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.”
Two quick things:
According to the DOJ vacancies website, Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice and a two-time ATL Diva of the Day, is seeking new grist for her mill. Don’t apply for a position in her office without reading ATL’s hard-hitting coverage of this tempestuous taskmaster!
In other news, assistant U.S. attorney Thomas “Tad” DiBiase has stepped down. Readers will recall that DiBiase is “the ‘Kevin Bacon’ of high-powered D.C. legal circles,” so his resignation is making some waves. According to today’s Legal Times:
The reasons for the departure of Thomas “Tad” DiBiase, a deputy chief of the homicide division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, are still unclear. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not talk much about it, but there is plenty of speculation and contradictory accounts among police, prosecutors and defense attorneys – some of it circulating on the Internet.
I’m sure Lat will have more to say about this, but I just wanted to report the facts. The vote was 32-6 (2/3 was needed). A separate vote to authorize a subpoena for Goodling passed by voice vote. This from AP via Yahoo!:
The votes instruct a House lawyer to seek an immunity grant from a federal court. The grant would not take effect unless Chairman John Conyers (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., chooses to issue Goodling a subpoena compelling her to testify, Conyers said.
Goodling and her lawyer have invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, saying they believe Democrats have set a perjury trap for her. Conyers said Wednesday he hopes Goodling changes her mind and voluntarily tells the committee her story.
“I do not propose this step lightly,” Conyers told the panel. “If we learn something new in the course of our investigation … we can always stop the process s before the court issues an order.”
Apparently the one guy that counts was satisfied with Alberto Gonzales’ testimony before Congress last week. From the New York Times:
President Bush said Monday that the Congressional testimony of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last week, roundly panned by members of both parties, had “increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.”
Speaking during a short question-and-answer session in the Oval Office, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Gonzales’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer.”
Really, Prez? Because what we saw in the hearings was someone who either has the memory of a raisin or is a liar on the scale of James Frey. Either way, these are not characteristics of the ideal head of the Department of Justice.
Is the President showing the same kind of support that he showed for Donald Rumsfeld right before he was sent packing? There are some important differences, of course, in the two cases. Rumsfeld’s performance was directly related to the war in Iraq, which many perceived to be the driving issue in the November election that handed Congress to the Democrats; Gonzales, on the other hand, seems to mostly have a terrible memory and bad sense of PR when it comes to handling a situation in which many feel that nothing wrong was actually done. Also, and perhaps more importantly, there is now not very much time left in the Bush Administration; there may not therefore be the political will to force him out, replace him, and then have to replace the replacement within a fairly short period of time.
Still, not getting rid of him and making the above comments are two different things. So I say again, really President Bush?
Today is Friday, the favorite day of the week for high-profile government officials to announce their departures. E.g., Sandra Day O’Connor; Monica Goodling; Cully Stimson.
Might Alberto Gonzales resign as Attorney General today? We doubt it. Coming on the heels of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, where AGAG took a real beating, it would look too reactive. It would be much more likely for some other DOJ official — e.g., Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty — to step down late this afternoon.
But a Gonzales departure is probably more likely now than ever. Over at Slate, the needle on the “Gonzo-Meter” — which measures the chance of an Alberto Gonzales departure — has moved farther to the right. The Slate folks explain:
We are bumping the meter up to 95. It may take the attorney general a few days to recognize that he did not exactly pull off a rout. But if the president was indeed waiting for his boy to turn this thing around today, the president must have been sorely disappointed. If anything, Gonzales probably lost support today. And if he persuaded even a single soul of his great competence, we’ll eat our meter.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made a make-or-break appearance yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We covered his SJC testimony extensively. See here, here, and here.
If the Gonzales testimony were a Broadway show, today would be the morning after opening night, when the all-powerful Ben Brantley theatre critics weigh in. And based on the reviews (see links below), the Al Gonzales Show is the biggest disaster since Dracula the Musical. Will someone please drive a stake through the heart of AGAG’s tenure?
As you know, we love drama, and we love surprises. We were secretly hoping that Gonzales — who has never been a great public speaker (we’ve seen him) — would deliver a bravura performance, one that would resurrect his career, leaving his critics stunned and speechless. We were looking for a home run, a tour de force like Clarence Thomas’s Senate testimony, as described by Camille Paglia:
Make no mistake: it was not a White House conspiracy that saved this nomination. It was Clarence Thomas himself. After eight hours of Hill’s testimony, he was driven as low as any man could be. But step by step, with sober, measured phrases, he regained his position and turned the momentum against his accusers. It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever witnessed on television. Giving birth to himself, Thomas reenacted his own credo of self-made man.
We’re getting underway again, with the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some random audience member just shouted out: “Hi Senator Kyl!”
2:39: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who missed much of the morning session due to a funeral, is leading off the afternoon questioning. He reads a brief introductory statement (and barely looks up from his notes). Grassley gloats over how the DOJ tried to prevent a witness from testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, on which he also serves, but got slapped down by the courts.
(Wow, that accent is REALLY Midwestern. Anyone wanna go to the mal?)
2:49: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) wants to know what safeguards were in place to prevent improper political considerations from entering into the process re: which U.S. Attorneys to fire. He’s very animated, angry — he frequently raises his voice.
AGAG says that he relied upon people he trusted — and repeatedly mentions the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty, and the big role the DAG played in this process. It seems to us that Gonzales wants to make McNulty the fall guy.
(Not a bad idea — McNulty is leaving the DOJ soon, anyway).
3:02: OMG, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) — a Republican, and a conservative one at that — just ripped AGAG a new one. Several new ones, actually. Some quotes:
“You should be judged by the same standards as these U.S. attorneys were judged, and suffer the same consequences.”
“Mistakes were made, and mistakes should have consequences.”
“[T]his was handled incompetently… Communication was atrocious.”
“The best way to put this all behind us is your resignation,” so we can “start with a clean slate.”
“I like you as a man, as an individual, but mistakes have consequences.”
OUCH. OUCH OUCH. Alberto Gonzales = pinata.
If this is what a Republican has to say, wait ’til the Democrats are up to bat next….
4:08: Sorry, our attention wandered… Lots of questioning about matters not related to the U.S. Attorney firings (because this is, after all, technically a general DOJ oversight hearing). E.g., Sen. Kyl asking about offshore gambling outfits; Sen. Specter asking about whether there’s any federal law enforcement angle to the Virginia Tech shootings.
Now, a ten-minute recess. Earlier: Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)
Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)
We’re picking up with where we left off, in our liveblogging of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
10:50: Sen. Herb. Kohl is REALLY going after AGAG. He cites poll data showing that approximately half of the American public wants Gonzales to resign.
Kohl is in essence asking: Why are you still here? He suggests to Gonzales that these poll results matter, because American people’s perceptions of the DOJ and whether justice is being done are very important.
Gonzales has a good line here: “You’re right, Senator. This is not about Alberto Gonzales.” He then says it’s about the work the DOJ is doing (to “protect our children,” of course).
11:00: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) tosses a bunch of softballs in AGAG’s direction. He’s the most friendly questioner of the morning thus far. He also notes that some time ago, a Democratic senator predicted that Gonzales would be gone as AG within a week. “And yet here you are, still Attorney General, a month later. And I’m glad to see that.”
11:08: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is up now. Her lilac blazer stands out in the sea of dark suits.
Feinstein tries to zero in on the precise extent of Gonzales’s involvement. Great line: “Who was the Decider?”
We love ourselves some DiFi!
Okay, time for a 10-minute recess — the first of the morning.
And now we’re back. More discussion, after the jump.
We’re liveblogging Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s desperate fight for his political life testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is just getting underway. Our commentary will be added continuously to this post (until we eventually migrate to a new post). So just refresh your browser for the latest.
9:35: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), SJC Chairman, has been reading a lengthy introductory statement. It’s way harsh on AlGo.
(Nice tie, Senator Leahy — alternating mint and forest green stripes. And a crisp white shirt — not a button-down-collar, thankfully. Politicians dress so much better than judges.)
9:41: Leahy gets in a dig about the White House being content to turn U.S. Attorney’s Offices into outposts of the Bush Administration.
The camera cuts to Gonzales, whose lower lip juts out defiantly — and he shakes his head vigorously, to show disagreement with Leahy’s statement. Will the famously mild-mannered Gonzales actually display some cojones?
More discussion after the jump.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.