Department of Justice

ruler Shanetta Cutlar Shanetta Y Cutlar ruler.jpgDoes she use a ruler to whale on the summer interns, when they pass her in the hallway and fail to greet her?
Maybe; we wouldn’t be surprised. But we actually had something else in mind.
From yet another former member of the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department, who had the pleasure of working under section chief Shanetta Cutlar:

I can remember how Shanetta used to offer the ombudsman’s services at EVERY staff meeting (don’t tell me no one was aware of the low morale)…

How Shanetta ordered the entire staff — attorneys, paralegals, investigators, staff — to take 2 hours of mandatory training in beginning word processing (mostly how to use the spell checker)…

How Shanetta announced in a staff meeting that whenever she reviews a document, she reads it with a ruler, to ensure there are no extra spaces

What a great use of her time. No wonder she never had the time to with us.

Your taxpayer dollars at work: Paying the six-figure salary of a schoolmarm with a J.D.
P.S. We’re thinking of changing the name of this site to the “Aaron Charney and Shanetta Cutlar Blog.” We could blog full-time about nothing else. And we have enough material in our inbox about these two matters to keep us going for days (with more tips constantly arriving).
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

Meryl Streep 2 Devil Wears Prada.jpgLately we’ve been distracted by the salacious, sensational lawsuit of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell. But fear not, loyal readers — we have not forgotten about Shanetta Y. Cutlar, the commendably strong-willed chief of the Special Litigation Section, in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
First, a cinematic digression. Early in The Devil Wears Prada, there’s a great scene in which high-powered editrix Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) steps onto an elevator. A junior magazine staffer is already inside the car. But as soon as Miranda sets foot in it, the terrified staffer mutters an apology and flees, so Miranda can ride the elevator alone.
This type of incident doesn’t happen just in the shiny Gotham tower of Conde Nast Elias-Clarke Publications. It also happens, surprisingly enough, at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.
From an email we received from an attorney in the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, presided over by the diva-licious Shanetta Cutlar:

Do you know how Shanetta reacts when someone reaches to stop the elevator when she is on it? How she chews them out for daring to stop the elevator she is on — because she is more important, and could be on her way to a meeting with the “front office”?

Or, how no one goes NEAR the elevators between 3:45pm & 4:30pm, without a drop-dead emergency, for fear of running into Shanetta, and being grilled about where one is going? Then called into her office the next day, to discuss “professionalism” — despite the fact that you got in that morning way before she did?

Props to Shanetta Cutlar for wearing her authority like an ermine-trimmed cloak. We never had a boss this cool when we worked for the DOJ.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Once we were on a completely packed elevator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark (D.N.J.), riding down from the ninth floor. The elevator was full because the entire office was headed to the second floor, for an “all hands” meeting.
The elevator stopped on the seventh floor, the “power floor” of 970 Broad Street. The doors opened, to reveal the U.S. Attorney himself, Chris Christie, and two other members of the “front office.” They were waiting, of course, for the elevator.
Several of us immediately tried to get off the crowded elevator, to make room for Christie and his lieutenants. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He insisted on waiting for the next one, and he practically pushed everyone back into the car. How lame!
WWSCD? She would have ordered everyone off that packed elevator, so she could ride down to the second floor — in solitude.
And THAT, boys and girls, is what you call leadership.
P.S. Interesting questions raised in this recent comment. Do any of you SPLers know the answers?
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

alberto gonzales alberto r gonzales attorney general.JPG* AG Gonzales: Federal judges are unqualified to make national security decisions. [MSNBC]
* AG Gonzales: Federal judges should be making national security decisions. [MSNBC; Washington Post]
* Affirmative action takes center stage at Boalt. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Dahlia asks, “Have the Supreme Court’s opinions become suggestions in Texas?” [
* Linda discusses the Texas death penalty cases as well. [New York Times]
* Former Cendant Chairman Walter Forbes get sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison, on accounting fraud charges. The prosecution was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey; Forbes was represented by Williams & Connolly. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Picking a jury for the Scooter Libby trial in D.C., the biggest small town in America: it ain’t easy. [Washington Post]

charles stimson charles d stimson.jpgSometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a government official unwisely shooting his mouth off is just a government official unwisely shooting his mouth off.
When Charles D. Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, criticized lawyers at top law firms for representing Guantánamo Bay detainees, we speculated that perhaps his statements were part of a Bush Administration effort to discourage such representation. It appears that we were wrong.
Today’s Washington Post contains a letter of apology from Stimson. In the letter, he states that he “believe[s] firmly that a foundational principle of our legal system is that the system works best when both sides are represented by competent legal counsel.”
After making his controversial remarks, Charles Stimson was roundly criticized by numerous law school deans. His abrupt about-face raises an amusing possibility: Could an open letter from law school deans — typically as worthless and irrelevant a piece of paper as a parking ticket on a diplomat’s windshield — have had an actual impact in the real world?
The full text of Cully Stimson’s apologetic letter, plus related links, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “For Breakfast at Cully Stimson’s House: Pop Tarts Filled With Crow”

department of justice 2 civil rights division special litigation section.jpgOr MySpace. Or Facebook. So we can only speculate as to what her “Hobbies and Interests” are — in addition to terrorizing summer interns, rifling through employees’ desks, and vigorously enforcing the use of binder clips over paper clips (allegedly).
But Shanetta Cutlar’s erstwhile nemesis in the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section, Ty Clevenger, does have a bare-bones Friendster profile. It’s not terribly exciting — we learn that he’s 37, and from Texas — but here it is, for what it’s worth:
Ty Clevenger Friendster.JPG
One of you wondered what Ty is up to these days, since Cutlar forced him out of the Section. Clevenger informs us:

“I’m moving back to Texas and opening my own practice. Mostly civil, including civil rights, and maybe a little appellate and criminal. I figured if I was going to work for a jerk, it might as well be me.”

It takes guts to hang up your own shingle and start a solo practice. We admire the young lawyers who are brave enough to do it. So even though our heart will always belong to Shanetta Y. Cutlar, we wish Ty Clevenger the best of luck with his new venture.
P.S. We have invited Shanetta Cutlar to join Friendster:
Shanetta Cutlar Friendster invite.JPG
If she sets up a profile, you’ll be the first to know about it.
Ty Clevenger [Friendster]
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

Donald Stout house Blackbery RIM NTP NPT.JPG* Over at the Justice Department, the bad-ass Shanetta Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, takes no prisoners.
* Not even summer interns can escape her wrath.
* But hey, at least they get to go back to school. Full-time attorneys can escape only by leaving the Section — provided that Shanetta doesn’t get to them first.
* Speaking of job changes, meet your new White House counsel: Fred Fielding, of Wiley Rein & Fielding (who served as White House counsel under President Reagan).
* Next time you go out for pizza, leave the corporate lawyers at home.
* Pentagon official Charles Stimson doesn’t like how Guantanamo Bay detainees are getting pro bono representation from some of the country’s top law firms. Don’t they have better things to be doing with their pro bono time?
* Michael Nifong manages a Houdini-like escape from the debacle known as the Duke lacrosse team rape case.
* Celebrity law professors Noah Feldman and Jeannie Suk, whom you have just dubbed Feldsuk, have a really nice house.
* But not as nice as the $7 million mansion of patent lawyer Donald Stout (aerial view at right).
* Federal judicial nominees: Out with the old, in with the new.
* Chief Judge Michael Boudin (1st Cir.): You like him, you really like him.
* Maybe it’s because he’s such a big feeder judge. Interestingly enough, though, he has only placed one clerk so far at the Supreme Court for October Term 2007.*
(But Chief Judge Boudin feeds mostly to Justice Breyer and Justice Souter. The former isn’t finished hiring yet, and the latter hasn’t even started.)

charles stimson charles d stimson.jpgOne of you thinks that this news warrants a Saturday post. And we see your point.*
The article in question is running on the front page of the New York Times, above the fold. So, from the NYT:

The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.

The comments by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble….

When asked in the radio interview who was paying for the legal representation, Mr. Stimson replied: “It’s not clear, is it? Some will maintain that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they’re doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are; others are receiving moneys from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”

Props to this Charles Stimson fellow. Even if his views may be completely misguided, we like anyone who stirs up a s**tstorm.
Discussion continues after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Make the Gitmo Detainees Pay for Their Own Damn Photocopies”

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgEarlier this week, we shared with you what we’ve heard about Ty Clevenger and Shanetta Cutlar.
To recap, Clevenger was a lawyer in the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. He worked under Cutlar, the Chief of the Section. We wrote:

[Clevenger] had some issues with Cutlar and how she ran the Section. Last fall, Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Clevenger alleged that Cutlar — whom he described as “extremely intelligent” and “very charming,” but also “a Jekyll and Hyde personality” — created an “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” within the Section.

On October 4, 2006, Ty Clevenger sent his letter to McNulty. Clevenger’s office was searched overnight, and he was fired the next day. He is in the process of filing a whistleblower complaint.

This is what we had heard, from reliable sources; but it struck us as rather odd, almost fishy. It’s just not consistent with what we know about federal government service. As a federal government lawyer, you can do all sorts of things — e.g., write a saucy, pseudonymous judicial gossip blog — and still part ways with your office voluntarily (and on good terms). In the rare cases when government lawyers are fired or asked to resign, events usually unfold at a glacial rather than breakneck pace (unless there is, say, compelling evidence of criminal conduct).
So we reached out to Ty Clevenger himself, by email. He happily responded to our questions. He verified the sequence of events: his sending of the letter to McNulty, followed almost immediately by his being asked to leave.
We asked Clevenger this question:

“Exactly how did the search of your office and the firing go down? It seems rather shocking for a government lawyer to be fired so quickly, especially after sending a letter of complaint to the DAG. It seems like basically a recipe for trouble for the people behind the firing.”

Ty Clevenger’s response to our query, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Ty Clevenger and Shanetta Cutlar: How It All Went Down”

Carol Lam Carol C Lam Southern District of California San Diego Yale College Stanford Law School.JPGIt turns out that Eumi Choi may not be the most controversial Asian-American female in a U.S. Attorney’s Office. From the San Diego Union-Tribune (via TPM):

The Bush administration has quietly asked San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, best known for her high-profile prosecutions of politicians and corporate executives, to resign her post, a law enforcement official said.

Lam, a Bush appointee who took the helm in 2002, was targeted because of job performance issues – in particular that she failed to make smuggling and gun cases a top priority, said the official, who declined to be identified because Lam has yet to step down.

But there may be some personality issues here too:

Lam has had high-profile successes during her tenure, such as the Randy “Duke” Cunningham bribery case – but she alienated herself from bosses at the Justice Department because she is outspoken and independent, said local lawyers familiar with her policies.

If true, this is troubling. The DOJ needs more, not fewer, outspoken minority women. And if the powers-that-be can put up with Eumi Choi and Shanetta Cutlar, surely they can stomach Carol Lam.
Two good quotes re: Lam’s being canned for not stressing immigration offenses enough. First, from Michael Attanasio, a criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor:

“This office has clearly made a priority of investigating and prosecuting white collar offenses and has had occasional success doing so. One would think that would be valued by any administration, even if it meant fewer resources were devoted to routine and repetitive border crimes.”

“Routine and repetitive border crimes” — nice. (Although modifying the reference to “success” with “occasional” was kinda catty.)
And from Professor Mario Conte, former chief of Federal Defenders of San Diego Inc.:

“What do they want her to do, lock up Mexico?”

No, not necessary. But if she could put up a big wall, that might be nice.
Lam Is Asked To Step Down [San Diego Union-Tribune via Talking Points Memo]
Carol Lam bio [U.S. Attorney's Office (S.D. Cal.)]
Carol C. Lam bio [Students & Leaders]

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgShanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is a world-class diva. We have described Shanetta’s shenangians here and here.
We worship imperious women like Shanetta Cutlar. But some of you are less warmly disposed towards her. Since we’ve started posting about her, we’ve received some interesting emails and comments from readers — including current and former colleagues of Cutlar. See, e.g., these comments.
The list of people who have had some workplace exposure to Shanetta Cutlar grows longer and longer by the week. This is because the lawyers who work under her keep on leaving. The Special Litigation Section has more turnovers than a pastry shop.
Here are some things we’ve heard from tipsters (unconfirmed; if you see errors or have additions, please email us):

1. Morale is perilously low within the Special Litigation Section, and many attorneys desperately want out.

2. Last month, four attorneys left the Section — including one who was there for less than three months. Two of the others had been there for a little over a year.

3. “Another attorney currently in SPL told the DOJ that she will leave [the Department] if she is not transferred out. She has been there for less than six months.”

Goodness gracious. We agree with commenter Who Are These Babies: All of you Shanetta-haters need to just “[s]uck it up.” If you ever leave the DOJ for a law firm, you will have to put up with Biglaw partners who are ten times worse than Shanetta.
SPL minions, heed the words of Nietzsche: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” The next time you pass her in the hallway, say a warm “hello” to Shanetta Cutlar — and thank her for toughening you up.
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

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