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.
Here’s some (belated) news about notable moves at the Department of Justice and the White House: New Arrivals at the DOJ:
We enjoy breathlessly reporting on the meteoric career trajectories of attractive women. And attractive men, too.
Over at Main Justice, two handsome gents have come onboard:
* The fresh-faced Thomas Dupree, Jr., formerly a partner in the Washington office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has joined the Justice Department as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division.
For those of you outside the Beltway, being a DAAG is a big deal. Dupree, who is one of Washingtonian magazine’s 40 top lawyers under 40, will oversee a staff of over 200.
* William Burck (above right, accepting bedsheets from anti-Cindy Sheehan protesters in Crawford, TX) — a former Kozinski clerk and member of the Elect (OT 1999 / Kennedy), who should have been nominated as a White House hottie — is leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Burck, who served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Staff Secretary, is heading over to the DOJ’s Criminal Division. We don’t know the title of his new post; if you do, please drop us a line.
This marks a return for Burck to the DOJ, since he previously served as an assistant United States attorney in the magical Southern District of New York. Being at the Criminal Division means that he’ll get to work with the fantabulous Alice Fisher — one of the few DOJ divas who could hold her own against Shanetta Cutlar.
* Elizabeth Petrela Papez (at right), a blonde beauty and Kirkland & Ellis partner, is heading over to the Office of Legal Counsel (aka the Finishing School for the Elect). She will be serving as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General. DOJ Internal Promotion:
* Papez is filling a spot that was vacated due to a promotion. DOJ wunderkind Steven Engel — like Bill Burck, a Yale Law School grad / Kozinski clerk / Kennedy clerk (OT 2001) — has been promoted to Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the OLC. Steve Engel is married to another member of the Elect: Susan Engel (OT 2001/Scalia), yet another partner at K&E.
Conservative legal circles are so incestuous, aren’t they? White House Internal Promotion:
Actually, make that REALLY incestuous:
* Bill Burck’s shoes in the White House are being filled by Brent McIntosh (previously described in these pages as “strappingly handsome”). McIntosh is, like Burck, another Yale Law grad and former Sullivan & Cromwell associate.
McIntosh is being promoted from within. He previously served in the White House Counsel’s office. He is a former law clerk to two conservative legal heavyweights: Judges Dennis Jacobs (2d Cir.) and Laurence Silberman (D.C. Cir.). White House Departure:
* Dabney Friedrich, who served as associate counsel to the President, will be nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, according to the Legal Times.
(Dabney Friedrich was previously featured in a photo caption contest at Underneath Their Robes. Alas, due to her lack of familiarity with the movie American Pie, the “band camp” reference had to be explained to her by others.) Bush to Nominate Former White House Associate Counsel to D.C. Court [Legal Times]
In reacting to our worshipful coverage of Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, some of you have questioned her “diva” status. It has been suggested that while Shanetta Cutlar may have the temperament of a diva, she lacks the talent or ability of one.
We disagree. And we think the latest information we’ve received about SYC establishes that when it comes to office politics and Machiavellian maneuvering, few are the equal of Shanetta Y. Cutlar.
Just like the divine Anna Wintour, Shanetta Cutlar is a shrewd and savvy woman, who knows how to “work it.” She has risen to a position of power and prominence within her profession, through a potent combination of smarts, charm, and good old-fashioned ruthlessness.
From a former employee of the Special Litigation Section:
Shanetta started with the Special Litigation Section (SPL) as a intern. Within ten years she worked her way up, managing to slide, wiggle and charm her way into the prominent position of Section Chief.
As she quickly moved up the ladder, passing one superior and mentor after another, Shanetta kept a mental tab of each and every accounting in which she felt she was wronged and treated unfairly as a line attorney. Upon taking her throne, she instantly placed her strategic plan into motion, and quickly begin to execute her hit list.
She had the current head secretary placed into the file room until she received a new, hand-selected head secretary. Rumor had it that the exiled head secretary treated Shanetta “mean.” Wow…
As we’ve discussed in these pages, certain concerns have been raised with respect to the diva-licious Shanetta Y. Cutlar’s management of the Special Litigation Section, in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. But figuring out how to deal with the Shanetta Cutlar situation is a bit tricky.
We recently learned of one possible solution:
Check out this DOJ posting, seeking a Director of the Professional Development Office in the Civil Rights Division.
When Albert Moskowitz was [eased] out as chief of the Criminal Section [of the Civil Rights Division] last year, he was put in this position. After a few weeks, he left for the Criminal Division.
I wonder if Shanetta Cutlar has been advised to apply for this opening.
This “Director of Professional Development” gig sounds quite cushy — a veritable sinecure at the DOJ. It carries with it a six-figure salary and job responsibilites that are vague and touchy-feely. It sounds like the perfect place to stick a senior official that you want to remove from her current position, but in a discreet, non-controversial, face-saving manner (i.e., without firing her or asking her to tender her resignation).
Our curiosity was piqued, so we did some follow-up. Discussion continues, after the jump.
As regular ATL readers well know, we’ve been offering wall-to-wall coverage of Shanetta Y. Cutlar. If you’re not familiar with her, Ms. Cutlar is the nightmarish awesomely overachieving diva who oversees the Special Litigation Section (SPL), part of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Shanetta Cutlar is a strong leader with a distinctive managerial style. She drives lawyers and staff away in droves sometimes rubs people the wrong way. But even if it’s lost on her underlings, we appreciate SYC’s deliciousness!
Some of you have wondered whether Chief Cutlar is aware of ATL’s coverage of her and, if so, what she thinks of it. We had heard through the grapevine that she is aware of this site and finds the attention amusing. Now we have more concrete confirmation.
At a recent meeting of the Section Chiefs of the Civil Rights Division, Shanetta Y. Cutlar whipped out a tiara. She then placed it on her head and proclaimed:
“I GUESS I’M A DIVA NOW!!!”
This is a clear reference to ATLs’ naming Cutlar our DOJ Diva of the Day — on two separateoccasions.
We draw the following conclusions from this tiara incident:
1. Shanetta Cutlar is even more fabulous than we thought. The woman owns a tiara, for chrissakes. And she brings it to meetings of high-level DOJ officials.
2. Shanetta Cutlar has a healthy, self-deprecating sense of humor. The commenters who defend her so earnestly on ATL, like “Life” — see this thread — need to relax. They should follow their idol’s lead, and just laugh it off.
3. Shanetta Cutlar is completely confident in her ability to keep her post. She’s unfazed by the attention she has received, and she’s unfraid of, say, congressional investigations of SPL. She knows she’s not going anywhere.
WE LOVE YOU SHANETTA!!!
P.S. Where did SYC get the tiara? On a totally random note, our cousin-in-law is a leading maker of wedding tiaras.
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