Department of Justice

Earlier we covered Harriet Miers impending date with destiny in the form of the House Judiciary Committee. Well, it looks like Miers needed some more time to polish up on her French.
From the report from AP via the Reno Gazette-Journal on the hearing that went down sans Miers:

A House panel cleared the way Thursday for contempt proceedings against former White House counsel Harriet Miers after she obeyed President Bush and skipped a hearing on the firings of federal prosecutors.
Addressing the empty chair where Miers had been subpoenaed to testify, Rep. Linda Sanchez ruled out of order Bush’s executive privilege claim that his former advisers are immune from being summoned before Congress.

The contempt issue would go next to the full Judiciary Committee, and ultimately to the entire House.
You at least have to admire Miers for going all the way in following Bush’s order, instead of the I’m-testifying-but-not-really tapdance that Sara Taylor attempted yesterday.

* We’ll probably have more to say about this one later. For now: WOW. Tell us how you really feel, John Koppel! [Denver Post]
* What kind of tree would you be? The kind that robs banks. [AP]
* Don’t mess with the police — even if you’re an old lady charged with not watering your lawn. [KSL.com via Drudge Report]
* Laying the groundwork for the Twinkie defense? [New York Times]
* Nothing to do with the law yet, but surely that will change. Any news this baaad generates litigation. [Marin Independent Journal]
Update: With respect to the first link, in case you’d like to know more about John Koppel, check out his wedding announcement.

Can you blame Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for not being more in the loop on the U.S. Attorney firings? He’s been holding down not one but TWO demanding jobs. Check out the DOJ homepage (unchanged as of this morning, despite this Friday afternoon post by Wonkette):
Alberto Gonzales FARC news release Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg
If Alberto Gonzales can survive the revelation that “he” is actually a female, drug-trafficking terrorist — who may possibly be related to Wilmer Valderrama — then clearly he’s untouchable.
Meanwhile, in other Justice Department news (expect announcements later today or tomorrow):

The stylish pumps of the fabulous Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand, whose last day as head of the Office of Legal Policy is today, will be filled on an acting basis by another former Kennedy clerk, Brett Gerry (OT 2000).

Congratulations to Brett Gerry on his new post. Alberto Gonzales needs all the help he can get these days.
Why Is This Man Smiling? [Wonkette]
High Ranking Member of Colombian FARC Narco-Terrorist Organization Sentenced on U.S. Drug Charges [U.S. Department of Justice]
Earlier: Why Did the Prom Queen Leave the Party?
Congratulations to Ken Wainstein (profiling Wainstein’s front office staff at NSD)

Wan Kim Wan J Kim Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThanks for the reminder. In an earlier post, we wrote: “We’ve been hearing interesting rumors about some possible departures at the Assistant Attorney General (AAG) level.” And since today is Friday, the favored day for DOJ resignations, we figured we might as well squeeze this in before lunchtime.
Some of the rumors have already come to pass — like the departure of Eileen O’Connor, as head of the Tax Division, and the departure of Rachel Brand, as head of the Office of Legal Policy. But there’s one resignation rumor that’s still outstanding.
We hear that Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim, who oversees the Justice Department’s important (and controversial) Civil Rights Division, will step down from his post before the end of the year. He was sworn in as AAG in November 2005, so by this fall he will have held the job for two years — a long-enough stint in that position.
If Wan Kim does resign from the Civil Rights Division, he can hardly be blamed. Getting scolded on Capitol Hill isn’t much fun. Especially when most of the things you’re getting scolded about are the fault of your predecessor, former Acting AAG Bradley J. Schlozman (who is allegedly not the nicest guy in the world, according to some people).
Senators Deride Justice Reassignments [Washington Post]
Earlier: Why Did the Prom Queen Leave the Party?
Musical Chairs: Rearranging the Proverbial Deck Chairs at Main Justice?

A summary of the action, courtesy of Howard Bashman (aka “Ho Bash,” as one commenter dubbed him):

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit holds that the American Civil Liberties Union and its co-plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the National Security Administration’s interception without warrants of certain telephone and email communications…

Circuit Judge Alice M. Batchelder issued the lead opinion, and Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons issued an opinion concurring in the judgment. Judge Gibbons’s opinion begins, “The disposition of all of the plaintiffs’ claims depends upon the single fact that the plaintiffs have failed to provide evidence that they are personally subject to the TSP. Without this evidence, on a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs cannot establish standing for any of their claims, constitutional or statutory….”

And Circuit Judge Ronald Lee Gilman dissented. He would hold that the plaintiffs possess standing and that “the [Terrorist Surveillance Program] as originally implemented violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.”

Is this ruling a surprise? Not so much. First, most legal analysts were deeply disappointed by the handiwork of Judge Anna Diggs Taylor (E.D. Mich.), the district judge in this case.
Second, here’s a telling detail from the Sixth Circuit website:
Sixth Circuit website Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg
Does the Sixth Circuit website always feature a patriotic graphic of the United States filled with a flag pattern? Or is this just a special Fourth of July thing they haven’t gotten around to changing back yet?
ACLU v. NSA [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (PDF) via How Appealing]
Many Experts Fault Reasoning Of Judge in Surveillance Ruling [New York Times]

We all scream for ice cream! And that includes high-ranking officials of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Here’s our latest legal celebrity sighting:

Last night I watched the fireworks from the South Lawn of the White House. The event had a very DC feel to it: everyone there was quasi-famous, even if you couldn’t figure out why.

But I did recognize one person: Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, the second-highest-ranking official at the DOJ. He was dressed casually, in a red polo shirt, and was sitting on a blanket with his wife and kids.

McNulty may not be Brad Pitt — but here in Washington, he might as well have been. People kept going up to him, introducing themselves, and having their picture taken with him. This is clearly the dorkiest city in the entire country (and I count myself among the dorks, since I recognized him too).

I discreetly took two photographs of DAG McNulty munching on a Dove ice cream bar. Here they are.

Paul McNulty ice cream 1 Paul J McNulty Above the Law blog.jpeg
High-ranking Justice Department officials: they’re just like us. They eat ice cream bars!
Earlier: Every DAG Has His Day

Rachel Brand Rachel L Brand Above the Law blog.jpgOkay, working at the U.S. Department of Justice may not be a party these days. But the recently announced, imminent departure of Assistant Attorney General Rachel L. Brand — her last day at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy is July 9 — had nothing to do with recent controversies (contrary to some insinuations).
As tout le monde in D.C. legal circles knows, the fabulous Brand — known to some as the Prom Queen — was planning to step down for some time. The reason? She and her husband, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Cohn, are expecting a baby boy next month.
The lede of this Reuters report, while technically accurate, is therefore misleading. Thankfully, the Washington Post was more accurate:

[T]he Justice Department announced that Rachel Brand, assistant attorney general for legal policy, is resigning….

Justice officials said she plans to leave July 9 and stay at home with her first child, due this summer.

Brand, who worked on the renewal of the USA Patriot Act last year and the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices in 2005, is not known to have played a direct role in the U.S. attorneys’ removal.

“[N]ot known to have played a direct role” — maybe because she didn’t? If she had, rest assured that Chuck & Friends would have invited her over to Capitol Hill for a televised chat.

[D]epartment officials have said that Gonzales’s former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, asked her whether she might want to replace a Michigan prosecutor who was forced out. Though interested at first, Brand did not apply for the job.

Yes, Brand shrewdly did not throw her hat into that ring. As we previously noted:

In declining to be considered, Rachel Brand showed the excellent judgment that has taken her so far, so fast. Had Rachel Brand replaced Margaret Chiara, she would have been the victim of a mainstream media pile-on. The New York Times editorial board would have derided her as a Bush Administration political hack with no prosecutorial experience (albeit a hack with impeccable academic credentials, including Harvard Law School and a Supreme Court clerkship with Justice Kennedy).

So what’s next for Rachel Brand (in addition to a bouncing baby boy)? She’s rumored to be meeting with various private law firms — and any of them would be lucky to snag this young legal superstar.
Brand has devoted the past six and a half years of her career to government service. She leaves the Bush Administration even more highly esteemed, on both sides of the aisle, than when she came in. This is no small feat, given the controversies that have shaken the DOJ, as well as the highly partisan atmosphere currently prevailing here in Washington.
We congratulate Rachel Brand on her successful leadership of the Office of Legal Policy, and we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors — including motherhood!
(Disclosure: We’d mention that we are friendly with Rachel Brand, but we know from past experience that many of you don’t like such disclaimers, which come across as shameless name-dropping. So we won’t.)
Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously identified Jonathan Cohn as Deputy Attorney General, rather than Deputy Assistant Attorney General (his correct title).
Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand Announces Departure [U.S. Dept. of Justice (press release)]
Bush Is Told to Justify Executive Privilege [Washington Post]
DOJ Loses Brand [The BLT: The Blog of the Legal Times]
Seventh official quits Justice Department [Reuters]
Justice Department Official Resigns [Associated Press]
Earlier: Rachel Brand: The Prom Queen Stays Out of Trouble

rats rat mouse mice DOJ day care Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWorking as a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice offers many advantages over toiling as a law firm associate. Greater responsibility. Better hours. Nicer bosses (with some exceptions).
But working for the DOJ has disadvantages too. Lower pay. Less support staff. No Aeron chairs working pens.
And maybe rats snacking on your toddler. From a tipster:

Cadwalader may have bed bugs, but the Justice Department’s child care center has rats. The center is… managed by a board of directors, mainly middle aged DOJ lawyers.

Here’s an email making the rounds. My favorite line is “They will stay upstairs for play the rat of the day.”

Check out the email, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Even Worse Than the Cadwalader Bed Bugs”

Joseph Russoniello Joe Russoniello Cooley Godward Kronish Abovethelaw Above the Law online legal tabloid.jpgYesterday we passed along the rumor that Joseph Russoniello, of Cooley Godward Kronish in San Francisco, would be returning to a post he held years ago: U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.
We remain fairly confident in this tip. But for the record, there is nothing official to report just yet. Mr. Russoniello kindly got back to us, but only to advise that he has no comment at this time and can neither confirm nor deny that he has been offered the U.S. Attorney position.
Meanwhile, our friends over at Legal Pad picked up on our post. Check out their analysis, in which they refer to Russoniello as “the frontrunner” per “conventional wisdom,” by clicking here.
Russoniello Takes the U.S. Attorney Gig? [Legal Pad / Cal Law]
Earlier: Musical Chairs: A New U.S. Attorney for San Francisco?

Joseph Russoniello Joe Russoniello Cooley Godward Kronish Abovethelaw Above the Law online legal tabloid.jpgVeteran litigator Joseph Russoniello, of Cooley Godward Kronish in San Francisco, was recently rumored to be a contender for the post of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.
We’re now hearing that the job — which Russoniello previously held, from 1982 to 1990 — may be his once again. From a tipster:

I have on good authority that Joe Russoniello was offered and accepted the US attorney position for the N. District of CA. I don’t think its been announced yet.

If Russoniello does get the job, it would be very “Fred Fielding”-esque: bring back an elder statesman, from the Reagan Administration, with impeccable credentials. At least the Dems won’t be able to give him a hard time over a lack of prosecutorial experience.
We’ve contacted Joseph Russoniello, but we haven’t heard back from him yet. We’ll let you know if and when he gets back to us.
P.S. We’re sad that the fabulous Eumi Choi apparently didn’t get the nod.
Who’d Want This Job, Anyway? [National Law Journal via Law.com (subscription)]
Joseph P. Russoniello bio [Cooley Godward Kronish]
U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan Announced Departure [U.S. Attorney's Office (Northern District of California)]

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