Department of Justice

office of solicitor general.gifIn our reader poll on possible Supreme Court nominees — which is still open, by the way — Solicitor General Elena Kagan is leading the pack, at least in terms of the predictive poll. At the current time, a majority of respondents believe that she will be nominated by President Obama to the seat of Justice John Paul Stevens. (On the prescriptive side, i.e., who SHOULD be nominated to replace JPS, a plurality of you want to see Judge Diane Wood get the nod.)

So Kagan may soon be leaving the SG’s office. But new talent is coming aboard, starting in September or so, through the Bristow Fellowship program. These staggeringly prestigious fellowships allow recent law school graduates, typically coming out of clerkships with federal appellate judges (often feeder judges), to get involved in the work of the Solicitor General’s office, representing the United States before the Supreme Court.

We’re a little late in bringing you the news of the Bristow hires — they were notified weeks (even months) ago — but better late than never. A reader email reminded us that we hadn’t covered the announcement. So we did some digging and obtained their names.

So who are the new Bristow Fellows? Do we know their law schools and clerkships?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Congratulations to the Newest Class of Bristow Fellows”

Shanetta Cutlar

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Defense of Shanetta Cutlar”

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgHere’s a brief update on Shanetta Cutlar, one of our favorite figures here at ATL. For those of you not familiar with Cutlar — who heads the Special Litigation Section in the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, where she has presided over what her critics have described as a reign of terror — page through our archives (or just read the blockquote in this post).

Yesterday afternoon, Cutlar convened a section meeting where she announced that she will be stepping down as head of the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”). According to attendees, Cutlar explained that she had lost the confidence of the Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Cutlar is also leaving SPL, but staying on at the DOJ. Where is she headed next?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A DOJ Diva’s Final Bow? Shanetta Cutlar to Step Down from Justice Department Leadership Post”


I have a number of large projects with different people. I would have said no, but it didn’t seem like that was an option here.


Jennifer Hardy (née Koester), now a litigation partner at Kirkland & Ellis, complaining to a friend via email that she was working 12 hour days without breaks at the Department of Justice (where she reportedly worked on the so-called “torture memos”).

Uncle Sam Wants You if Youre Mentally Retarded.jpgMany job seekers would love to work as lawyers for the federal government but haven’t had luck landing a position. Openings for attorneys on USAJOBS attract hundreds of applicants. In light of massive law-firm layoffs and the relative stability of government employment, high demand for federal jobs is unsurprising. You have to be a positively brilliant lawyer to land a government gig these days.
Or not. If you’ve applied to the U.S. Department of Justice without success, ask yourself: Do I have a normal or above-normal IQ?
If you do, you might be… overqualified. From a Justice Department job posting (emphasis added):

The Civil Rights Division encourages qualified applicants with targeted disabilities to apply. Targeted disabilities are deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial or complete paralysis, convulsive disorder, mental retardation, mental illness, severe distortion of limbs and/or spine.

Quips former DOJ lawyer Ty Clevenger: “Having worked there, I think CRD has plenty of mentally retarded lawyers already. Mostly in supervisory positions.”
Says another tipster who brought this to our attention: “I understand how you can have a few missing limbs or be partially paralyzed and still be a trial lawyer, but someone with an IQ less than 70?!?!!?”
Recruiting mentally retarded lawyers to litigate civil rights cases for the DOJ may take the expression “good enough for government work” too far. But, in fairness, there is a caveat to all of this….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Mentally Retarded? The Justice Department Wants YOU.

WilmerHale Wilmer Hale Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale Dorr AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.jpgThis week brought good news from WilmerHale. The firm’s profits per partner climbed by approximately 7 percent last year, from $1.08 million in 2008 to $1.16 million in 2009, according to the National Law Journal.

The increase in PPP was driven, in part, by a dip in partner headcount (from about 330 in 2008 to 318 in 2009). Sometimes a decline in the number of partners is a bad thing, but not for WilmerHale. As co-managing partner William Perlstein explained to the NLJ, it was due in part to “at least a dozen” partners being recruited away by the Obama administration — a testament to the talents and connectedness of Wilmer lawyers.

WilmerHale has a long and distinguished history of sending its lawyers to top government jobs and then taking them back afterward, so the firm’s clients can benefit from expertise and connections developed while in the public sector. The firm boasts such all-stars as former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, who served in the Clinton Administration.

Due in large part to folks like Gorelick and Waxman, WilmerHale has long been recognized as a liberal legal powerhouse. This reputation was further burnished when numerous Wilmer lawyers took prominent positions in the White House Counsel’s office and the Department of Justice last January, after Barack Obama took office.

Despite its reputation as a left-leaning law firm, WilmerHale has also been assembling an impressive team of conservative legal talent, including notable alums of the Bush Administration. Some of these hires are quite recent. They include Carl Nichols, who joined the firm earlier this month after serving in high-ranking Justice Department positions, and Dan Gallagher, a former aide to Chris Cox at the SEC.

That’s right — conservative (or libertarian) lawyers, located squarely to the right of center, many of them card-carrying members of the Federalist Society and/or the Republican Party. At WilmerHale. We kid you not.

We name names, and interview WilmerHale partner Reginald Brown, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “WilmerHale’s Warm Welcome — for Conservatives”

Department of Justice seal DOJ seal Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgBack in September, we mentioned that interviewees for the DOJ Honors Program were learning of their good fortune. Now the process has proceeded one step further — for some lucky individuals, to completion.

We heard from one offer recipient from the Civil Division, but we suspect this person is not alone. According to the Key Dates section of the Honors Program website, job offers are being extended from November 6 through mid-December 2009. In mid-December, candidates not selected as finalists will be notified.

More info about the process, plus the chance to comment, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “DOJ Honors Program Offers Are Coming Out: Open Thread”

cannabis_leaf.gifFor a while we had a commenter who liked to comment “Legalize it!” on every post, with “it” referring to marijuana. This person is surely quite happy today. From the New York Times:

People who use marijuana for medical purposes and those who distribute it should not face federal prosecution, provided they act according to state law, the Justice Department said on Monday in a directive with far-reaching political and legal implications.

In a memorandum to federal prosecutors in the 14 states that make some allowance for the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the department said it was committed to the “efficient and rational use” of its resources, and that going after individuals who were in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state laws did not meet that standard.

Puff, puff, pass. Anyone want some brownies?
Justice Dept. to Stop Pursuit of Medical Marijuana Use [New York Times]

Department of Justice seal DOJ seal Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgAre you prepared to meet and fight the anti-vaccinators in open court? The Department of Justice is, and they are looking for a few good litigators.

Check out this job ad, which is up on the DOJ website:

Experienced Attorney/ GS-12 to GS-14
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Torts Branch
Office of Constitutional and Specialized Torts

About the Office: The Civil Division, Torts Branch, is seeking an experienced attorney for a position in the Office of Vaccine Litigation. Trial attorneys in the Vaccine Litigation Group represent the interests of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in all cases filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. The cases involve claims of injury as a result of the receipt of certain vaccines.

Responsibilities and Opportunity Offered: The position offers a unique experience in public service. The legal and medical issues at stake in each case vary greatly. Attorneys in the section independently manage heavy case loads, and while streamlined procedures are utilized, cases frequently involve complex liability and damages issues. The position involves significant trial practice. Vaccine staff attorneys are obliged to ensure that the Vaccine Trust Fund, from which damage awards are paid, is protected and, where eligibility criteria are met, that fair compensation is distributed to those whom Congress has intended. Attorneys appear frequently before the Office of Special Masters in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and also appear before the judges of the Court, as well as in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit when handling appeals.

That’s right folks, the legal profession will find a way to benefit from Swine Flu. Special torts, special torts defense, it’s all copacetic man.

Department of Justice seal DOJ seal Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWho says the wheels of government turn slowly? Earlier this month, we reminded you that Justice Department Honors Program applications were almost due. Now, three short weeks later, candidates are hearing back about interviews. Sources report:

“DOJ Honors interview notifications have gone out. I was fortunate enough to snare one in the Civil Division. You might want to put up an open thread for discussion.”

“Interview invites came out Wednesday, information about which component came out Thursday. Open thread?”

We aim to please. Here you go.

If interview notifications went out on Wednesday, was that ahead of schedule? According to the list of key dates on the Honors Program website, today is supposed to be the day that the DOJ “notifies candidates selected for interviews by e-mail.”

Feel free to discuss the Honors Program interview process — which components you’re interviewing with, what you’d like to know about the process, or what you already know about the process (for those of you who have been through it) — in the comments.

The Attorney General’s Honors Program [U.S. Department of Justice]
AG’s Honors Program Key Dates [U.S. Department of Justice]

Earlier: Reminder: DOJ Honors Program Applications Are Almost Due
Open Thread: The DOJ Is Hiring Again …
Fall Recruiting Open Thread: DOJ Honors Program

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