Oh happy day! It brings us news of a beloved figure who has been long absent from these pages: Monica Goodling, our favorite DOJ diva. And the news for Goodling, a high-ranking and influential official in the Bush Administration’s Justice Department, is good.
Remember the case of Gerlich v. U.S. Department of Justice, the putative class action brought by Honors Program rejects who claimed they weren’t hired for political reasons? Many of the claims, as brought by individual plaintiffs — a somewhat dodgy motion for class certification remains pending — have been resoundingly dismissed.
From the Washington Post:
A federal judge this week dismissed civil claims against former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales, rejecting a lawsuit by job applicants who argue that they were blacklisted from the Justice Department during the Bush era because of their ideology.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates concluded that the unsuccessful job candidates had not followed the appropriate steps in the civil service system before filing their lawsuit in the District last year….
More discussion and links, after the jump.
The Post piece continues:
“The court agrees that misconduct by senior government officials — especially when it implicates the First Amendment — is gravely serious and must not be condoned,” Bates wrote. “But defendants have raised several threshold issues that potentially prevent this court from considering the merits of plaintiffs’ case.”
The judge’s decision effectively ends the lawsuit as to Gonzales, who resigned two years ago amid the hiring scandal; Monica Goodling, the department’s liaison to the Bush White House; Michael Elston, former chief of staff to the deputy attorney general; Esther Slater McDonald, a junior member of the screening panel; and Louis DeFalaise, who remains at the Justice Department’s Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management.
Feel free to check out Judge Bates’s opinion (PDF). The basic reason for dismissing the bulk of the claims is that they’re preempted by statute:
[T]he Court will not reach the merits of plaintiffs’ constitutional claims against the individual defendants because it concludes that, under controlling Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit precedent, the CSRA [Civil Service Reform Act] is a comprehensive, remedial statutory scheme that precludes the recognition of an implied damages remedy against the individual defendants.
Alas, not all of the claims were dismissed. Three out of the eight plaintiffs can move forward with their suits against the Department itself, on decidedly unsexy grounds relating to record-keeping and the Privacy Act (yawn). To read more about those actions, check out the full opinion or the NPR story (link below).
It’s a great result. Congratulations to Monica Goodling and her impressive legal team, the white-collar criminal defense practice at Akin Gump.
Gerlich v. U.S. Department of Justice [PDF]
Judge Dismisses Civil Suit Against Former Attorney General Gonzales [Washington Post]
Some Lawsuits Against Bush Justice Dept’s Political Hiring Move Forward [NPR]