Federal Government

Although this could change, right now it looks like the federal government is about to shut down (for the first time in 15 years). Here’s an open thread for discussion.

Speaking of shutting down, we’re done for the day. To learn about how the courts and the Department of Justice will (or won’t) be affected by the shutdown, check out the excellent links collected below.

UPDATE: A compromise deal has been reached, averting a shutdown. Yay!

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Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the colorful figure of Shanetta Cutlar. She was a high-powered Department of Justice lawyer who was known for her high-handed treatment of DOJ subordinates and colleagues.

(Read the blockquote in this post to get a sense of her antics, or read this juicy letter to former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, in which ex-Cutlar underling Ty Clevenger describes the “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” created by Shanetta.)

We haven’t covered Shanetta Cutlar since March 2010, when she stepped down from her post as chief of the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”). After she left SPL, she took a post in the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Office of Justice Programs (“OJP”). This move was interpreted by some DOJ insiders as a form of exile for the controversial Cutlar.

We haven’t heard anything about her since her move to OJP — until now….

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Natalie Lee (aka Cavanaugh Lee)

Might we be seeing a new trend, namely, federal prosecutors moonlighting as novelists?

Last year, as part of Above the Law’s Career Alternatives series, we profiled Allison Leotta, an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. who wrote a well-received thriller, Law of Attraction. Today we introduce you to Natalie Lee — an assistant U.S. attorney in Savannah, former associate at Alston & Bird, and author of a new novel, Save as Draft. (When looking up the book, please note that Natalie writes under a pen name, “Cavanaugh Lee.”)

Like Law of Attraction, Save as Draft has garnered some nice reviews. A post on Chick Lit Reviews, for example, praises the book as a “fantastic read that all of us technology addicted Chick Lit fans will absolutely fall in love with, a must read!”

The reference to technology addiction relates to the novel’s ingenious premise. I discussed that premise — along with other topics, such as the inspiration for the book’s law firm partner / villainess, a products-liability litigatrix named Rose — in a recent interview with Natalie Lee….

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Being a federal prosecutor is a great legal job, but it has its downsides. One of them, at least for me, was the anonymity. In your work as an assistant U.S. attorney, it’s not about you; it’s about the merits of the cases, and seeing that justice is done. That’s public-spirited and all, but it’s not very fabulous (at least not to a shameless attention-seeker like myself).

Given the relative anonymity of being an AUSA, it’s not normal for the New York Post to cover the hiring of any single one. But Tali Farhadian, who’s joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn), isn’t your normal AUSA.

How many federal prosecutors are as brilliant, as beautiful, and as filthy rich as Farhadian? And how many are as controversial?

Let’s learn why this lush Persian beauty is so celebrated in some quarters, and so loathed in others. And see some photos, too…

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Last week, we reported that Boston University School of Law was warning job seekers not to read (or link to) WikiLeaks if they want to get a government job. The government still regards the documents as classified, and so somehow if you link to them (say on Facebook), you might fail a to get the security clearance needed for some government jobs.

No really, the “classified” documents are now publicly available, and the government won’t even acknowledge that the documents exist, but linking to them can get you dinged from a job (during a terrible job market to boot)? Is George Orwell running the State Department?

(Ed. note: For the safety of our readers, there are no links to WikiLeaks in this post.)

Apparently, common sense is not something the federal government is working with these days, and so the warning against Wikileaks has gone out to various government agencies, and even Columbia University…

UPDATE (10:55 AM): We’ve also added, after the jump, an email about WikiLeaks that went out to employees of the Department of Commerce last week.

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As if law students did have enough to worry about when trying to get jobs, career services at Boston University School of Law has pointed out another potential pitfall that may terrify its students. According to BU, merely reading the WikiLeaks documents could prevent you from getting the security clearances necessary to get certain government jobs.

It sounds crazy. I’m talking “BU career services has been watching too many Oliver Stone movies” crazy. Basically, I don’t think the federal government is even competent enough to find all the Wikileaks readers and blacklist them from the federal payroll. I mean, if the FBI or CIA or whatever really was the kind of omnipresent force idealized in movies, tell me how Julian Assange is still alive, much less in a position to publish thousands of confidential documents.

But if you listen to BU, it sounds like reading Wikileaks is a risk that already desperate 2Ls shouldn’t take….

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Federal government lawyers are having their pay frozen. But let’s face it: you don’t don’t go into government service for the money.

You might do it for the experience. You might do it for the lifestyle. And, depending on the position, you might do it for the prestige.

Someone once said to me, “You can’t eat prestige.” “Maybe not,” I replied. “But prestige certainly is delicious!”

For a young lawyer, one of the most prestigious government gigs around is a Bristow Fellowship. These four one-year fellowships in the Solicitor General’s Office are generally regarded as second only to Supreme Court clerkships in prestige (and many Bristow Fellows later go on to clerk at the Court). You can read more about the Bristow, including the job responsibilities and the application process, on the Department of Justice website.

Earlier this month, the four Bristows for 2011-2012 were notified of their good fortune. Who are they?

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There was a time in this country where the holiday season was a time to be rewarded for a good year of work. People received bonuses. People received pay raises, so their salaries could keep pace with their growing experience and maturity (or at least keep up with inflation).

The America where that kind of stuff happened now only exists in memory. In post-recession (or mid-double-dip-recession) America, the holidays are a time when the people at the top jealously guard their wealth, while everybody else tries to figure out how to make “sacrifices” for the greater good.

Usually, this type of thing can be seen most clearly in the private sector (click here for Above the Law’s coverage of bonus season). But today the Obama administration is getting into the holiday spirit by freezing salaries on federal employees for two years.

So, if you’re a J.D. holder who joined the Department of Justice or another federal agency to escape the Biglaw recession, the pay cut you thought you were signing up for just got bigger.

And it probably also means that a few federal attorneys will be trying to get back into the private sector — which will be great, because it’s not like the market for attorneys is oversaturated or anything….

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Congratulations to successful applicants to the U.S. Department of Justice’s prestigious and highly selective Honors Program. As noted on the program’s website, the DOJ Honors Program “is the only way that the Department hires entry-level attorneys.” (Otherwise you have to clerk or practice elsewhere first — as I did, before joining the DOJ as an AUSA.)

Offers for the Honors Program have actually been going out for a little while now. We first heard of offers being issued a little over a week ago, around November 12. In the past few days, though, we’ve been getting many more reports. And according to the list of key dates on the program website, now is the time for offers to be issued.

So, which divisions — or “hiring components,” in DOJ speak — are making offers?

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This morning, the Senate had a TSA oversight hearing to discuss serious issues around secure air travel, notably the use of see-through-your-clothes scanners and aggressive “crotchal area” patdowns. A highlight was the TSA head offering any of the senators that wanted one a sample patdown to experience it for themselves. No happy ending guaranteed.

For the patdowns and scanners, that is. “There must be a way to figure out how to do what’s necessary… and for the privacy concern to be addressed because it’s legitimate,” said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in her opening remarks.

Frequent flyers are increasingly annoyed with their air travel experiences, whether they’re being scanned, felt up, paying for extra bags, or having their flights delayed or canceled. One U.K. man turned to Twitter in January to vent his frustration when his visit to a lady friend in Ireland was thwarted by a snowstorm. Paul Chambers tweeted, “Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your sh*t together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

The British sense of humor tends to be dry. Chambers’s was too dry for the courts there. He was convicted of being a menace and ordered to pay $4,800 in costs and fines. When his appeal was denied last week, it caused an explosion on Twitter. And those protest tweets will soon be turned over to police…

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