He’s getting lectured on ethics and accountability by our favorite former First Lady:
Of course, Hillary Clinton was accused of similar conduct — firing public servants to make way for cronies — in the Travelgate scandal. But there’s a critical difference between them: Hillary is delicious, and Alberto Gonzales is not.
Update: Oh yeah, the situations differ in other respects, too. But the deliciousness differential is the most important factor by far.
Random aside: Before he took the podium at yesterday’s news conference, Attorney General Gonzales gave a peck on the cheek to a striking blonde woman. We believe that the kissed colleague was Alice Fisher, the diva-licious queen of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, but we’re not sure. If you know for certain, please confirm.
EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton Calls for Gonzales’ Resignation [ABC News]
U.S. Attorneys Offices
- Alberto Gonzales, Department of Justice, Federal Government, Hillary Clinton, Politics, U.S. Attorneys Offices
He’s getting lectured on ethics and accountability by our favorite former First Lady:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a news briefing this afternoon on the controversial firings of eight U.S. Attorneys. When we saw him on CNN, stepping in front of the cameras for an unplanned press conference, we immediately thought: “Is he resigning?”
As it turns out, no — emphatically not. Attorney General Gonzales is not going anywhere, at least for now. But a Gonzales resignation no longer lies outside the realm of possibility. Earlier this week, Gonzales accepted the resignation of Kyle Sampson, his chief of staff, who reportedly failed to brief other senior DOJ officials about his discussions with former White House Counsel Harriet Miers about the firings.
Furthermore, White House press secretary Tony Snow declared that President Bush “has confidence” in Alberto Gonzales. Uh-oh — inside the Beltway, that’s the kiss of death. Recall that the president expressed his “confidence” in former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shortly before canning his ass.
This morning the WSJ Law Blog upgraded the U.S. Attorney controversy from “an imbroglio” to “a mess.” We’re not sure that’s an upgrade exactly. But assuming it is, we will see their “mess,” and raise them a “s**tstorm.”
Gonzales: Prosecutors Firings Mishandled [Associated Press]
If It’s Gone-Zales, Then Who Should be the Next AG? [WSJ Law Blog]
Alberto Gonzales Lives To Justify Atrocities Another Day [Wonkette]
- Christopher Christie, New Jersey, Trials, U.S. Attorneys Offices, White-Collar Crime, Williams & Connolly
Legendary litigator Brendan Sullivan, who has been involved in some of the most high-profile cases of the past few decades, ensured his place in Bartlett’s when he quipped at the Iran-Contra hearings: “I’m not a potted plant.”
But despite not being a potted plant, Sullivan was unable to prevail against two of our former colleagues, Michael Martinez and Craig Carpenito, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. Martinez and Carpenito, a pair of superb young lawyers, were given the daunting task of handling the third trial of former Cendant chairman Walter Forbes. Their triumph over Sullivan and his Williams & Connolly team is chronicled in a fascinating article by Andrew Longstreth in this month’s American Lawyer.
More discussion of the piece, with a few added comments from us, after the jump.
Earlier this week, we wrote:
Despite the catchy and provocative title we’ve bestowed upon this story, we must confess: We don’t completely “get” the quasi-scandal surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys around the country.
Well, after reading your informative comments, and in light of subsequent revelations, we’re beginning to get it. The Democrats are having a field day with this — and one can hardly blame them.
More discussion after the jump.
Despite the catchy and provocative title we’ve bestowed upon this story, we must confess: We don’t completely “get” the quasi-scandal surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys around the country (which the WSJ Law Blog has officially upgraded from a “flap” to an “imbroglio”).
The fired folks were not career prosecutors. The chief federal prosecutor in a district is a political appointee, who serves at the pleasure of the president. The president’s power over these posts is pretty much plenary (subject to the Senate’s “advise and consent” function, of course).
For better or worse, U.S. Attorney posts have long been treated as “patronage” posts — in both Republican and Democratic administrations. When a new president takes office, he generally cashiers all (or nearly all) of the 94 U.S. Attorneys, even if they’re doing perfectly fine jobs.
An incoming president doesn’t have to give any reason for dismissing a federal prosecutor. If he did, the reason might be something like: “‘Cause I want to give the job to my fundraising buddy and/or political ally.”
Consider the example of our former boss, Christopher J. Christie, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Christie has been widely praised as a dynamic and effective U.S. attorney — praise that is raising speculation about what he might do next. But at the time he assumed the post, he had practically no criminal law experience. Critics claimed that Chris Christie’s main “qualification” for the job was his (and his family’s) skill at raising funds for Bush.
True? Maybe; maybe not. But that’s why they call it politics, people.
Continued ramblings, plus lots of links, after the jump.
- Crime, Lunacy, Media and Journalism, Morning Docket, Native Americans, Pictures, Politics, Romance and Dating, Stephen Breyer, U.S. Attorneys Offices
* Domenici asked for ousting of New Mexico U.S. Attorney. [New York Times via How Appealing]
* Descendants of ex-slaves not welcome in Cherokee Nation. [Jurist]
* Prosecutors decide to pass on attempted murder charge for astronaut in kidnapping case; CNN decides to use a more flattering picture. [CNN; compare with CNN (2/05/07)]
* And speaking of unflattering pictures… [CNN]
* Breyer to appear on NPR “comedy” show. [AP via Yahoo!]
Update: In case you were hoping to attend the “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” taping, you should note that it has been pushed back by a week.
- Christopher Christie, Civil Rights, Department of Justice, Litigatrix, Movies, Shanetta Cutlar, U.S. Attorneys Offices, Vicious Infighting
Lately we’ve been distracted by the salacious, sensational lawsuit of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell. But fear not, loyal readers — we have not forgotten about Shanetta Y. Cutlar, the commendably strong-willed chief of the Special Litigation Section, in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
First, a cinematic digression. Early in The Devil Wears Prada, there’s a great scene in which high-powered editrix Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) steps onto an elevator. A junior magazine staffer is already inside the car. But as soon as Miranda sets foot in it, the terrified staffer mutters an apology and flees, so Miranda can ride the elevator alone.
This type of incident doesn’t happen just in the shiny Gotham tower of
Conde Nast Elias-Clarke Publications. It also happens, surprisingly enough, at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.
From an email we received from an attorney in the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, presided over by the diva-licious Shanetta Cutlar:
Do you know how Shanetta reacts when someone reaches to stop the elevator when she is on it? How she chews them out for daring to stop the elevator she is on — because she is more important, and could be on her way to a meeting with the “front office”?
Or, how no one goes NEAR the elevators between 3:45pm & 4:30pm, without a drop-dead emergency, for fear of running into Shanetta, and being grilled about where one is going? Then called into her office the next day, to discuss “professionalism” — despite the fact that you got in that morning way before she did?
Props to Shanetta Cutlar for wearing her authority like an ermine-trimmed cloak. We never had a boss this cool when we worked for the DOJ.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Once we were on a completely packed elevator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark (D.N.J.), riding down from the ninth floor. The elevator was full because the entire office was headed to the second floor, for an “all hands” meeting.
The elevator stopped on the seventh floor, the “power floor” of 970 Broad Street. The doors opened, to reveal the U.S. Attorney himself, Chris Christie, and two other members of the “front office.” They were waiting, of course, for the elevator.
Several of us immediately tried to get off the crowded elevator, to make room for Christie and his lieutenants. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He insisted on waiting for the next one, and he practically pushed everyone back into the car. How lame!
WWSCD? She would have ordered everyone off that packed elevator, so she could ride down to the second floor — in solitude.
And THAT, boys and girls, is what you call leadership.
P.S. Interesting questions raised in this recent comment. Do any of you SPLers know the answers?
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)
- 9th Circuit, Aaron Charney, Drugs, Gay, Judicial Nominations, Law Firm Names, Morning Docket, Tax Law, U.S. Attorneys Offices
* Oh good, Cully says pro bono is ok again. [Washington Post; Washington Post (letter to the editor) via WSJ Law Blog]
* “Two things made Christopher Willever’s drunken burglary of a Tobacco Hut even worse as he crawled across the store floor — a lousy belt and his camera-loving backside.” [MSNBC]
* U.S. Attorneys’ increasing rate of attrition. [Wall Street Journal via WSJ Law Blog (departures generally); WSJ Law Blog (Kevin Ryan)]
* Tennessee is tennetaxin’ illegal drugs. [Time]
* Time for new business cards and letterhead over at Wiley Rein
& Fielding [Legal Times]
* The mystery raised here has been answered. Richard Posner isn’t the only federal government official who likes to blog. [Opinion Juris]
* Gay Sullivan & Cromwell partner David Braff, to the New York Times: “I’ve been openly gay since I arrived at this firm in 1984. There’s absolutely no atmosphere of hostility toward gay people here.”
[New York Times via DealBook]
* The fight over whether Judge Stephen S. Trott’s seat on the Ninth Circuit belongs to Idaho or California has been resolved — for now. [How Appealing]
- Crime, Duke Lacrosse Team Rape Case, Federal Government, Federal Judges, Guantanamo Bay, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Michael Nifong, Morning Docket, Politics, State Judges, U.S. Attorneys Offices, War on Terror
* “Utah’s highest court says don’t diss the judiciary, or else it might diss-miss your case.” [How Appealing]
* Major legal issues continue to arise at Gitmo. [Washington Post]
* Libby trial jury selection should take a few quick…months. [MSNBC]
* Should district judges appoint prosecutors? [New York Times via Concurring Opinions]
* North Carolina’s Attorney General, Roy Cooper, answers Mike Nifong’s cry for help. [New York Times]
The Bush administration has quietly asked San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, best known for her high-profile prosecutions of politicians and corporate executives, to resign her post, a law enforcement official said.
Lam, a Bush appointee who took the helm in 2002, was targeted because of job performance issues – in particular that she failed to make smuggling and gun cases a top priority, said the official, who declined to be identified because Lam has yet to step down.
But there may be some personality issues here too:
Lam has had high-profile successes during her tenure, such as the Randy “Duke” Cunningham bribery case – but she alienated herself from bosses at the Justice Department because she is outspoken and independent, said local lawyers familiar with her policies.
If true, this is troubling. The DOJ needs more, not fewer, outspoken minority women. And if the powers-that-be can put up with Eumi Choi and Shanetta Cutlar, surely they can stomach Carol Lam.
Two good quotes re: Lam’s being canned for not stressing immigration offenses enough. First, from Michael Attanasio, a criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor:
“This office has clearly made a priority of investigating and prosecuting white collar offenses and has had occasional success doing so. One would think that would be valued by any administration, even if it meant fewer resources were devoted to routine and repetitive border crimes.”
“Routine and repetitive border crimes” — nice. (Although modifying the reference to “success” with “occasional” was kinda catty.)
And from Professor Mario Conte, former chief of Federal Defenders of San Diego Inc.:
“What do they want her to do, lock up Mexico?”
No, not necessary. But if she could put up a big wall, that might be nice.
Lam Is Asked To Step Down [San Diego Union-Tribune via Talking Points Memo]
Carol Lam bio [U.S. Attorney's Office (S.D. Cal.)]
Carol C. Lam bio [Students & Leaders]