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.
Some of you have wondered about the drop-off in ATL coverage of our favorite DOJ diva: Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice (“SPL”). Cutlar has been previouslydescribed in these pages as “deliciously imperious” and “a great diva,” and we’ve published a number of colorful stories about her.
We haven’t written much about Shanetta Cutlar lately because we haven’t gotten many new tips about her. Perhaps she’s keeping a low profile these days?
Fortunately, more grist for the SYC mill may be on its way, courtesy of Capitol Hill. From a tipster:
House Judiciary has an oversight hearing for Civil Rights next week. Not sure what day, but I’m trying to find out. I think SPL may be discussed.
And from another source:
The “scandal” of the firing of the US Attys will be the camel’s nose — a way to have full blown congressional hearings on DOJ, especially Civil Rights.
Oooh, exciting! We do hope that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees start sniffing around the Special Litigation Section. Maybe Chuck Schumer will become our truffle pig, unearthing tasty morsels about Shanetta Cutlar and her reign over SPL.
If you have any info about the upcoming oversight hearing — or, for that matter, any updates on what Shanetta Cutlar has been up to lately — please email us. Thanks. Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)
The U.S. Attorneys firing scandal has claimed its first victim (other than the fired U.S. Attorneys): D. Kyle Sampson
Sampson, who served as chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, tendered his resignation on Monday. It was reported that Sampson failed to keep AG Gonzales and other top Justice Department officials in the loop about his discussions with former White House Counsel Harriet Miers concerning possible U.S. Attorney firings.
An interesting profile of Sampson, written by Eric Lipton, appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. It includes good detail about Sampson’s meteoric rise through conservative legal circles, as well as some backstory about Sampson’s own desire to serve as U.S. Attorney for Utah.
It’s a serious and sober portrait. If you’re in the mood for something on the lighter side, replete with discussion of Sampson’s skills on the basketball court, check out what we received from a helpful tipster. It appears after the jump.
One of the eight fired U.S. Attorneys was Kevin Ryan, of the Northern District of California (San Francisco). As noted by the Legal Pad, his firing appears to be one of the less high-profile or controversial ones.
But it’s important to us, since it raises a question about our favorite federal prosecutor:
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE FABULOUS EUMI CHOI?
Eumi Choi served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney under Kevin Ryan. As noted here, a previous paean to her, Choi is “a tough, smart, no-nonsense prosecutrix.”
We’re not the only ones wondering about Choi’s fate. Again, from the Legal Pad:
What’s the deal with Eumi Choi, the No. 2 to ousted U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan?
We’re hearing that the first assistant U.S. attorney has been sent down to be a line prosecutor. Not surprising, given that a new U.S. attorney such as recently appointed interim Scott Schools usually shakes up the top, especially in an office where prosecutors have frequently complained about management.
But Choi didn’t have much to say today when asked whether her job description had changed. She said she’d talk with office spokesman Luke Macaulay about getting us an answer.
He’s getting lectured on ethics and accountability by our favorite former First Lady: Of course, Hillary Clinton was accused of similar conduct — firing public servants to make way for cronies — in the Travelgate scandal. But there’s a critical difference between them: Hillary is delicious, and Alberto Gonzales is not. Update: Oh yeah, the situations differ in otherrespects, too. But the deliciousness differential is the most important factor by far. Random aside: Before he took the podium at yesterday’s news conference, Attorney General Gonzales gave a peck on the cheek to a striking blonde woman. We believe that the kissed colleague was Alice Fisher, the diva-licious queen of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, but we’re not sure. If you know for certain, please confirm. EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton Calls for Gonzales’ Resignation [ABC News]
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a news briefing this afternoon on the controversial firings of eight U.S. Attorneys. When we saw him on CNN, stepping in front of the cameras for an unplanned press conference, we immediately thought: “Is he resigning?”
As it turns out, no — emphatically not. Attorney General Gonzales is not going anywhere, at least for now. But a Gonzales resignation no longer lies outside the realm of possibility. Earlier this week, Gonzales accepted the resignation of Kyle Sampson, his chief of staff, who reportedly failed to brief other senior DOJ officials about his discussions with former White House Counsel Harriet Miers about the firings.
Furthermore, White House press secretary Tony Snow declared that President Bush “has confidence” in Alberto Gonzales. Uh-oh — inside the Beltway, that’s the kiss of death. Recall that the president expressed his “confidence” in former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shortly before canning his ass.
This morning the WSJ Law Blog upgraded the U.S. Attorney controversy from “an imbroglio” to “a mess.” We’re not sure that’s an upgrade exactly. But assuming it is, we will see their “mess,” and raise them a “s**tstorm.” Gonzales: Prosecutors Firings Mishandled [Associated Press] If It’s Gone-Zales, Then Who Should be the Next AG? [WSJ Law Blog] Alberto Gonzales Lives To Justify Atrocities Another Day [Wonkette]
Despite the catchy and provocative title we’ve bestowed upon this story, we must confess: We don’t completely “get” the quasi-scandal surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys around the country.
Well, after reading your informative comments, and in light of subsequent revelations, we’re beginning to get it. The Democrats are having a field day with this — and one can hardly blame them.
More discussion after the jump.
Despite the catchy and provocative title we’ve bestowed upon this story, we must confess: We don’t completely “get” the quasi-scandal surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys around the country (which the WSJ Law Blog has officially upgraded from a “flap” to an “imbroglio”).
The fired folks were not career prosecutors. The chief federal prosecutor in a district is a political appointee, who serves at the pleasure of the president. The president’s power over these posts is pretty much plenary (subject to the Senate’s “advise and consent” function, of course).
For better or worse, U.S. Attorney posts have long been treated as “patronage” posts — in both Republican and Democratic administrations. When a new president takes office, he generally cashiers all (or nearly all) of the 94 U.S. Attorneys, even if they’re doing perfectly fine jobs.
An incoming president doesn’t have to give any reason for dismissing a federal prosecutor. If he did, the reason might be something like: “‘Cause I want to give the job to my fundraising buddy and/or political ally.”
Consider the example of our former boss, Christopher J. Christie, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Christie has been widely praised as a dynamic and effective U.S. attorney — praise that is raising speculation about what he might do next. But at the time he assumed the post, he had practically no criminal law experience. Critics claimed that Chris Christie’s main “qualification” for the job was his (and his family’s) skill at raising funds for Bush.
True? Maybe; maybe not. But that’s why they call it politics, people.
Continued ramblings, plus lots of links, after the jump.
Former Sullivan & Cromwell associates take many different career paths. Some join smaller firms or go in-house; some file lawsuits against S&C; and some join government service.
Last week we wrote about the high-powered William A. Burck (OT 1999/Kennedy), who has had his ticket punched by some of the legal world’s top employers: Sullivan & Cromwell, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District, and the White House Counsel’s office. We announced that Burck was leaving the White House for the U.S. Department of Justice, but we didn’t have information on his new post at the DOJ.
We now have that information, courtesy of some Justice Department tipsters. Burck will be serving as Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General, Alice Fisher. From an internal memo that was circulated on Friday by Fisher:
Bill will be responsible for overseeing and advancing the legislative agenda of the Criminal Division, supervising the Office of Policy and Legislation, and representing the Division before the United States Sentencing Commission and the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure of the U.S. Courts.
In our prior post about this move, we noted the incestuous nature of conservative legal circles. One of our tipsters had this to add:
Re: incestuousness, note that Dabney Friedrich (nee Langhorne) — a former colleague of Bill Burck at the White House [whose nomination to the federal bench was discussed in the same post] — is married to Matt Friedrich, Alice Fisher’s former Chief of Staff/Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in Crim (and now a member of AG Gonzales’s staff).
Whew! Did you get all that?
In light of how well Republicans groom their young lawyers (figuratively and literally), we share this commenter’s interest in learning about high-powered young LIBERAL lawyers. We realize that it’s tougher when your party doesn’t control the executive branch, which is home to so many plum executive appointments (and doles out plum judicial ones). But still, we’re curious. We welcome your comments and emails.
It’s not terribly exciting; but if you’d like to see it, Alice Fisher’s memo announcing the arrival of Bill Burck appears after the jump.
As part of a nationwide tour, Above the Law is coming to the great city of Chicago.
Join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model. Come on by Thursday, November 20, at 6 p.m., for thought-provoking discussion, food, drink, and networking.
Space is limited and there will be no on-site registration, so please RSVP
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.