Department of Justice

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgThe Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department — one of the DOJ’s most important arms, charged with enforcing our nation’s anti-discrimination laws — has been experiencing some upheaval over the past few years. Several articles in the Washington Post have examined some of the conflicts within the division. See, e.g., here, here, and here.
We’ve learned that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee may be taking a closer look at what’s going on over at the Civil Rights Division. And when they do, some of their attention may focus on the Special Litigation Section, headed by Shanetta Y. Cutlar.
Here’s an explanation of the Section’s mission, from its website:

[The Section is] charged with enforcing federal civil rights statutes in four major areas: Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons, Conduct of Law Enforcement Agencies, Access to Reproductive Health Clinics and places of Religious Worship, and Religious Exercise of Institutionalized Persons. The Section undertakes investigations and litigation through the United States and its territories.

The Section Chief is Shanetta Cutlar, an award-winning litigatrix. And even though some attorneys and staff members have alleged that she’s “abusive” — what a subjective word! — Cutlar is a woman after our own heart. There’s nothing we love more than a high-powered female who takes charge of a situation and demands respect from her subordinates. We adore women in leadership roles who follow the teaching of Machiavelli: “[I]t is far safer to be feared than loved.”
A former attorney in the Special Litigation Section, Ty Clevenger — a Stanford Law grad and former law clerk to the highly esteemed Judge Morris Arnold (8th Cir.) — 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.
Here’s the first page of Clevenger’s letter to the DAG:
Shanetta Cutlar Paul McNulty 1.jpg
There’s more. Juicy details about La Shanetta’s alleged behavior are described in the rest of Ty Clevenger’s letter. The letter has been distributed to all the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee (with supporting documentation).
We reprint the entire Clevenger letter, which a source helpfully leaked provided to us, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “DOJ Diva of the Day: Shanetta Y. Cutlar”

celebrity celebrities Above the Law legal tabloid legal blog.JPGWe love lists: the Forbes 400, the U.S. News college and law school rankings, or Washingtonian magazine’s list of 40 top lawyers under 40. We love lawyers — which is good, since we spend all day writing about them. And we love fabulous things.
So you can imagine our delight upon seeing this feature from The American Lawyer: The Young Litigators Fab Fifty. It’s a list of 50 top litigators from around the country, all under the age of 45, whom the magazine “expect[s] to see leading the field for years to come.”
You can check out the list here. Regular readers of ATL will recognize many of these youthful luminaries. Here are some highlights:

– Latham & Watkins partner Sean Berkowitz,* the former prosecutor who rose to fame durring the Enron case;

Paul Clement, the U.S. Solicitor General (who was very nice to us);

– Weil Gotshal partner Gregory Coleman and Texas Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz, two top Texas lawyers (and possible Fifth Circuit nominees);

– Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, the delectable DOJ diva;

Jeffrey Fisher, of Davis Wright & Tremaine, SCOTUS lefty litigator extraordinaire (he’s a Bleeding Reinhardt and former JPS clerk);

– Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, Chief Justice Roberts’s former l’il buddy (from his Hogan & Hartson days);

Professor Neal Katyal of Georgetown Law, the “Paris Hilton of the Legal Elite”;

– Alabama’s Solicitor General, Kevin Newsom (amusing story about him here); and

Eugene Scalia, the Gibson Dunn partner and fabled ERISA hottie (and son of Nino).

On the whole, it’s an excellent list. We can think of a few questionable omissions (and a few dubious selections). But with something this subjective, reasonable minds will differ.
Congrats again to the Fab Fifty!
* Does anyone know if Sean Berkowitz and Bethany McLean, the Fortune reporter who covered Enron, are still an item?
The Young Litigators Fab Fifty [American Lawyer]

musical chairs 2 Above the Law legal blog above the law legal tabloid above the law legal gossip site.GIFA few of the more prominent moves within this noble profession:
From government to private sector:
* Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton is joining Royal Dutch Shell, as general counsel for its “unconventional resources division” (e.g., extracting oil from “oil shale” and “extra heavy oil” — don’t ask us, we don’t know).
(A WSJ Law Blog commenter sniffs: “One would think that she could have secured a more lucrative and high profile job, given her resume.” We agree somewhat on the “high profile” part, but don’t know enough about the filthy lucre associated with this gig.)
* Former assistant U.S. attorney Mauro Wolfe, with whom we used to work, to Dickstein Shapiro. He will be a partner in the firm’s securities practice, in the New York office.
* Mark Paoletta and Andrew Snowdon, to the D.C. office of Dickstein Shapiro (as partner and of counsel, respectively). Paoletta previously served as served as Chief Counsel for Oversight and Investigations on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Snowdon previously served as a lawyer on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. They join the government law & strategy practice.
Within government:
* The United States Attorney for Connecticut, Kevin O’Connor, has been named associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. His DOJ work will focus on violent crime, gangs, and guns. O’Connor plans to retain his post as U.S. Attorney for at least six months.
Lateral moves:
* M&A lawyer Michael Aiello, to Weil Gotshal, from Dewey Ballantine (as previously noted).
* Finance lawyer Philip Haber, to Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, from Nixon Peabody.
New partners:
* Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft: Seven new partners. Names here (PDF).
* LeBoeuf Lamb: Five new partners. Names here.
* Patterson Belknap: White-collar defense lawyer Daniel Ruzumna, promoted from counsel to partner. Ruzumna served for six years as an AUSA in the legendary Southern District of New York. His final post in the S.D.N.Y. was Acting Chief of the Major Crimes Unit.
The voluminous links are collected after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: 01.02.07″


As previously mentioned, we’re on a reduced publication schedule this week. We’ll be doing a daily news round-up (and maybe a few other random posts here and there). We’ll return to our normal diarrhea of the keyboard publishing schedule on January 2.
* Civil libertarians, just raise the white flag. The Justice Department knows what you’re doing RIGHT NOW. [Washington Post]
* His father always knew there was “something special” about Judge Frank Easterbrook. And litigants who have appeared before FHE feel the same way. [Buffalo News via How Appealing (of course -- no offense, but we aren't regular readers of the Buffalo News)]
* In other Seventh Circuit news, Judge Richard Posner delivers remarks about maritime law to an audience of supermodels. We swear we’re not making this up. [Washington Post]
* Following up on our prior report, here’s a clear sign that Chadbourne & Parke partners don’t have enough business. [WSJ Law Blog]
* If McDonald’s french fries never taste the same, blame it on the anti-trans-fat legislation. [UPI]
* Complications of diabetes: not just medical, but law-related, too. [New York Times]
* If you’re a judge with unfulfilled literary aspirations, try writing something safe and non-controversial. Ideally it should be something nobody would want to read. We suggest a pop-up book about the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch via How Appealing]
* Even more fun than charades: take Peter Lattman to a party, start reading out random newspaper headlines, and challenge him to find a legal angle to the stories. [WSJ Law Blog]

Legal Eagle Wedding Watch NYT wedding announcements Above the Law.jpgWe were starved for Wedding Watch material in the weekend of December 9-10. We couldn’t even find the standard three couples in which at least one spouse is a lawyer.
So we did the next best thing — we found two couples in which a parent of a spouse is a lawyer (and a third couple of two lawyers). Here are this week’s contestants:

1. Cornelia Henning, Nicholas Van Amburg

2. Ariella Rosenberg, Matthew Maron

3. Marla Tusk, Josh Gottheimer

Scores and commentary for this trio of lovebirds, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch: December 10, 2006″

michael lee mike lee christopher paolella chris paolella matthew schwartz matt schwartz gordon todd.JPGsamuel alito jr samuel a alito jr justice alito.jpgSorry it has taken us so long. As promised months ago, we now begin our series profiling current Supreme Court clerks (aka the “October Term 2006″ or “OT 2006″ law clerks).
We’ll be going chambers by chambers, starting with the most junior justice. Here are the four law clerks to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

1. Michael S. Lee (BYU ’97/Benson (D. Utah)/Alito)

2. Christopher J. Paolella (Harvard ’99/Alito)

3. Matthew A. Schwartz (Columbia ’03/Alito)

4. Gordon D. Todd (UVA ’00/Beam)

As a member of the Alito extended family explained to us, here’s the key to understanding the Alito chambers: 3:1. This golden ratio perfectly captures the demographics of the OT 2006 Alito clerks. Consider:

1. Familial status: three are married with children, one is not (Chris Paolella — married, but no kids yet).

2. Undergraduate institution: three are Princetonians, one is not (Michael Lee — BYU).

3. Prior Alito clerkship: three previously clerked for then-Judge Alito on the Third Circuit, one did not (Gordon Todd).

4. Religious affiliation: three are Christian,* one is not (Matthew Schwartz — he’s Jewish).

5. College debate: three were gods of the parliamentary debate circuit, and former presidents of the American Parliamentary Debate Assocation (APDA); one was not (Michael Lee).

But we wouldn’t want such commonalities to overshadow the individuality of these gents. Check out our profiles of Messrs. Lee, Paolella, Schwartz, and Todd — after the jump.
* Mitt Romney footnote: Michael Lee is Mormon, which we consider to be Christian. Presidential candidate Romney hopes that evangelical Christians voting in the Republican primaries will agree with us.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Justice Alito’s OT 2006 Law Clerks”

Orrin Hatch Orrin G Hatch Orrin Grant Hatch Above the Law.jpgThe Legal Times is wondering about the Senate committee plans of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). They speculate that he might take over the Antitrust Subcommittee of the judiciary panel.
But as we previously reported, Hatch is actually leaving the Senate Judiciary Committee altogether. And now other sources, from the mainstream media, are repeating what we told you last week.
Update (12/14/06): Actually, this did not come to pass. Senator Hatch ended up staying on Judiciary.
As for the second big SJC story we wrote about on Friday, concerning a possible investigation into the DOJ’s Civil Rights division, we expect to have more details in the near future. So check back again soon.
Hatching a Plan?: Hatch Looking for a Committee to Lead [Legal Times]
Earmaking Kansas [American Spectator]
Assessing Roberts’ re-election prospects [Lawrence Journal-World, Lawrence, KS]
Earlier: Juicy News from the Senate Judiciary Committee

Capitol building Above the Law Legal Blog 2.JPGTwo pieces of news from the Senate Judiciary Committee:
1. Orrin Is Outie. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is said to be leaving the Judiciary Committee. Senator Hatch served as committee chairman for many years, before he was replaced as chairman by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), due to the Republicans’ system of term limits for committee chairs.
When the Democrats take over the Senate in January, Senator Specter will become the ranking member. Senator Hatch, if he stayed on the Judiciary Committee, would be just another member — and a minority member, at that. So he’s leaving the committee, to devote his time and energy to other policy areas.
Update (12/14/06): Actually, this did not come to pass. Senator Hatch ended up staying on Judiciary.
2. Let the investigations begin! The SJC’s Democrats are gearing up to look into allegations in a whistleblower complaint, made by a former attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division. In connection with this matter, certain documents are being distributed to the Democratic members of the committee, via the office of Senator Pat Leahy (who will take over as chairman in January).
That second story is developing. We’ll have more on it later. If you have anything to add, please email us.

* The DOJ’s IG, its equivalent of the GAO, will investigate the NSA’s warrantless issuance of acronyms. [Law.com]
* Disecting the Chief Justice’s humor… lawyer style. [WSJ Law Blog]
* No name-calling: Court strikes down President’s power to designate terror groups. [MSNBC]
* Back in the Dogg pound: this time charges include “having a false compartment in a vehicle.” [CNN]

Last week, an investiture ceremony was held for Judge Neil Gorsuch, recently confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. And it was a star-studded affair. From the Denver Post:

Seven-year-old Emma and 5-year-old Belinda helped their father, Neil Gorsuch, into his judge’s robes Monday after the newly appointed 10th Circuit Court judge was sworn in.

Munching on cookies after the formal ceremony, Emma said she thought it “was nice.”

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was in Denver to administer the oath, spoke directly to the little girls before Gorsuch raised his right hand. “He’s doing it to remind all of us that the first obligation any American has is to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

Justice Kennedy’s pedagogical impulse is admirable. We suspect, however, that Emma and Belinda were thinking more about cookies than the Constitution.
Some supplementary coverage, from an ATL tipster:

The entire en banc 10th Circuit was present. Justice Kennedy administered the oath. Attorney General Gonzales read the commission. Both Colorado Senators made remarks, as did Mark Hansen of Kellogg Huber (the insanely prestigious appellate shop from which Gorsuch rose). Half of the Justice Department was there: Rachel Brand, Elisebeth Collins Cook, Brett Gerry, Wan Kim, Gregory Katsas, among others.

The Gorsuch clerks showed everyone around Denver and got trashed on consecutive nights. Good times were had by all.

Article III groupies, Judge Neil Gorsuch is one to watch. He’s brilliant, he’s young, and he’s incredibly well-connected. Look for him to rise through the ranks of Supreme Court feeder judges in the years to come — and, perhaps, to be nominated to the Court himself someday.
(Judge Gorsuch is taking the seat of Judge David Ebel, who has been the Tenth Circuit’s resident feeder judge for quite some time now. Guess that’s the 10th Circuit’s designated “feeder seat.”)
Update: Would someone be able to locate and/or send us a good photo of Judge Gorsuch for our files? Our quick Googling didn’t produce anything useful.
10th Circuit judge’s oath a family affair [Denver Post]

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