Little things matter in the legal profession. A typographical error can cost you $40,000. A misplaced comma can be worth hundreds of thousands.
And citing the wrong statute can lead to a nine-figure loss. From the AP:
Poorly written Justice Department documents cost the federal government more than $100 million in what was supposed to have been the crowning moment of the biggest tax prosecution ever.
Walter Anderson, the telecommunications entrepreneur who admitted hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS and District of Columbia tax collectors, was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in prison and ordered to repay about $23 million to the city.
But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he couldn’t order Anderson to repay the federal government $100 million to $175 million because the Justice Department’s binding plea agreement with Anderson listed the wrong statute.
That’s the gist of this lengthy, extremely interesting, thoroughly researched special report. It’s by one of our favorite reporters, Jan Crawford Greenburg — who’s on the verge of replacing Linda Greenhouse as undisputed queen bee of the SCOTUS press corps hive.
After reading the JCG piece, a devastating indictment of McNulty’s involvement in this debacle, one possible outcome presents itself as increasingly likely:
Alberto Gonzales stays on as Attorney General — but Paul McNulty’s head rolls.
If so, we’d love to hear from you — please email us (subject line: “Monica Goodling”). Now that Goodling, who served as the Justice Department’s White House liaison (she’s currently on leave), has announced her intention to invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege, the public is hungry for more details about this mystery woman of the DOJ.
So what we do know about Monica Goodling — besides her weakness for Ralph Lauren clothing and red plastic cups?
Dan Froomkin, over at White House Watch, offers up a detailed and comprehensive write-up (with numerous links). He explains why Beltway insiders are once again fixated on a young woman named Monica:
Will another presidency be tripped up by another Monica?
Juries in criminal cases are sternly lectured not to assume guilt when a defendant takes the Fifth. It is, after all, a Constitutional right.
But when a fairly minor player in what had heretofore not been considered a criminal investigation suddenly admits that she faces legal jeopardy if she tells the truth to a Congressional panel? Well, in that case, wild speculation is an inevitable and appropriate reaction.
Who is Monica Goodling? She’s a White House liaison for AG Alberto Gonzales and is currently on leave. Emails released by the DOJ last week showed she played a central role in the dismissals. Thanks to this story, we also know that she’s 33, a 1995 graduate Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., and received her law degree at Regent University, the Virginia Beach, Va. school founded by Yale Law School graduate Pat Robertson.
What I want to know is how a 1999 graduate of the purported “law school” at a purported “university” founded by Pat Robertson has acquired the title of “Senior Counsel” to this nation’s Attorney General.
(No, not THAT Monica — it’s a bit late for that, dontcha think?)
Breaking news from Bloomberg:
Monica Goodling, a counsel to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who helped coordinate the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys, will invoke her constitutional right not to answer Senate questions about the firings, her lawyer said.
Goodling, one of four Justice Department officials the agency said could be interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, will invoke her Fifth Amendment privilege not to answer the panel’s questions, John M. Dowd, her lawyer, said in a statement. Dowd said the committee had requested her testimony under oath.
The Associated Press also has a story, available here.
We’re going to play unfrozen caveman legal commentator, and ask: Based on what we currently know about the U.S. Attorney firings, how could Goodling’s testimony expose her to criminal liability, to place her in a position to invoke the Fifth Amendment? What are we missing here?
Here’s what her lawyer, John Dowd, has to say about the matter. From the AP:
The potential for taking the blame for the department’s bungled response “is very real,” Dowd said. “One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby,” he said, a reference to the recent conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff in the CIA leak case.
The lesson we took away from the Libby case was: “Don’t lie under oath.”
So doesn’t Dowd’s argument prove too much? What does Goodling have to worry about as long as she testifies truthfully?
P.S. We have nothing against the DOJ or the White House under the current Administration. To paraphrase the classic defense against charges of racism, “Some of our best friends are [Bushies]!!!”
We’re just confused, that’s all. Clearly there were some screw-ups here. But is anyone (aside from Daily Kos types) seriously arguing that the underlying conduct was criminal? Gonzales Aide Won’t Answer Questions About Prosecutor Firings [Bloomberg] Gonzales Aide to Invoke Fifth Amendment [Associated Press]
* Feel like putting down a couple hundred on Barack Obama or John Edwards? [Slate]
* Sen. Hagel uses the “i” word. [MSNBC]
* “New U.S. attorneys seem to have partisan records.” [McClatchy via Election Law Blog]
* AG Gonzales feeling more heat from GOP Senators. [How Appealing (linkwrap)]
* Does DVR violate copyright laws? [Law.com]
The scandal surrounding the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys, while explosive and salacious, has presented us with some challenges. It’s a fast-moving story, and the information just keeps flooding in.
And because it’s such a huge story, the MSM has been covering it like crazy. We asked ourselves: What’s left for ATL to do?
Answer: Sponsor a U.S. Attorneys hotties contest!
Now that our Law Librarian Hotties contest is over, we must find a new group of legal professional hotties to rank. In light of all the public attention recently focused upon United States Attorneys, they’re an excellent subject for our next hotness competition.
There are many reasons to focus on chief federal prosecutors for a hotties contest. They’re clearly public figures, so they don’t present the same privacy concerns as so-called “civilians.” Their photographs are easy to find, because they’re always appearing before media outlets.
And, most importantly, some of them are pretty darn hot. For example, the hunky Patrick Fitzgerald (N.D. Ill.) helped make the Plamegate scandal worth following (with an assist from the scorchingly hot Valerie Plame herself). The apolitical zeal with which Pat Fitzgerald pursued the Scooty Libby prosecution was modern manliness at its best.
There are some fine offerings on the distaff side, too. The elegant Carol Lam (S.D. Cal.), according to her critics, was easy on immigration enforcement. But she’s pretty easy on the eyes, too!
(We could say more about Carol Lam’s hotness, but we won’t, ’cause she kinda looks like our aunt.)
We are now accepting your nominations of hot United States Attorneys. If you’d like to submit an attractive U.S Attorney for consideration, please review the rules and nomination guidelines, which appear after the jump. Thanks!
(Not because Alberto Gonzales is looking secure in his position as Attorney General, but because everyone else — the WSJ Law Blog, the Legal Times — has used it already.)
In the past hour or so, the Justice Department released about 3,000 pages worth of documents relating to the U.S. Attorneys firing fiasco. The documents were sent over to Capitol Hill, quickly and in non-chronological order (which the Dems may complain about; but hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth). It appears that some of these documents may relate to the specific reasons for firing the dismissed U.S. Attorneys — a belated attempt by the DOJ to explain, in more satisfying and greater detail, why exactly these eight federal prosecutors were canned.
Another interesting rumor going around: If AG Gonzales steps down, one possible replacement is Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff — former assistant U.S. Attorney General, and former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey (and the only U.S. Attorney not replaced immediately by President Clinton when he cashiered almost all of the U.S. Attorneys upon taking office).
The whole situation is very fluid. Stay tuned…
Yeah, we know: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales remains in office.* But his days are looking numbered. He’s received the kiss of death — a presidential expression of “confidence” — and even some Republicans are calling for his resignation.
So we have to ask:
If Alberto Gonzales steps (or gets pushed) aside, who should take his place as Attorney General?
We’re rooting for Shanetta Cutlar. But if she doesn’t get tapped, Andrew Cohen floats this interesting idea.
Right now, Patrick Fitzgerald is most well-known for his (successful) work on the Scooter Libby case. This may preclude his selection as AG, given the political hot potato that it turned into — and the embarrassment it caused for the Bush Administration.
But let’s not forget that, setting aside the Libby case, Fitzgerald has the background that one would normally seek in an Attorney General. He’s the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago), one of the nation’s most prestigious prosecutor’s offices, and he has some serious additional credentials.
After graduating from one of our nation’s finest high schools (shameless plug for our alma mater), Pat Fitzgerald went on to Amherst College and Harvard Law School. Before taking over as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, he was a line prosecutor in the legendary Southern District of New York. As an AUSA in the SDNY, he worked on some major prosecutions, including the trials of Omar Abdel Rahman and Ramzi Yousef. He has been praised for his work as U.S. Attorney in Chicago.
Thoughts? Nominating Fitzgerald as AG might be kinda crazy, but kinda brilliant. It would change the story line big time, in a way that the White House might welcome.
(Some other random names we’ve heard as possible AG candidates: former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey; SEC Chairman Christopher Cox; and Judge Laurence H. Silberman, of the D.C. Circuit.)
* It’s a rainy Friday afternoon, not much is going on, and people aren’t paying attention to the news. If you’d like to step down, Mr. Attorney General, there are still several hours of prime resignation time available to you. The Case for Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald [Washington Post / Bench Conference]
Ty Clevenger, a former attorney in the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”) of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is the one who got the ball rolling with respect to colorful anecdotes about Shanetta Cutlar, the charismatic and strong-willed chief of the Section.
Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty raising concerns about Cutlar’s leadership of SPL. Shortly thereafter, Clevenger was effectively fired by Cutlar the next day.
As for Clevenger’s letter, the DAG assigned it to Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, for a response. Earlier this month, Clevenger received the following from Wan Kim:
Letters to McDonald’s, complaining about insufficient mintiness in Shamrock Shakes,* receive responses evincing greater concern.
Now we understand why Shanetta Cutlar was comfortable enough in her position to wear a tiara to a recent meeting of DOJ section chiefs. We predict she will remain in power at SPL long after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has left the building (which may not be saying much — but you get our point).
* Yes, Shamrock Shakes are back! We enjoyed one in Miami earlier this week.
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.