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….
On Friday, we broke the news that Shanetta Cutlar will be stepping down as head of the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”), in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. This news was met with rejoicing in some quarters; Cutlar was not universally loved as a boss.
Much of our past coverage of Shanetta Cutlar has been somewhat negative (reflecting what we’ve heard from our sources). But there are some dissenting opinions — and we’re happy to present one to you today.
After our Friday report, we heard from Robert Driscoll, a former Justice Department official who is now a partner in the Washington office of Alston & Bird. During his time at the DOJ, he worked with Cutlar — and was very impressed by her work as an attorney. Driscoll told us:
I was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division from 2001-2003. In that position, I played a part in Shanetta getting the post as Chief. Whatever her strengths or weakness as a manager may have been (and I had heard she could be mercurial), I never doubted that she was a talented and extremely dedicated lawyer. Indeed, it was these characteristics that caused us to appoint Shanetta as Chief. She certainly was not placed in that position for having any conservative credentials.
More warm words for Shanetta Cutlar, after the jump.
Here’s a brief update on Shanetta Cutlar, one of our favorite figures here at ATL. For those of you not familiar with Cutlar — who heads the Special Litigation Section in the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, where she has presided over what her critics have described as a reign of terror — page through our archives (or just read the blockquote in this post).
Yesterday afternoon, Cutlar convened a section meeting where she announced that she will be stepping down as head of the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”). According to attendees, Cutlar explained that she had lost the confidence of the Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
Cutlar is also leaving SPL, but staying on at the DOJ. Where is she headed next?
If you’ve been reading ATL for a while, you may recall our copious coverage of Shanetta Cutlar. She’s the high-powered chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section, and she has a reputation — perhaps deserved, perhaps not — for being challenging to work for.
In case you don’t remember Ms. Cutlar, this message from a former underling, not previously published, sums things up nicely:
I laughed when I saw Shanetta on your blog. Of all the bosses that I have ever had, I probably could not remember any of their names — except for Shanetta. On the first day, [one female intern] got on the elevator with several people, including Shanetta. She had not yet been introduced to anybody except for the intern superivisors. When she got back to her cubicle/office, she was called to Shanetta’s office, where she was thoroughly reamed out by Shanetta for not acknowledging her presence in the elevator. The poor girl was practically traumatized and afterwards was crying at her desk….
The entire office — and it was a large one — had a childish atmosphere that was similar to an elementary school playground. Shanetta was the bully/popular girl who was constantly surrounded by her clique, and who was constantly embarrassing other people merely for her own amusement. She called an entire staff meeting in order to publicly reprimand one person for going shopping during their lunch break.
She called [another intern] into her office once in order to berate him about not filling out a form correctly in preparation for an out-of-state trip…. Is it really necessary for the Section Chief to micromanage intern travel forms? All-in-all, Shanetta has something akin to the “little man syndrome,” only it would be more aptly named entitled “big-mean-ass-woman syndrome.”
Anyway, in response to reader requests for updates on SYC, we finally have some news to report. Shanetta Cutlar has been sued by one former DOJ employee, Ty Clevenger, in federal court (D.D.C.).
Clevenger’s pro se lawsuit, filed against Cutlar and several other current and former Justice Department employees, makes claims under Bivens, the Rehabilitation Act (disability discrimination), RICO (a DOJ section as a RICO enterprise = awesomeness), invasion of privacy, libel, and civil conspiracy.
Our favorite part is this tidbit from paragraph 15: “Defendant Cutlar publicly berated a new attorney…. [because that attorney] used a paperclip on a document instead of a binder clip.” You can check out the full complaint via the link below.
Some of you have been asking for updates on Shanetta Cutlar, the high-powered Department of Justice lawyer who has generated some colorful stories in the past. If you’re not familiar with her, click here, and browse through the archives.
We don’t have anything terribly new to report on her. We hear that she has been on her “best behavior” ever since we started writing about her.
But since this is ATL Wayback Weekend, we’re happy to pass along something from back in June, which we never got around to writing up back then. A reader drew our attention to this Washington Post Career Track live web chat:
Washington, D.C.: I am a young attorney for the federal government. I loathe my current position because of a very moody and difficult supervisor (the situation is so horrible that half of my office is currently looking for new employment). I am desperate to leave this position, I am extremely stressed because of the work environment created by this supervisor. I have applied for 11 other federal positions.
While I wait to (hopefully) hear about one of those positions, can you recommend any other possible job search options? I really want to leave this position as soon as possible and I’ve only worked for the federal government (two years since law school).
Hmm… We wonder who this person’s boss might be. Any suggestions?
Discussion continues after the jump.
We are favorably disposed towards former Justice Department lawyer Ty Clevenger. We owe him a debt of gratitude, since he’s the person who first told us about Shanetta Cutlar — the crazy-ass colorful chief of the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section, and one of our favorite people to write about here at ATL.
Now Ty Clevenger is making waves once again — and some of you aren’t sure if it’s all that favorable. Several of you emailed us about his latest exploits. This message is representative:
Ty Clevenger is in the news again, this time making accusations about the politicization of the hiring process at the DOJ. See here and here.
Between his law school activities, Shanetta Cutlar, and this, he’s beginning to look like a little tattletale to me….
Tattletale? Or, more charitably, a person of great honesty and integrity (perhaps too much for his own good)? Or, more cynically, a shameless seeker of attention?
We don’t know Clevenger personally, so we won’t opine. But the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Many great whisteblowers throughout history have had mixed motivations — such as a desire for the truth to come to light, and a desire for personal fame and/or fortune.
But we can say this. If we ever hang out with Ty Clevenger, we sure as hell won’t jaywalk with him by our side. Or try to sneak through the express lane at the supermarket with more than 15 items. Congress probes allegations of politicized hiring [CNN] Congress considers broadening Justice Department inquiry [McClatchy] Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Ty Clevenger (scroll down)
Two quick things:
According to the DOJ vacancies website, Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice and a two-time ATL Diva of the Day, is seeking new grist for her mill. Don’t apply for a position in her office without reading ATL’s hard-hitting coverage of this tempestuous taskmaster!
In other news, assistant U.S. attorney Thomas “Tad” DiBiase has stepped down. Readers will recall that DiBiase is “the ‘Kevin Bacon’ of high-powered D.C. legal circles,” so his resignation is making some waves. According to today’s Legal Times:
The reasons for the departure of Thomas “Tad” DiBiase, a deputy chief of the homicide division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, are still unclear. The U.S. Attorney’s Office would not talk much about it, but there is plenty of speculation and contradictory accounts among police, prosecutors and defense attorneys – some of it circulating on the Internet.
Ty Clevenger, a former attorney in the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”) of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is the one who got the ball rolling with respect to colorful anecdotes about Shanetta Cutlar, the charismatic and strong-willed chief of the Section.
Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty raising concerns about Cutlar’s leadership of SPL. Shortly thereafter, Clevenger was effectively fired by Cutlar the next day.
As for Clevenger’s letter, the DAG assigned it to Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, for a response. Earlier this month, Clevenger received the following from Wan Kim:
Letters to McDonald’s, complaining about insufficient mintiness in Shamrock Shakes,* receive responses evincing greater concern.
Now we understand why Shanetta Cutlar was comfortable enough in her position to wear a tiara to a recent meeting of DOJ section chiefs. We predict she will remain in power at SPL long after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has left the building (which may not be saying much — but you get our point).
* Yes, Shamrock Shakes are back! We enjoyed one in Miami earlier this week.
Some of you have wondered about the drop-off in ATL coverage of our favorite DOJ diva: Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice (“SPL”). Cutlar has been previouslydescribed in these pages as “deliciously imperious” and “a great diva,” and we’ve published a number of colorful stories about her.
We haven’t written much about Shanetta Cutlar lately because we haven’t gotten many new tips about her. Perhaps she’s keeping a low profile these days?
Fortunately, more grist for the SYC mill may be on its way, courtesy of Capitol Hill. From a tipster:
House Judiciary has an oversight hearing for Civil Rights next week. Not sure what day, but I’m trying to find out. I think SPL may be discussed.
And from another source:
The “scandal” of the firing of the US Attys will be the camel’s nose — a way to have full blown congressional hearings on DOJ, especially Civil Rights.
Oooh, exciting! We do hope that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees start sniffing around the Special Litigation Section. Maybe Chuck Schumer will become our truffle pig, unearthing tasty morsels about Shanetta Cutlar and her reign over SPL.
If you have any info about the upcoming oversight hearing — or, for that matter, any updates on what Shanetta Cutlar has been up to lately — please email us. Thanks. Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)
In reacting to our worshipful coverage of Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, some of you have questioned her “diva” status. It has been suggested that while Shanetta Cutlar may have the temperament of a diva, she lacks the talent or ability of one.
We disagree. And we think the latest information we’ve received about SYC establishes that when it comes to office politics and Machiavellian maneuvering, few are the equal of Shanetta Y. Cutlar.
Just like the divine Anna Wintour, Shanetta Cutlar is a shrewd and savvy woman, who knows how to “work it.” She has risen to a position of power and prominence within her profession, through a potent combination of smarts, charm, and good old-fashioned ruthlessness.
From a former employee of the Special Litigation Section:
Shanetta started with the Special Litigation Section (SPL) as a intern. Within ten years she worked her way up, managing to slide, wiggle and charm her way into the prominent position of Section Chief.
As she quickly moved up the ladder, passing one superior and mentor after another, Shanetta kept a mental tab of each and every accounting in which she felt she was wronged and treated unfairly as a line attorney. Upon taking her throne, she instantly placed her strategic plan into motion, and quickly begin to execute her hit list.
She had the current head secretary placed into the file room until she received a new, hand-selected head secretary. Rumor had it that the exiled head secretary treated Shanetta “mean.” Wow…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
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