest.
The panel of three appellate judges adopted Ms. Reno's recommendation, including instructions that Mr. Pearson should consider whether Mr. Brown filed inaccurate annual financial disclosure reports as a Cabinet member and made false statements on his loan application to purchase a townhouse two years ago.
Questions chiefly have been raised about a large payment Mr. Brown received from Ms. Hill when he severed his ties to their Washington-based First International Communications Corp. upon assuming his government post.