Department of Justice

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgWe feel like we’re running an online group therapy session. Pretty much every week, another ex-employee of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section (SPL) writes in to us, so he or she can vent their justifiable frustrations whine about the horrific challenging experience of working under super-diva Shanetta Y. Cutlar. Writing in to ATL seems to be a therapeutic experience for these people.
As we mentioned yesterday, one former SPL employee sent us a copy of their completed exit survey. We reprint it after the jump. But first, here’s an introduction to what you’re about to read:

I quit SPL largely because of Shanetta’s mismanagement of the section. I’m attaching a copy I kept of my exit survey — though some of the fields did not print in full, and I redacted some fields to remove info related to my personal identity.

Feel free to post any portions you’d like…. You might want to consider submitting a FOIA request for a full copy of this and any other exit surveys or other information related to evaluations / criticisms of Shanetta if you haven’t already done so.

In addition to the written exit survey, I had an exit interview with the front office when I left (which was over two years ago), and I stressed the issues people were having with Shanetta during that interview. So the front office has been aware of the issues with her at least since then, if not earlier.

Interesting. According to this tipster, the folks in the “front office” — i.e., the DOJ powers-that-be — have been aware of Shanetta Cutlar’s distinctive management style for quite some time.
Fortunately, they have had the wisdom to leave well enough alone — despite complaints from folks who just aren’t up to the task of enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws. May Shanetta Cutlar reign forever over the Special Litigation Section!!!
Excerpts from this disgruntled lawyer’s exit questionnaire, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Shanetta Cutlar: The Perspective of an SPL Escapee”

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgWe’ll get back to Aaron Charney and Sullivan & Cromwell in a minute. Here’s a quick update on our coverage of Shanetta Cutlar, the embattled fantabulous chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section.
After our last post, we received some interesting tips:

“When SYC brought her sons into work, one walked around the floor, popping into attorneys’ offices. He would say: ‘My mom tells you what to do. My mom can fire you.’ He was about six. Now, one has to think, where does a six-year-old get something like that?”

“Another time when SYC brought her sons in, a beloved security guard was making small talk with the boys. She turned to him and said, in a condescending tone: ‘Do you think they don’t have a Daddy? They already have a father. There is no need for you to speak to them.’”

“At [a recent] staff meeting, SYC gave orders for her troops to drum up Access to Reproductive Health Clinics and Places of Religious Worship, and Religious Exercise of Institutionalized Persons (FACE & RUPLA) cases. Apparently the Section has an underwhelming amount…. Pretty thin for statutes touted as part of the section’s mandate.”

“SYC and her loyal Principal Deputy positioned their offices so each exit from the building would be covered. A favorite pastime is to monitor the comings and goings of the staff. If anyone tries to slip out early or take a long lunch, they are called on the carpet and asked for a leave slip. Who says there’s waste in government? We pay an SES [Senior Executive Service -- a highly paid federal govt. official] to watch out the window!!”

“Apparently your coverage of SYC is the talk of DOJ managers, even those in other Divisions. Front office insiders expressed “concern” over the coverage at a recent lunch. They were appalled at the behavior and the fact that it’s public.”

That last item is especially interesting — but it makes us nervous. Please, front office people: Keep your hands off our Shanetta!
In addition to the foregoing comments, we received the exit questionnaire of another former SPL employee — one who hasn’t been in touch with us before.
It contains some good stuff. We’ll be posting excerpts in the near future.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgLate last month, one “Thailour Preston” posted an awesome defense of Shanetta Cutlar, the high-powered chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section. It read, in pertinent part, as follows:

I am sick and tired of all of you jelly-backed spineless weasels who write in with your “anonymous” monikers. Even you cowards who used to work for Shanetta should be man or woman enough to step up to the plate and identify yourselves instead of hiding behind the anonymous tags. How gutless!

If you carefully check the records, you will find that real substantive civil rights work is going forth in the Special Litigation Section. I would say that this is quite an accomplishment considering the current administration and its horrible record on civil rights issues.

No one talks about all the in-house sniping and back-stabbing that went on when she took the job. Plenty of mud-slinging and back-biting by would-be saboteurs galore. The hope was that she would go away and guess what – she’s still standing….

[D]on’t tell me that some of the attacks were not racially motivated. Check yourselves on that. Anyway, you idiots need to get a life and leave this woman alone.

As noted, this comment was signed by “Thailour Preston.”
Now we don’t seek to unmask our commenters. We respect their anonymity; it allows them to speak freely, which is great. We’re big believers in the First Amendment around here.
But anonymity does allow people to play pranks or assume personas. For example, colorful commenter “Leona” — who posed as a super-religious, anti-gay Christian woman — owned up to being a joke (in real life, a gay guy living in Cambridge, MA). Similarly, some of you have wondered whether “Loyola 2L” is a fictional identity.
So you never know for certain who’s posting what around here. But one of you did email us to point out an interesting coincidence:

Here is a bio (PDF) for Bishop Brian Garner. Someone has already noted the close relationship between Brian Garner and SYC, one of his congregants.

Look at the name of Brian’s wife: Robin Thailour Preston. Sound familiar?

If commenter Thailour Preston is in fact Robin Thailour Preston, the wife of Shanetta Cutlar’s minister, then she may be the only SYC defender who has identified herself by her real name. Maybe the only person in the comments besides you and Ty who has used a real name?

We have not (and don’t intend to) undertake further investigation into the identity of “TP.” So we don’t know for certain whether commenter “Thailour Preston” is in fact Robin Thailour Preston, good friend and fellow church member of Shanetta Y. Cutlar.
We just thought this was an interesting coincidence, which we wanted to share. That’s all.
ATL reader comment from Thailour Preston
Suffragan Bishop Brian S. Garner, Sr. (PDF)
Earlier: Almost as Much Fun as Gitmo: ‘Docket Review’ With Shanetta Cutlar

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgLast month we wrote about how Docket Review is conducted over at the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section (SPL). Attorneys who have worked under Shanetta Cutlar, chief of the section, have described Docket Review with her as an excruciating experience.
Since then, we’ve received some more information about the process. A recent email from a former SPL employee begins:

Many, including myself, are so grateful for your Shanetta Cutlar coverage. Many are able to vent and tell their true stories — or shall I say nightmares.

Your coverage has been lighthearted in tone. But with all due repect, the unprofessional mental, emotional and physical cruelty inflicted by Shanetta is indeed a FACT. This is a cry for help.

Many staff members, including deputies, have complained of physical illness related to the toxic stressful working environment within the Special Litigation Section. Some SPL staff have complained of severe headaches, viomitting and diarrhea.

Continued commentary, including a behind-the-scenes look at “Docket Review,” after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More About Docket Review With Shanetta Cutlar”

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgNot surprisingly, we loved The Devil Wears Prada (both the movie and the book). In the film, we ate up every last crumb of Meryl Streep’s delicious performance.
But it wasn’t perfect. For example, we hated the scene in the Paris hotel room when Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), looking dreadful in a bathrobe and without her make-up, breaks down in front of her assistant, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway). Miranda starts sobbing about her impending divorce and how it will affect “the twins.”
Meryl Streep is a great actress, so she was able to pull it off (barely). But anyone else would have made us cringe. Please, Hollywood: in your next movie about a great diva, spare us the obligatory “let’s humanize the bitch-on-wheels” scene.
Okay, enough preliminaries. We have some more news about the Justice Department’s Shanetta Cutlar (at right), Section Chief of the Special Litigation Section.
If true, it’s deeply troubling. Read all about it, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Shanetta Cutlar: Some Disappointing News”

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgSome of you disagree, but we consider the Justice Department’s Shanetta Y. Cutlar to be a great diva. Based on the term’s origin in the world of opera, we define a “diva” as a woman of tremendous talent, whose ability is matched only by her difficult temperament.
By this standard, Shanetta Cutlar qualifies. In terms of talent, SYC has risen to a position of great power and prestige within the DOJ. She has been highly successful and effective in that post, efficiently moving a huge caseload, and advancing the federal government’s civil rights agenda.
As for her temperament — well, we don’t need to remind you about that. We’ve filled many pages with tales of how SYC runs the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section (“SPL”). These stories have come from former employees, both lawyers and staff members, who have worked under Ms. Cutlar.
The more we post about Shanetta Cutlar, the more tips flow in from disgruntled ex-employees. One recent email provided a lengthy enumeration of SYC’s alleged foibles as a manager.
We took the substance of that list and reworked it, transforming it into SYC’s Ten Tips for Aspiring Divas — the kind of thing you might see as a sidebar in Cosmo. You can check it out after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Shanetta Cutlar: Ten Tips for Aspiring Divas”

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgWe’re so excited. Our girlfriend SYC has made the big leagues!
Shanetta Y. Cutlar, the successful and high-powered lawyer who oversees the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section, is the subject of an article in today’s Legal Times. We’re praised her profusely in these pages; but we’re glad that she’s finally getting her due in the mainstream media.
Some excerpts:

Ty Clevenger, 37, a former Washington Times reporter and line attorney in the section who was fired in October, has accused veteran Section Chief Shanetta Cutlar of being “abusive toward attorneys and support staff,” specifically those hired by Schlozman.

Among Clevenger’s allegations: Secretaries were ordered not to assist him with an eight-hour typing project, another attorney was publicly berated for using a paper clip rather than a binder clip on a document, and an intern was reprimanded for not greeting Cutlar while passing her in the hallway.

In his whistleblower complaint, Clevenger included a copy of a statement by the intern, Deborah Meiners, 24, to a DOJ ombudsman about the hallway incident.

“I did get the sense that this was a common occurrence,” says Meiners, now a third-year law student, of her treatment.

For those of you who have been wondering if Shanetta Cutlar is aware of her newfound celebrity, the answer is probably yes — now that the Legal Times has contacted her office for comment:

Cutlar’s office referred questions to a DOJ spokeswoman, who issued a statement saying the department is looking into the allegations.

Interesting. Does anyone know what “looking into the allegations” entails?
Is the DOJ conducting a full-blown internal investigation of SPL? Or is it just AAG Wan Kim getting on the phone to Shanetta and saying, “This is all silliness that I don’t need to pay attention to, right?”
We hope the latter. As we’ve previously pointed out, Shanetta Cutlar is just doing her job — and exceptionally well, at that. We hope that a bunch of whiners and crybabies don’t interfere with SYC’s longstanding efforts to vindicate federal civil rights laws on behalf of the disabled, prisoners, and other groups who can’t stand up for themselves.
To Shanetta Cutlar: Congratulations on your shout-out in the Legal Times!
Whistleblower Complaint Filed Against DOJ Civil Rights Division [Legal Times]

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgShanetta Y. Cutlar, a high-ranking official of the U.S. Department of Justice, oversees the Special Litigation Section (SPL) of the Civil Rights Division. As chief of the SPL, Cutlar is a steward(ess) of our nation’s civil rights laws.
And, of course, Cutlar is a great diva — which is why we adore her so much.*
Those who get to see a great diva up close, or to work with one, are truly blessed. So what if divas are difficult? That’s why we call them divas.
It should come as no surprise, then, that working for Shanetta Cutlar comes with a few occupational hazards. From a former employee at SPL:

I loved my position, duties and responsibilities. Unfortunately, in time I become a victim of Shanetta’s vicious, often brutal attacks, of constant, uncontrolled rage.

I tried to tolerate and persevere. But eventually the stress began to take a physical toll on me. Down to my last few months or so with the Department, I suffered a bout of diarrhea, each and every morning, before going to work.

My nerves were wrecked. I soon realized I had to seek employment elsewhere outside of the Department.

So I left DOJ and Shanetta. Life is good again.

Color us incredulous. You sacrificed the opportunity to work under an amazing lawyer and leader because, well, you had a touch of the runs?
You need to toughen up. Your “problem” wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been solved with a family-sized bottle of Kaopectate. And a lifetime supply of Depends.
* Sorry, Shalini. We will not apologize for having a weakness for divas. We have loved divas for our entire life, ever since we popped out of one’s womb.
For those of you who care (all six of you), we defend our fixation on divas after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Public Service Announcement: If You’re Joining SPL, Stock Up on Adult Diapers”

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpg[Ed. note: It seems to be pure luck as to why we've been allowed to access this post through Movable Type, even though we can't access other ones or create new posts. So please refrain from asking us why we're publishing this rather than more salary coverage. Thanks.]
For those of you who have no interest in Biglaw pay raises, here’s a bit of counterprogramming about Shanetta Cutlar.
In case you’re not familiar with her, Shanetta Y. Cutlar is the Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice. She’s a high-ranking DOJ official, and she’s a colorful boss. Click here for a summary of her managerial quirks.
Ever since we started writing about her, lawyers who used to work under her have been emerging from the woodwork. They’ve been sending us a steady stream of stories about their time working for “SYC.” Here’s the latest, concerning a Shanetta Cutlar institution called “Docket Review”:

Has anyone told you yet about “Docket Review” — or rather, the Spanish Inquisition, which was probably less painless? Dear God, thinking back on it makes me cringe.

When you first arrive in the office, everyone warns you about it. Never, EVER miss Docket Review; be AT YOUR DESK when summoned for your meeting, or face the wrath of Shanetta; and NEVER tell her you don’t know the answer to a question. It’s nothing short of terrorizing.

Docket Review happens four times a year. During this time period, everyone is stressed out, and nobody gets any work done. In short, the entire Section is in an uproar — for days.

The process begins when an email goes around about DR scheduling. This immediately triggers a stampede of people going to the staff assistant’s office to sign up — it’s insane.

When signing up for Docket Review, there’s an elaborate strategy involved. Some people like to get it over with as soon as possible, so they sign up for the very first slot. The main concern is not to go immediately after certain people that you know will have a bad one, placing SYC in a foul mood. Another dreaded spot is the time slot right before lunch.

In advance of your Docket Review meeting, you have to write up a memo summarizing the status of your cases. This stupid memo must comply, to the letter, with certain SYC specifications. It must be uniform and perfect, down to the spacing and formatting, and completely free of typos — as if you were filing it in Court.

At the appointed hour, you are summoned to SYC’s conference room. This is, by the way, “her” conference room. No one else can ever use it, even if she’s not using it herself or even if she’s out of town.

When you enter the SYC conference room, Shanetta is seated at the far end. Her deputies are lined up on both sides of the table, and you’re on the other end. Surprisingly, there’s no spotlight, but you feel like one is glaring down on you anyway.

During the meeting, the deputies are COMPLETELY SILENT. They’re in the room, but they’re not permitted to talk. It’s just you and Shanetta.

Docket Review is a total game of “Gotcha.” SYC asks you a question she already knows the answer to, listens to your response, twists your words, and then somehow turns it all around on you — so you look like an incompetent fool.

Here I must begrudgingly give her credit. Making you look like you know absolutely nothing about your own cases, even though you’ve been toiling away on them for months, is a peculiar kind of art form. And Shanetta is a master of it.

Rarely does a Docket Review go well. As a matter of fact, going well is the exception, certainly not the rule. Some reviews have ended in screaming matches that carry on down the hall. After several confrontations with one particular attorney, he was quickly moved by the front office to a different section, out of open season.

Another attorney, who came up with the brilliant idea of telling Shanetta he was leaving the Section during his Docket Review, was escorted out of his office by the FBI a few days later.

(Admittedly, there may have been some cause for that. He had told Shanetta that he wished the Section was like “a cartoon world,” in which he could toss a bowling-ball shaped bomb into her office….)

Why do we suspect that he’s not the only person who has harbored that particular fantasy?
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgWe like to keep things light around here. As far as we’re concerned, pretty much everything is entertainment. And if it’s not, then we’re not interested in covering it.
This is the spirit in which we’ve been writing about Shanetta Cutlar, the amusingly idiosyncratic chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section (SPL). But we’re getting concerned that the story might take a more serious turn.
Here are two things we’ve heard lately:

1. The mainstream media, in the form of the Legal Times, is sniffing around the story. They may be interested in covering it.

2. Staffers from the House Judiciary Committee have contacted Ty Clevenger, the former DOJ lawyer who initially blew the whistle on La Shanetta. They may be conducting further investigation into goings-on over at SPL.

Covering the shenanigans of Shanetta has been great fun. We sincerely hope that the MSM and the House Judiciary Committee don’t hijack this story and turn it into some sober expose about DOJ abuses of power. Yawn.
We steer the discussion back in the direction of frivolity and fun, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Shanetta Cutlar: All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses Her Job?”

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