Department of Justice

Noel Hillman Noel L Hillman Noel Lawrence Hillman Noel Laurence Hillman judge Above the Law.jpgBack in December, we suggested that Judge Noel Hillman (D.N.J.) was probably going to be nominated to the Third Circuit. We wrote: “[N]ominating Judge Hillman to the court of appeals actually makes political sense for the White House — especially in its current, weakened state…. Picking a nominee who made it through the Senate just a few months ago would be a shrewd move. Since the two New Jersey senators supported Hillman for the district court, it would be awkward for them to oppose him for the circuit court now.”
But things appear to have changed. From the Newark Star-Ledger:

In an abrupt about-face, President Bush has decided against nominating Noel Hillman, a veteran prosecutor and now federal judge in Camden, to the seat on the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that was held by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr….

Hillman confirmed the news. He said the speculation about his possible elevation to the court of appeals was “flattering,” adding he now has “every confidence that our president will choose someone for the current vacancy worthy of his trust, worthy of the position, and worthy of Senate confirmation.”

Some questions for our readers:

1. What’s behind the White House’s change of heart? Was it, as suggested by the Star-Ledger, concern “that Hillman’s Senate confirmation hearing could become an inquisition into the behind-the-scenes operations of the Justice Department”? Or is there something more here, perhaps specific to Judge Hillman?

(If the White House is worried about Hillman hearings turning into another fishing expedition into the DOJ, we can hardly blame them. After all, look at all the dirty laundry that got aired when former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified yesterday. What a mess!)

2. Now that Judge Hillman is out of the running, who is likely to get the nod?

Please send us your tips by email (subject line: “Third Circuit”). Thanks.
The Auditor [Newark Star-Ledger via NJ.com]
President Intervened in Dispute Over Eavesdropping [New York Times]
Earlier: A Third Circuit Update

Paul McNulty Paul J McNulty Above the Law blog.jpegFor departure. For Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, his last day at the Department of Justice will be in not-too-distant future. He announced his intention to resign earlier today.
But he won’t be leaving the DOJ as abruptly as, say, Monica Goodling. He’ll stick around for a few more months:

McNulty, who has served 18 months as the Justice Department’s second-in-command, announced his plans at a closed-door meeting of U.S. attorneys in San Antonio, according to two senior department aides. He said he will remain at the department until this fall or until the Senate approves a successor, the aides said.

(It’s nice to know that we were actually right about something. But then again, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.)
Justice Department Official Resigning, Aides Say [Associated Press]
Earlier: Paul McNulty: On His Way Out?

No, this has nothing to do with Bill Clinton. We’re talking about the other Monica — former Justice Department lawyer Monica Goodling, one of our favorite personalities here at ATL.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published the best article we’ve read in a long, long time. Check it out (annotations ours):
You Have a Monica Problem Monica Goodling Monica M Goodling.jpg
Now this is the point in the post where we should start highlighting the best parts of Eric Lipton’s article, followed by mildly snarky quips. But the entire piece is so delicious that it would be wrong to pick out excerpts. Please read the whole thing for yourself, by clicking here.
Okay, are you done? Great. Discussion continues after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “‘Houston, We Have a Monica Problem’”

Alberto Gonzales 4 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.gifWe’ve been doing a lot of Biglaw coverage lately. But since Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is being raked over the coals as we type, in an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, let’s take a timely detour into the U.S. Department of Justice.
The DOJ isn’t looking terribly competent right now. And this latest story won’t burnish their reputation. From a tipster:

As you know, the Justice Department produced a number of documents to Congress, concerning the controversial U.S. Attorney firings. These document productions have not been huge — maybe just a few thousand pages. Nothing like what you see in major commercial litigation.

One such document production showed up on Capitol Hill, in four sets: two sets for the Senate Judiciary Committee (Democrats and Republicans), and two sets for the House Judiciary Committee (Democrats and Republicans). The production arrived on a weekday evening.

A Republican staffer immediately started looking through the production. The staffer noticed that the produced documents didn’t have Bates stamps on them. Oops. Guess the DOJ forgot to have them stamped — a screw-up, although not a cardinal sin.

A few pages later, the staffer noticed something else, on a document with redactions on it. There was redacting tape that was STILL ON THE DOCUMENT. One could access the redacted, privileged material simply by peeling off the tape.

Holy crap. Instead of sending over Bates-stamped photocopies, the DOJ had produced its ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS to the Congress.

Nice. Apparently the Justice Department is less competent than a second-year litigation associate: they can’t do a proper document production.
It gets worse. More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Earth to DOJ: Document Production Isn’t That Hard”

David Hasselhoff Above the Law blog.jpg* $3.19 a gallon for this? [CNN]
* Hasselhoff videotape (no, not the German music video) leads to loss of custody rights. [
CNN]
* Bat-ban Begins — groups sue to overturn NYC ordinance.[SI]
* Senators expand Attorneygate probe. [MSNBC]
* Ethics of “pillow angel” surgery called unlawful. [CNN]

start snitching Above the Law blog.JPGWe are favorably disposed towards former Justice Department lawyer Ty Clevenger. We owe him a debt of gratitude, since he’s the person who first told us about Shanetta Cutlar — the crazy-ass colorful chief of the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section, and one of our favorite people to write about here at ATL.
Now Ty Clevenger is making waves once again — and some of you aren’t sure if it’s all that favorable. Several of you emailed us about his latest exploits. This message is representative:

Ty Clevenger is in the news again, this time making accusations about the politicization of the hiring process at the DOJ. See here and here.

Between his law school activities, Shanetta Cutlar, and this, he’s beginning to look like a little tattletale to me….

Tattletale? Or, more charitably, a person of great honesty and integrity (perhaps too much for his own good)? Or, more cynically, a shameless seeker of attention?
We don’t know Clevenger personally, so we won’t opine. But the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Many great whisteblowers throughout history have had mixed motivations — such as a desire for the truth to come to light, and a desire for personal fame and/or fortune.
But we can say this. If we ever hang out with Ty Clevenger, we sure as hell won’t jaywalk with him by our side. Or try to sneak through the express lane at the supermarket with more than 15 items.
Congress probes allegations of politicized hiring [CNN]
Congress considers broadening Justice Department inquiry [McClatchy]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Ty Clevenger (scroll down)

Lady Justice breast bust bosom Monica Goodling Above the Law blog.jpgEven those of you who are sick and tired of our Monica Goodling coverage will enjoy this little tidbit. It has been mentioned by a few commenters, and we’ve also received a bunch of emails about it.
From the National Journal (via TPMmuckraker):

Psst! Sources tell us that none other than Monica Goodling, former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was responsible for draping over the ample bosoms of the Art Deco statues in the Justice Department’s Great Hall during the reign of the prim John Ashcroft.

The coverings were removed, accompanied by a sigh from an appreciative public, in 2005…

Goodling and Lady Justice: The Original Cover-Up [TPMmuckraker]

Monica Goodling 6 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgYesterday we received some saddening and disturbing news. A reader emailed this article to us, with the tagline: “Not very diva-like.”
(It was also recently linked to by Wonkette, in a post entitled When Whores Collide.)

A former U.S. Justice Department official and central figure in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys tearfully told a colleague two months ago her government career probably was over as the matter was about to erupt into a political storm, according to closed-door congressional testimony.

Monica Goodling, at the time an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, sobbed for 45 minutes in the office of career Justice Department official David Margolis on March 8 as she related her fears that she would have to quit, according to congressional aides briefed on Margolis’s private testimony to House and Senate investigators.

Big girls don’t cry; and neither do divas. Raging against the perfidy of one’s enemies is perfectly acceptable. But wet tears, to say nothing of 45 minutes of them, are a big no-no.
The news of Monica Goodling’s alleged crying fit is deeply troubling. There are some things we wish we had never learned. The possibility that Goodling is a sad, scared, ex-government employee, rather than a magnificent DOJ diva, ranks right up there with the true identity of Santa Claus.
It seems, by the way, that Goodling’s meeting with David Margolis was a veritable slumber party of emotional disclosure:

Margolis testified in private that he tried to console Goodling and listened to her discuss her personal life, a congressional aide said. He recalled telling a colleague that he was concerned about Goodling’s emotional state, the aide said.

Two cups of cocoa — stat.
But look, we’re not giving up on Monica Goodling just yet. As today’s Washington Post notes, now that the Justice Department has signed off on an immunity deal for her, “Goodling is likely to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee on a broad range of questions about the [controversial U.S. Attorney] firings that she helped coordinate.”
So we’ll wait and see how her testimony turns out. If Goodling dries her tears, cleans herself up, and acts like a fire-breathing dragon when she testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, she will be restored to a special place in our heart.
Goodling Shed Tears Before Revelations About Firings [Bloomberg via Dan Froomkin]
When Whores Collide [Wonkette]
Justice Dept. Allows Immunity Deal for Former Gonzales Aide’s Testimony [Washington Post]
Justice Department Clears Way for Goodling Testimony [Roll Call (subscription)]

Monica Goodling 6 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgFormer Justice Department lawyer Monica Goodling has gotten a raw deal.
From the media. From the blogosphere. And now, from the DOJ itself. According to the Washington Post’s Andrew Cohen:

[B]ack at the ranch, the Justice Department managed to tick off former high-ranking official Monica Goodling and her attorneys by going public with allegations against her (allegations that she broke the law by giving out jobs based upon political affiliation) before notifying Team Goodling about the matter as a professional courtesy.

Given how vital Goodling’s testimony will be — she’s been given use immunity and will almost certainly testify before Congress about her role in the U.S. Attorney scandal — the Justice Department’s faux pas is as inexecusable as it is unsurprising. The Department is merely now doing to Goodling what Goodling and Company did to the fired prosecutors (and, for that matter, what the White House did to George Tenet when it was through with him).

We’re glad to see that someone else — namely, Andrew Cohen — realizes that Goodling is being dealt with unfairly. And we will not rest until the Magnificent Monica Goodling stands vindicated in the court of public opinion.
How An Attorney General Should Act (and Monica’s Mad) [Bench Conference / Washington Post]

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgOur bestest gal pal, Monica M. Goodling, is in the news once again. From the AP (via the Volokh Conspiracy):

The Justice Department is investigating whether its former White House liaison used political affiliation in deciding who to hire as entry-level prosecutors in U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country, The Associated Press has learned.

Doing so is a violation of federal law.

The inquiry involving Monica Goodling, the former counsel and White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, raises new concerns that politics might have cast a shadow over the independence of trial prosecutors who enforce U.S. laws.

Justice spokesman Dean Boyd confirmed Wednesday that the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility were investigating Goodling’s role in hiring career attorneys — an unusual responsibility for her to take.

Goodling “may have taken prohibited considerations into account during such review,” Boyd told the AP. “Whether or not the allegation is true is currently the subject of the OIG/OPR investigation.”

Back when Monica Goodling first invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege, a wide range of commentators, from Joshua Micah Marshall to Orin Kerr, expressed skepticism towards her claim. Questions were raised as to whether Goodling had a valid basis for declining to testify.
Gentlemen, in light of the latest news, you should be ashamed of yourselves. We think you owe Ms. Goodling an apology.
Moral of the story: Never doubt the Magnificent Monica Goodling!!!
P.S. Our favorite comment over at the VC: “God told her to.”
DOJ probes politics’ role in hiring U.S. attorneys [Associated Press]
Ex-Aide to Gonzales Accused Of Bias [Washington Post]
Monica Goodling and AUSA Hiring [Volokh Conspiracy]

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