Civil Rights, Department of Justice, Paul McNulty, Shanetta Cutlar, Ty Clevenger, Vicious Infighting

Ty Clevenger and Shanetta Cutlar: How It All Went Down

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgEarlier this week, we shared with you what we’ve heard about Ty Clevenger and Shanetta Cutlar.
To recap, Clevenger was a lawyer in the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. He worked under Cutlar, the Chief of the Section. We wrote:

[Clevenger] had some issues with Cutlar and how she ran the Section. Last fall, Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Clevenger alleged that Cutlar — whom he described as “extremely intelligent” and “very charming,” but also “a Jekyll and Hyde personality” — created an “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” within the Section.

On October 4, 2006, Ty Clevenger sent his letter to McNulty. Clevenger’s office was searched overnight, and he was fired the next day. He is in the process of filing a whistleblower complaint.

This is what we had heard, from reliable sources; but it struck us as rather odd, almost fishy. It’s just not consistent with what we know about federal government service. As a federal government lawyer, you can do all sorts of things — e.g., write a saucy, pseudonymous judicial gossip blog — and still part ways with your office voluntarily (and on good terms). In the rare cases when government lawyers are fired or asked to resign, events usually unfold at a glacial rather than breakneck pace (unless there is, say, compelling evidence of criminal conduct).
So we reached out to Ty Clevenger himself, by email. He happily responded to our questions. He verified the sequence of events: his sending of the letter to McNulty, followed almost immediately by his being asked to leave.
We asked Clevenger this question:

“Exactly how did the search of your office and the firing go down? It seems rather shocking for a government lawyer to be fired so quickly, especially after sending a letter of complaint to the DAG. It seems like basically a recipe for trouble for the people behind the firing.”

Ty Clevenger’s response to our query, after the jump.

Clevenger answered our question as follows:

You’ve asked the million-dollar question (no pun intended — punitives will be limited to $300K), and I’m really not sure of the answer. I hope to learn more when DOJ responds to my FOIA requests.

As for the sequence, I e-mailed the letter to the DAG around 10 a.m. on 10/4 and left work around 6 or 6:30 that evening. The next morning, I noticed my desk drawers had been left open, and the contents had been shuffled around. Shanetta had a reputation for searching the offices, e-mail, etc. of her enemies, and I figured she was just jerking my chain.

About 3:30 p.m., Shanetta called me into her office, where an HR person and two lawyers from the Employment Section were waiting. She said she had previously told me my performance was unacceptable (never any specifics and never anything in writing), and she said I could resign or be terminated. I said I would resign.

If these events are ever turned into a feature film, this next scene is the Oscar clip for the actor who portrays Ty Clevenger:

The HR lady read through her standard script, then said she thought that covered everything. I told her I had something to say (and yes, I remember this verbatim):

“An old Army colonel told me many years ago that everybody is a sinner, but some folks are just downright evil. Shanetta, you are downright evil, and one of these days God is going to judge you for it.”

She said something about that just confirming her assessment of me, and I got up to walk out. As I left, I told her I would see her on Judgment Day. That felt good. Really good.

And yes, you can quote me on anything above.

Thanks, Ty!
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

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