Vicious Infighting

1. Expect a Latham & Watkins announcement imminently. We’ve been reliably advised that the Associates Committee of LW met this morning, by conference call, from 11:30 AM to 12:10 PM (Eastern time).
2. In terms of the struggle for ATL’s soul — i.e., the heated debate over “salary vs. non-salary” coverage — here is what we’re going to do:

(a) We will continue to cover salary developments, but we will put the information and memos after the jump, so they won’t clutter up the main page. (For those of you who are new to ATL — and we can tell from our traffic stats that there are many of you — “after the jump” is blogspeak for “Click on the ‘Continue reading’ link.”)

(b) We will also start increasing the number of non-salary-related posts that we publish. After all, the biggest news — the original Simpson Thacher raise, and the setting of baselines in various major cities — is pretty much over. Much of what’s going on now is just follow-up.

We hope this will strike a balance that will make most of you happy. Thanks for reading!

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpg[Ed. note: It seems to be pure luck as to why we've been allowed to access this post through Movable Type, even though we can't access other ones or create new posts. So please refrain from asking us why we're publishing this rather than more salary coverage. Thanks.]
For those of you who have no interest in Biglaw pay raises, here’s a bit of counterprogramming about Shanetta Cutlar.
In case you’re not familiar with her, Shanetta Y. Cutlar is the Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice. She’s a high-ranking DOJ official, and she’s a colorful boss. Click here for a summary of her managerial quirks.
Ever since we started writing about her, lawyers who used to work under her have been emerging from the woodwork. They’ve been sending us a steady stream of stories about their time working for “SYC.” Here’s the latest, concerning a Shanetta Cutlar institution called “Docket Review”:

Has anyone told you yet about “Docket Review” — or rather, the Spanish Inquisition, which was probably less painless? Dear God, thinking back on it makes me cringe.

When you first arrive in the office, everyone warns you about it. Never, EVER miss Docket Review; be AT YOUR DESK when summoned for your meeting, or face the wrath of Shanetta; and NEVER tell her you don’t know the answer to a question. It’s nothing short of terrorizing.

Docket Review happens four times a year. During this time period, everyone is stressed out, and nobody gets any work done. In short, the entire Section is in an uproar — for days.

The process begins when an email goes around about DR scheduling. This immediately triggers a stampede of people going to the staff assistant’s office to sign up — it’s insane.

When signing up for Docket Review, there’s an elaborate strategy involved. Some people like to get it over with as soon as possible, so they sign up for the very first slot. The main concern is not to go immediately after certain people that you know will have a bad one, placing SYC in a foul mood. Another dreaded spot is the time slot right before lunch.

In advance of your Docket Review meeting, you have to write up a memo summarizing the status of your cases. This stupid memo must comply, to the letter, with certain SYC specifications. It must be uniform and perfect, down to the spacing and formatting, and completely free of typos — as if you were filing it in Court.

At the appointed hour, you are summoned to SYC’s conference room. This is, by the way, “her” conference room. No one else can ever use it, even if she’s not using it herself or even if she’s out of town.

When you enter the SYC conference room, Shanetta is seated at the far end. Her deputies are lined up on both sides of the table, and you’re on the other end. Surprisingly, there’s no spotlight, but you feel like one is glaring down on you anyway.

During the meeting, the deputies are COMPLETELY SILENT. They’re in the room, but they’re not permitted to talk. It’s just you and Shanetta.

Docket Review is a total game of “Gotcha.” SYC asks you a question she already knows the answer to, listens to your response, twists your words, and then somehow turns it all around on you — so you look like an incompetent fool.

Here I must begrudgingly give her credit. Making you look like you know absolutely nothing about your own cases, even though you’ve been toiling away on them for months, is a peculiar kind of art form. And Shanetta is a master of it.

Rarely does a Docket Review go well. As a matter of fact, going well is the exception, certainly not the rule. Some reviews have ended in screaming matches that carry on down the hall. After several confrontations with one particular attorney, he was quickly moved by the front office to a different section, out of open season.

Another attorney, who came up with the brilliant idea of telling Shanetta he was leaving the Section during his Docket Review, was escorted out of his office by the FBI a few days later.

(Admittedly, there may have been some cause for that. He had told Shanetta that he wished the Section was like “a cartoon world,” in which he could toss a bowling-ball shaped bomb into her office….)

Why do we suspect that he’s not the only person who has harbored that particular fantasy?
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgWe 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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Shanetta Cutlar: All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses Her Job?”


Shanetta Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar Shanetta Y Cutlar oprah winfrey queen latifah.JPGAfter we posted our open letter to Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section, an ex-minion of hers contacted us with an email address for her. We sent a message to that address — and unlike our past messages, it didn’t bounce back. So presumably our “open letter” has reached Shanetta’s inbox (assuming it didn’t get caught in her spam filter).
(A commenter also posted an address for Shanetta. But a message we sent to that account bounced back.)
You’ll recall that in our open letter, we asked Shanetta Cutlar for a photo of herself. Receiving one would make us unspeakably happy. But we realize it’s unlikely that she will comply with our request (even though we’re told that, at one point in time, the DOJ website featured a photo of her, as part of a diversity-touting publicity effort).
To get a better idea of what Shanetta Cutlar looks like, we asked some of our tipsters to describe her. We asked: “If a movie or TV show were to be produced, based on the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar, who should be cast to play Shanetta?
We received two responses. Here’s the first:

Well, you’ve got a large African-American woman with what appears to me like (emphasis on anti-libel weasel words) a nasty little personality disorder. So I’m going to say Queen Latifah, but the character would be more like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.*

And here’s the second response (which we enjoyed even more):

[F]or your mental picture, think Oprah Winfrey (but with long, flowing hair). I can’t even watch Oprah’s show anymore because it sends shivers up my spine. It leaves me with a pit in my stomach, by bringing back memories of working there. I feel like I have post-traumatic stress disorder from working for her.

You can no longer watch “Oprah”? Add that to the damages claim in your lawsuit against Shanetta.
* Fatal Attraction, by the way, is one of our favorite movies. And whenever we watch it, we root for Alex Forrest (Glenn Close).
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

Alexandra Korry Alexandra D Korry Alex Korry.jpgWe have a lunch to attend, so we’ll be gone for a little while. We’ve arranged for items to be posted in our absence, though, so please visit early and often.
While we’re gone, please feel free to share your thoughts on Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell, in the comments. We’ve been finding your comments highly informative and entertaining.
We especially welcome comments about Sullivan & Cromwell partner Alexandra Korry (at right). If the allegations about her from the Charney Complaint and ATL reader comments are even halfway true, we have the HUGEST CRUSH…
Thanks in advance for your thoughts. Later!
Alexandra D. Korry [Sullivan & Cromwell]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell (scroll down)

department of justice 2 civil rights division special litigation section.jpgBack by popular demand: your favorite litigatrix, Shanetta Y. Cutlar, who rules over the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section with an iron fist (and a ruler).
From yet another refugee former line attorney– yes, there are tons of them — who worked under Cutlar in the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”):

Shanetta Cutlar boasts about her “open door policy.” It works great — it took me three whole days to get granted an audience with her to tell her I was leaving. Same with [another lawyer who left the Section].

SPL employees are not permitted to speak with Shanetta, other than the enthusiastic “hello” in the hallways, without an appointment. When you meet with her, she has Tammie Gregg, her Principal Deputy, present to take notes for her.

Overall, everyone — except [xxxx] — is terrified by her. She has literally ruined people’s careers, for NO GOOD REASON. One lawyer says that whenever her swipe card fails to work in the morning, the first thing that runs through her head, is, “Oh my God, did Shanetta fire me?”

There is no real practice of law in the Special Litigation Section. You are not treated like an attorney and a trusted professional, but like a naughty kindergartener, who makes typos and knows nothing. You are guilty and cannot prove yourself innocent.

The advice I was given for how to survive at SPL: “Pretend you’ve been attacked by a bear, and play dead.”

Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

ruler Shanetta Cutlar Shanetta Y Cutlar ruler.jpgDoes she use a ruler to whale on the summer interns, when they pass her in the hallway and fail to greet her?
Maybe; we wouldn’t be surprised. But we actually had something else in mind.
From yet another former member of the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department, who had the pleasure of working under section chief Shanetta Cutlar:

I can remember how Shanetta used to offer the ombudsman’s services at EVERY staff meeting (don’t tell me no one was aware of the low morale)…

How Shanetta ordered the entire staff — attorneys, paralegals, investigators, staff — to take 2 hours of mandatory training in beginning word processing (mostly how to use the spell checker)…

How Shanetta announced in a staff meeting that whenever she reviews a document, she reads it with a ruler, to ensure there are no extra spaces

What a great use of her time. No wonder she never had the time to with us.

Your taxpayer dollars at work: Paying the six-figure salary of a schoolmarm with a J.D.
P.S. We’re thinking of changing the name of this site to the “Aaron Charney and Shanetta Cutlar Blog.” We could blog full-time about nothing else. And we have enough material in our inbox about these two matters to keep us going for days (with more tips constantly arriving).
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

Meryl Streep 2 Devil Wears Prada.jpgLately 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)

Justice Elizabeth Betty Weaver.jpgWhenever we make fun of state court judges for being kinda low-rent, we often get emails and comments defending members of the state judiciary. We realize, of course, that dismissing state court judges as “icky” is a huge overgeneralization.
Sadly, it’s not without factual basis — at least in the state of Michigan. From the Associated Press:

The notion of black-robed judges as symbols of decorum and civility seems almost laughable these days in Michigan.

“Almost” laughable? Try removing the qualifier:

Justices on the Michigan Supreme Court have fallen into sniping and name-calling and traded accusations of unprofessional conduct. One justice referred to another as a “very angry, sad woman” and suggested she go on a hunger strike for everyone else’s benefit….

So what’s this all about?

At the center of the dispute is Justice Elizabeth Weaver (above right), an outspoken 65-year-old Republican who was first elected to the high court in 1994. She accuses Chief Justice Clifford Taylor and three other GOP members of the high court of engaging in unprofessional conduct and trying to muzzle her when she complained about it.

The justices under attack say Weaver’s criticism stems from their 2001 decision — joined by the court’s two Democrats — to oust her as chief justice.

In a draft opinion, later revised but recently disclosed by Weaver on a personal Web site she maintains, Taylor wrote last year that Weaver was behaving like a “petulant only child” over the appointment of a probate judge and suggested that she go on a hunger strike “as it seemed to have the potential for everyone to be a winner.”

“We are going through a difficult spell with a troubled member,” Taylor, 64, who has been on the court since 1997, said in an interview. “This is a very angry, sad woman.”

How many cats does she own?
It’s getting ugly on the Michigan bench [AP via CNN]
Justice Elizabeth Weaver [official website]

department of justice 2 civil rights division special litigation section.jpgOr MySpace. Or Facebook. So we can only speculate as to what her “Hobbies and Interests” are — in addition to terrorizing summer interns, rifling through employees’ desks, and vigorously enforcing the use of binder clips over paper clips (allegedly).
But Shanetta Cutlar’s erstwhile nemesis in the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section, Ty Clevenger, does have a bare-bones Friendster profile. It’s not terribly exciting — we learn that he’s 37, and from Texas — but here it is, for what it’s worth:
Ty Clevenger Friendster.JPG
One of you wondered what Ty is up to these days, since Cutlar forced him out of the Section. Clevenger informs us:

“I’m moving back to Texas and opening my own practice. Mostly civil, including civil rights, and maybe a little appellate and criminal. I figured if I was going to work for a jerk, it might as well be me.”

It takes guts to hang up your own shingle and start a solo practice. We admire the young lawyers who are brave enough to do it. So even though our heart will always belong to Shanetta Y. Cutlar, we wish Ty Clevenger the best of luck with his new venture.
P.S. We have invited Shanetta Cutlar to join Friendster:
Shanetta Cutlar Friendster invite.JPG
If she sets up a profile, you’ll be the first to know about it.
Ty Clevenger [Friendster]
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

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