Meryl Streep 2 Devil Wears Prada.jpgLately we’ve been distracted by the salacious, sensational lawsuit of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell. But fear not, loyal readers — we have not forgotten about Shanetta Y. Cutlar, the commendably strong-willed chief of the Special Litigation Section, in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
First, a cinematic digression. Early in The Devil Wears Prada, there’s a great scene in which high-powered editrix Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) steps onto an elevator. A junior magazine staffer is already inside the car. But as soon as Miranda sets foot in it, the terrified staffer mutters an apology and flees, so Miranda can ride the elevator alone.
This type of incident doesn’t happen just in the shiny Gotham tower of Conde Nast Elias-Clarke Publications. It also happens, surprisingly enough, at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.
From an email we received from an attorney in the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, presided over by the diva-licious Shanetta Cutlar:

Do you know how Shanetta reacts when someone reaches to stop the elevator when she is on it? How she chews them out for daring to stop the elevator she is on — because she is more important, and could be on her way to a meeting with the “front office”?

Or, how no one goes NEAR the elevators between 3:45pm & 4:30pm, without a drop-dead emergency, for fear of running into Shanetta, and being grilled about where one is going? Then called into her office the next day, to discuss “professionalism” — despite the fact that you got in that morning way before she did?

Props to Shanetta Cutlar for wearing her authority like an ermine-trimmed cloak. We never had a boss this cool when we worked for the DOJ.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Once we were on a completely packed elevator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark (D.N.J.), riding down from the ninth floor. The elevator was full because the entire office was headed to the second floor, for an “all hands” meeting.
The elevator stopped on the seventh floor, the “power floor” of 970 Broad Street. The doors opened, to reveal the U.S. Attorney himself, Chris Christie, and two other members of the “front office.” They were waiting, of course, for the elevator.
Several of us immediately tried to get off the crowded elevator, to make room for Christie and his lieutenants. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He insisted on waiting for the next one, and he practically pushed everyone back into the car. How lame!
WWSCD? She would have ordered everyone off that packed elevator, so she could ride down to the second floor — in solitude.
And THAT, boys and girls, is what you call leadership.
P.S. Interesting questions raised in this recent comment. Do any of you SPLers know the answers?
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)


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