On Friday, we broke the news that Shanetta Cutlar will be stepping down as head of the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”), in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. This news was met with rejoicing in some quarters; Cutlar was not universally loved as a boss.
Much of our past coverage of Shanetta Cutlar has been somewhat negative (reflecting what we’ve heard from our sources). But there are some dissenting opinions — and we’re happy to present one to you today.
After our Friday report, we heard from Robert Driscoll, a former Justice Department official who is now a partner in the Washington office of Alston & Bird. During his time at the DOJ, he worked with Cutlar — and was very impressed by her work as an attorney. Driscoll told us:
I was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division from 2001-2003. In that position, I played a part in Shanetta getting the post as Chief. Whatever her strengths or weakness as a manager may have been (and I had heard she could be mercurial), I never doubted that she was a talented and extremely dedicated lawyer. Indeed, it was these characteristics that caused us to appoint Shanetta as Chief. She certainly was not placed in that position for having any conservative credentials.
More warm words for Shanetta Cutlar, after the jump.
Bob Driscoll continued:
During my time in the Civil Rights Division, Shanetta was certainly aggressive in pushing the agendas of the section attorneys to the front office. As such, I don’t believe that the Democrats could possibly justify actions against Shanetta by claiming that she was disloyal to the party. The bottom line is that, while I don’t personally agree with her on a great many issues, I think that she is getting unwarranted criticism from many people. Shanetta has always been far above average in the Civil Rights Division in terms of both practical and legal skills.
I say all of this as someone who has been opposing counsel to Shanetta in several cases, such as my current representation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in an investigation by the Civil Rights Division. Indeed, I have even referred matters related to such cases to the Office of Professional Responsibility. Regardless, there is just no question that Shanetta is smart, tough, and aggressive. Ultimately, I have to believe that there is more to the story of her leaving the Civil Rights Division than meets the eye. In my mind, it cannot have been a question of Shanetta’s competence, because she is one of DOJ’s exceptional talents.
If there’s more to this story than meets the eye, we’d love to hear out. If you’re in possession of some information, please feel free to email us (subject line: “Shanetta Cutlar”). Thanks.