Senate Judiciary Committee

One of the biggest legal and political stories today is the congressional testimony of Sara Taylor, former White House political director. Taylor declined to answer a number of questions, based on executive privilege.
We’ll leave substantive discussion of the Taylor testimony to others, and focus instead on matters of style. From a tipster:

“Check out this photo essay. I don’t mean to sound catty, but shouldn’t she have used Monica Goodling’s stylist?”

Sara Taylor Testimony Senate Judiciary Committee Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPG
We agree wholeheartedly. Screw executive privilege — what about stylist’s privilege?
We comment on some of the Sara Taylor photos, after the jump.

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Wan Kim Wan J Kim Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThanks for the reminder. In an earlier post, we wrote: “We’ve been hearing interesting rumors about some possible departures at the Assistant Attorney General (AAG) level.” And since today is Friday, the favored day for DOJ resignations, we figured we might as well squeeze this in before lunchtime.
Some of the rumors have already come to pass — like the departure of Eileen O’Connor, as head of the Tax Division, and the departure of Rachel Brand, as head of the Office of Legal Policy. But there’s one resignation rumor that’s still outstanding.
We hear that Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim, who oversees the Justice Department’s important (and controversial) Civil Rights Division, will step down from his post before the end of the year. He was sworn in as AAG in November 2005, so by this fall he will have held the job for two years — a long-enough stint in that position.
If Wan Kim does resign from the Civil Rights Division, he can hardly be blamed. Getting scolded on Capitol Hill isn’t much fun. Especially when most of the things you’re getting scolded about are the fault of your predecessor, former Acting AAG Bradley J. Schlozman (who is allegedly not the nicest guy in the world, according to some people).
Senators Deride Justice Reassignments [Washington Post]
Earlier: Why Did the Prom Queen Leave the Party?
Musical Chairs: Rearranging the Proverbial Deck Chairs at Main Justice?

Italia Federici hottie Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgSee here. And another one is going to prison.
Just another day here in the nation’s capital.
P.S. Best name ever for a paramour involved in a corruption case: Italia Federici.
Senate Subpoenas White House, Cheney House [Wonkette]
White House, Cheney’s Office Subpoenaed [Associated Press]
Ex-Interior Aide Is Sentenced in Lobbying Case [New York Times]


Judicial junkies, here are two quick items about the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit:
Chambermaid 2 Saira Rao Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg1. New Novel. The eagerly anticipated Chambermaid — a roman a clef novel set in the Third Circuit by Saira Rao, a former law clerk to the totally terrifying Judge Dolores Sloviter (3d Cir.) — is now in bookstores. It has arrived a few weeks ahead of its original publication date of July 10. Our earlier discussion appears here.
A very interesting interview with Saira Rao, followed by a comments clusterf**k lively reader discussion, appears at the WSJ Law Blog.
We recently read Chambermaid, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We’ll probably review it in the near future, either here at ATL or for a print publication.
(Shameless plug: If you’re an editor in need of a book review, please email us.)
Law Blog Q&A: Saira Rao [WSJ Law Blog]
Chambermaid by Saira Rao [official website]
Earlier: A ‘Devil Wears Prada’ for the Law Clerk Set
Shalom Stone Shalom D Stone Third Circuit Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg2. New Nominee. After Judge Noel Hillman (D.N.J.) was mysteriously pulled as the presumptive nominee for Justice Samuel Alito’s former Third Circuit seat, we wondered: What’s up with that Third Circuit seat?
Now we know (or think we do). According to media reports, the likely new nominee is Shalom Stone (at right). Here’s a brief bio:

Stone, a former chairman of a state bar committee on federal practice and procedure who handles a wide swath of issues, including insurance, RICO, real estate and ethics, has been practicing for 20 years. He’s now a partner at the Roseland firm of Walder Hayden and Brogan.

More discussion, after the jump.

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Harriet Miers Harriet E Miers Harriet Ellan Miers Harriet Elan Miers Above the Law.JPGWe recently got to meet former White House counsel Harriet Miers, up close and personal. And it seems we’re not the only folks who will get to spend quality time with the onetime (and ill-fated) Supreme Court nominee.
This just in, from the AP:

Two congressional committees are issuing subpoenas for testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor on their roles in the firings of eight federal prosecutors, according to two officials familiar with the investigation….

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont issued Taylor’s subpoena for her testimony July 11. His counterpart in the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan, issued a subpoena for Miers’ testimony the next day.

A little bit more, after the jump.

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Alberto Gonzales 4 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.gifWe’ve been doing a lot of Biglaw coverage lately. But since Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is being raked over the coals as we type, in an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, let’s take a timely detour into the U.S. Department of Justice.
The DOJ isn’t looking terribly competent right now. And this latest story won’t burnish their reputation. From a tipster:

As you know, the Justice Department produced a number of documents to Congress, concerning the controversial U.S. Attorney firings. These document productions have not been huge — maybe just a few thousand pages. Nothing like what you see in major commercial litigation.

One such document production showed up on Capitol Hill, in four sets: two sets for the Senate Judiciary Committee (Democrats and Republicans), and two sets for the House Judiciary Committee (Democrats and Republicans). The production arrived on a weekday evening.

A Republican staffer immediately started looking through the production. The staffer noticed that the produced documents didn’t have Bates stamps on them. Oops. Guess the DOJ forgot to have them stamped — a screw-up, although not a cardinal sin.

A few pages later, the staffer noticed something else, on a document with redactions on it. There was redacting tape that was STILL ON THE DOCUMENT. One could access the redacted, privileged material simply by peeling off the tape.

Holy crap. Instead of sending over Bates-stamped photocopies, the DOJ had produced its ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS to the Congress.

Nice. Apparently the Justice Department is less competent than a second-year litigation associate: they can’t do a proper document production.
It gets worse. More after the jump.

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Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgVia the Volokh Conspiracy, we came across this intriguing piece, by Murray Waas for the National Journal, about how Attorney General Alberto Gonzales delegated exceptionally broad powers to his two youthful underlings: D. Kyle Sampson and the Magnificent Monica Goodling.
Here’s the lede:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides — who have since resigned because of their central roles in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys — extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department….

In the order, Gonzales delegated to his then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, and his White House liaison “the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration” of virtually all non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department, including all of the department’s political appointees who do not require Senate confirmation. Monica Goodling became White House liaison in April 2006, the month after Gonzales signed the order.

Professor Orin Kerr’s take:

Remarkable. And assuming this story checks out, it certainly explains why Gonzales seemed so clueless about the U.S. Attorney firings. It seems that Gonzales had taken himself completely out of the loop of all DOJ political appointee hiring. He had delegated that role completely to two 30-somethings, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling; his only role was a formality, required just so that OLC would find the practice constitutional.

We take issue with Professor Kerr’s dismissive reference to the Magnificent Monica Goodling as a mere “30-something.” And now that she has been granted immunity, we can’t wait for Goodling to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
All mysteries will be revealed, and this entire U.S. Attorney mess will be straightened out, after Monica Goodling appears before the House Judiciary Committee in all her radiance. She will dazzle the Committee, as well as the American people, with her command performance, the likes of which have never been seen on Capitol Hill.
Goodling’s crisp and cogent answers to even the most challenging queries from legislators will cause jaws to drop. Her command of both the facts and the law concerning the U.S. Attorney firings will amaze the nation. It will be just like the final courtroom scene in “Legally Blonde,” in which another plucky, underestimated blonde triumphed against all odds.
At the end of her testimony, Rep. John Conyers will publicly apologize to Monica Goodling for dragging her good name through the mud. Faith in the U.S. Department of Justice will be restored. Truth, justice, and the American way will be vindicated.
And then President Bush will dispatch Monica Goodling to Iraq, as head of a special mission designed to fix the debacle over there. There is nothing that our Monica can’t do!!!
Secret Order By Gonzales Delegated Extraordinary Powers To Aides [National Journal]
Did Sampson and Goodling Have Total Control of DOJ Political Hiring? [Volokh Conspiracy]

Alberto Gonzales 3 Alberto R Gonzales Attorney General Above the Law blog.jpgAttorney General Alberto Gonzales made a make-or-break appearance yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. We covered his SJC testimony extensively. See here, here, and here.
If the Gonzales testimony were a Broadway show, today would be the morning after opening night, when the all-powerful Ben Brantley theatre critics weigh in. And based on the reviews (see links below), the Al Gonzales Show is the biggest disaster since Dracula the Musical. Will someone please drive a stake through the heart of AGAG’s tenure?
As you know, we love drama, and we love surprises. We were secretly hoping that Gonzales — who has never been a great public speaker (we’ve seen him) — would deliver a bravura performance, one that would resurrect his career, leaving his critics stunned and speechless. We were looking for a home run, a tour de force like Clarence Thomas’s Senate testimony, as described by Camille Paglia:

Make no mistake: it was not a White House conspiracy that saved this nomination. It was Clarence Thomas himself. After eight hours of Hill’s testimony, he was driven as low as any man could be. But step by step, with sober, measured phrases, he regained his position and turned the momentum against his accusers. It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever witnessed on television. Giving birth to himself, Thomas reenacted his own credo of self-made man.

But Alberto Gonzales is no Clarence Thomas — and his days as AG are numbered. Gonzales isn’t Spanish for “Souter”; it’s Spanish for “toast.”
Al, the President’s Man [Slate.com]
On a Very Hot Seat With Little Cover and Less Support [New York Times]
Gonzales Rejects Call for His Ouster [Associated Press]
Senators Chastise Gonzales at Hearing [Washington Post]
Gonzales Says He Didn’t Know Why Two Were Fired [Washington Post]
Roughed Up on the Hill [Washington Post]

Alberto Gonzales 3 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Alberto Gonzalez Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re getting underway again, with the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some random audience member just shouted out: “Hi Senator Kyl!”
2:39: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who missed much of the morning session due to a funeral, is leading off the afternoon questioning. He reads a brief introductory statement (and barely looks up from his notes). Grassley gloats over how the DOJ tried to prevent a witness from testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, on which he also serves, but got slapped down by the courts.
(Wow, that accent is REALLY Midwestern. Anyone wanna go to the mal?)
2:49: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) wants to know what safeguards were in place to prevent improper political considerations from entering into the process re: which U.S. Attorneys to fire. He’s very animated, angry — he frequently raises his voice.
AGAG says that he relied upon people he trusted — and repeatedly mentions the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty, and the big role the DAG played in this process. It seems to us that Gonzales wants to make McNulty the fall guy.
(Not a bad idea — McNulty is leaving the DOJ soon, anyway).
3:02: OMG, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) — a Republican, and a conservative one at that — just ripped AGAG a new one. Several new ones, actually. Some quotes:

“You should be judged by the same standards as these U.S. attorneys were judged, and suffer the same consequences.”

“Mistakes were made, and mistakes should have consequences.”

“[T]his was handled incompetently… Communication was atrocious.”

“The best way to put this all behind us is your resignation,” so we can “start with a clean slate.”

“I like you as a man, as an individual, but mistakes have consequences.”

OUCH. OUCH OUCH. Alberto Gonzales = pinata.
If this is what a Republican has to say, wait ’til the Democrats are up to bat next….
4:08: Sorry, our attention wandered… Lots of questioning about matters not related to the U.S. Attorney firings (because this is, after all, technically a general DOJ oversight hearing). E.g., Sen. Kyl asking about offshore gambling outfits; Sen. Specter asking about whether there’s any federal law enforcement angle to the Virginia Tech shootings.
Now, a ten-minute recess.
Earlier: Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 2)
Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)

Alberto Gonzales 2 Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgWe’re picking up with where we left off, in our liveblogging of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
10:50: Sen. Herb. Kohl is REALLY going after AGAG. He cites poll data showing that approximately half of the American public wants Gonzales to resign.
Kohl is in essence asking: Why are you still here? He suggests to Gonzales that these poll results matter, because American people’s perceptions of the DOJ and whether justice is being done are very important.
Gonzales has a good line here: “You’re right, Senator. This is not about Alberto Gonzales.” He then says it’s about the work the DOJ is doing (to “protect our children,” of course).
11:00: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) tosses a bunch of softballs in AGAG’s direction. He’s the most friendly questioner of the morning thus far. He also notes that some time ago, a Democratic senator predicted that Gonzales would be gone as AG within a week. “And yet here you are, still Attorney General, a month later. And I’m glad to see that.”
11:08: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is up now. Her lilac blazer stands out in the sea of dark suits.
Feinstein tries to zero in on the precise extent of Gonzales’s involvement. Great line: “Who was the Decider?”
We love ourselves some DiFi!
Okay, time for a 10-minute recess — the first of the morning.
And now we’re back. More discussion, after the jump.

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