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?
Department of Justice official Brad Schlozman — who currently serves as Associate Counsel to the Director, in the Executive Office for United States Attorneys — is about to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. His testimony is part of a panel entitled “Preserving Prosecutorial Independence: Is the Department of Justice Politicizing the Hiring and Firing of U.S. Attorneys?”
Maybe we’ll tune in, at least for a few minutes; but we don’t expect to watch the entire proceedings. Brad Schlozman is no Monica Goodling. And we can barely pronounce his last name.
On Friday night, in preparation for today’s session, the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) sent the Republican members of the committee a list of proposed “softball” or friendly questions for Schlozman. This question caught our eye:
Clevenger, you may recall, has raised allegations about the politicization of hiring at Main Justice. But he may be best known to ATL readers as a source for stories about that delicious DOJ diva, Shanetta Cutlar (about whom we’ve heard nothing new, sadly).
By the way, in case you’re wondering, question #5 wasn’t well-received by GOP staffers on Capitol Hill. We hear that the Republican staffers “are offended that DOJ expects them to do its political dirty work.”
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)
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.
We feel like we’re running an online group therapy session. Pretty much every week, another ex-employee of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section (SPL) writes in to us, so he or she can vent their justifiable frustrations whine about the horrific challenging experience of working under super-diva Shanetta Y. Cutlar. Writing in to ATL seems to be a therapeutic experience for these people.
As we mentioned yesterday, one former SPL employee sent us a copy of their completed exit survey. We reprint it after the jump. But first, here’s an introduction to what you’re about to read:
I quit SPL largely because of Shanetta’s mismanagement of the section. I’m attaching a copy I kept of my exit survey — though some of the fields did not print in full, and I redacted some fields to remove info related to my personal identity.
Feel free to post any portions you’d like…. You might want to consider submitting a FOIA request for a full copy of this and any other exit surveys or other information related to evaluations / criticisms of Shanetta if you haven’t already done so.
In addition to the written exit survey, I had an exit interview with the front office when I left (which was over two years ago), and I stressed the issues people were having with Shanetta during that interview. So the front office has been aware of the issues with her at least since then, if not earlier.
Interesting. According to this tipster, the folks in the “front office” — i.e., the DOJ powers-that-be — have been aware of Shanetta Cutlar’s distinctive management style for quite some time.
Fortunately, they have had the wisdom to leave well enough alone — despite complaints from folks who just aren’t up to the task of enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws. May Shanetta Cutlar reign forever over the Special Litigation Section!!!
Excerpts from this disgruntled lawyer’s exit questionnaire, after the jump.
We’re so excited. Our girlfriend SYC has made the big leagues! Shanetta Y. Cutlar, the successful and high-powered lawyer who oversees the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section, is the subject of an article in today’s Legal Times. We’re praised her profusely in these pages; but we’re glad that she’s finally getting her due in the mainstream media.
Ty Clevenger, 37, a former Washington Times reporter and line attorney in the section who was fired in October, has accused veteran Section Chief Shanetta Cutlar of being “abusive toward attorneys and support staff,” specifically those hired by Schlozman.
Among Clevenger’s allegations: Secretaries were ordered not to assist him with an eight-hour typing project, another attorney was publicly berated for using a paper clip rather than a binder clip on a document, and an intern was reprimanded for not greeting Cutlar while passing her in the hallway.
In his whistleblower complaint, Clevenger included a copy of a statement by the intern, Deborah Meiners, 24, to a DOJ ombudsman about the hallway incident.
“I did get the sense that this was a common occurrence,” says Meiners, now a third-year law student, of her treatment.
For those of you who have been wondering if Shanetta Cutlar is aware of her newfound celebrity, the answer is probably yes — now that the Legal Times has contacted her office for comment:
Cutlar’s office referred questions to a DOJ spokeswoman, who issued a statement saying the department is looking into the allegations.
Interesting. Does anyone know what “looking into the allegations” entails?
Is the DOJ conducting a full-blown internal investigation of SPL? Or is it just AAG Wan Kim getting on the phone to Shanetta and saying, “This is all silliness that I don’t need to pay attention to, right?”
We hope the latter. As we’ve previously pointed out, Shanetta Cutlar is just doing her job — and exceptionally well, at that. We hope that a bunch of whiners and crybabies don’t interfere with SYC’s longstanding efforts to vindicate federal civil rights laws on behalf of the disabled, prisoners, and other groups who can’t stand up for themselves.
To Shanetta Cutlar: Congratulations on your shout-out in the Legal Times! Whistleblower Complaint Filed Against DOJ Civil Rights Division [Legal Times]
We like to keep things light around here. As far as we’re concerned, pretty much everything is entertainment. And if it’s not, then we’re not interested in covering it.
This is the spirit in which we’ve been writing about Shanetta Cutlar, the amusingly idiosyncratic chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section (SPL). But we’re getting concerned that the story might take a more serious turn.
Here are two things we’ve heard lately:
1. The mainstream media, in the form of the Legal Times, is sniffing around the story. They may be interested in covering it.
2. Staffers from the House Judiciary Committee have contacted Ty Clevenger, the former DOJ lawyer who initially blew the whistle on La Shanetta. They may be conducting further investigation into goings-on over at SPL.
Covering the shenanigans of Shanetta has been great fun. We sincerely hope that the MSM and the House Judiciary Committee don’t hijack this story and turn it into some sober expose about DOJ abuses of power. Yawn.
We steer the discussion back in the direction of frivolity and fun, after the jump.
Amidst all of the hoopla over associate pay raises and Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell, some of you have requested updates about Shanetta Y. Cutlar. We’re happy to report that we have some new material for you.
(For those of you who are new to ATL, Shanetta Cutlar is the deliciously imperious, ruler-wielding diva who heads the Special Litigation Section, in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. To get a sense of Shanetta Cutlar, in case you haven’t read our prior coverage of her, see here, here, or here.)
We hope that Shanetta Cutlar has been pleased by our coverage of her — ’cause if she’s not, she might put a curse on us. Here’s the latest tip about her:
Those who worship together, work together. Principal Deputy Tammie Gregg, who was promoted by Shanetta, as well as the Supervisor of the Investigators, whom Shanetta refers to as her “spiritual advisor,” all attend the same Church. Both were promoted over others more experienced than they, and obviously for their personal connection to Shanetta.
Shanetta is very superstitious. She had her office “excised” of evil spirits and ill will toward her, as evidenced by the cross etched faintly, in some sort of oil, on the upper right hand corner of her door. Most recently, an escapee [from the Section] said she told them that she was “gathering her protections.”
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
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.