Vicious Infighting

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)

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgEarlier this week, we shared with you what we’ve heard about Ty Clevenger and Shanetta Cutlar.
To recap, Clevenger was a lawyer in the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. He worked under Cutlar, the Chief of the Section. We wrote:

[Clevenger] had some issues with Cutlar and how she ran the Section. Last fall, Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Clevenger alleged that Cutlar — whom he described as “extremely intelligent” and “very charming,” but also “a Jekyll and Hyde personality” — created an “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” within the Section.

On October 4, 2006, Ty Clevenger sent his letter to McNulty. Clevenger’s office was searched overnight, and he was fired the next day. He is in the process of filing a whistleblower complaint.

This is what we had heard, from reliable sources; but it struck us as rather odd, almost fishy. It’s just not consistent with what we know about federal government service. As a federal government lawyer, you can do all sorts of things — e.g., write a saucy, pseudonymous judicial gossip blog — and still part ways with your office voluntarily (and on good terms). In the rare cases when government lawyers are fired or asked to resign, events usually unfold at a glacial rather than breakneck pace (unless there is, say, compelling evidence of criminal conduct).
So we reached out to Ty Clevenger himself, by email. He happily responded to our questions. He verified the sequence of events: his sending of the letter to McNulty, followed almost immediately by his being asked to leave.
We asked Clevenger this question:

“Exactly how did the search of your office and the firing go down? It seems rather shocking for a government lawyer to be fired so quickly, especially after sending a letter of complaint to the DAG. It seems like basically a recipe for trouble for the people behind the firing.”

Ty Clevenger’s response to our query, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Ty Clevenger and Shanetta Cutlar: How It All Went Down”

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgShanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is a world-class diva. We have described Shanetta’s shenangians here and here.
We worship imperious women like Shanetta Cutlar. But some of you are less warmly disposed towards her. Since we’ve started posting about her, we’ve received some interesting emails and comments from readers — including current and former colleagues of Cutlar. See, e.g., these comments.
The list of people who have had some workplace exposure to Shanetta Cutlar grows longer and longer by the week. This is because the lawyers who work under her keep on leaving. The Special Litigation Section has more turnovers than a pastry shop.
Here are some things we’ve heard from tipsters (unconfirmed; if you see errors or have additions, please email us):

1. Morale is perilously low within the Special Litigation Section, and many attorneys desperately want out.

2. Last month, four attorneys left the Section — including one who was there for less than three months. Two of the others had been there for a little over a year.

3. “Another attorney currently in SPL told the DOJ that she will leave [the Department] if she is not transferred out. She has been there for less than six months.”

Goodness gracious. We agree with commenter Who Are These Babies: All of you Shanetta-haters need to just “[s]uck it up.” If you ever leave the DOJ for a law firm, you will have to put up with Biglaw partners who are ten times worse than Shanetta.
SPL minions, heed the words of Nietzsche: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” The next time you pass her in the hallway, say a warm “hello” to Shanetta Cutlar — and thank her for toughening you up.
Earlier: Prior coverage of the Special Litigation Section under Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

Well knock us down with a feather redweld! The Justice Department’s Shanetta Cutlar, yesterday’s DOJ Diva of the Day, takes the prize for a second day in a row. Diva-licious!
In order to be a true DOJ Diva, you need to pick on “the little people.” If you pick on people your own size, that’s nothing — just standard office politics. But if people far below you on the “org chart” wet themselves when you enter the room, then you know you’re doing something right.
By this standard, Shanetta Cutlar excels. She instills fear in the most humble of God’s creatures: summer interns.
In the summer of 2006, Deborah Meiners, a student at the University of Wisconsin Law School, interned in Cutlar’s fiefdom — the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division. And Little Debbie had some frightening run-ins with La Shanetta:
Shanetta Cutlar summer intern Deborah Meiners 1A.JPG
It gets better. Check out the rest of this poor intern’s tale, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “DOJ Diva of the Day (again): Shanetta Y. Cutlar!!!”

Shanetta Cutlar heads the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. After we named her our DOJ Diva of the Day, a number of you asked for more information about her.
Who is Shanetta Cutlar? How long has she been at the Civil Rights Division? Where did she go to law school? And what’s the origin of her distinctive first name?
We did a little research. Accessing PDF files can be a pain — they take forever to launch, they slow down your machine, etc. — but we’ll do anything for our readers. So we opened up this PDF bio:

Shanetta Y. Cutlar is the Chief of the Special Litigation Section, U.S. Department of Justice. Ms. Cutlar has worked in the Civil Rights Division since 1993. She served for over 2 years as a Special Counsel prior to becoming Chief. As Special Counsel, Mr. Cutlar led the team of attorneys and professionals handling the investigations of the Cincinnati, Detroit and Prince George’s police departments.

In March 2003, Ms. Cutlar was appointed to the Chief position where she is responsible for supervising and overseeing the work of Section, involving health care facilities, prisons and jails, juvenile detention facilities and police misconduct. She is the first African-American woman to serve as a chief in 25 years, and the second in the history of the Civil Rights Division.

Ms. Cutlar is a graduate of California State University, Hayward and University of California at Los Angeles, Law School. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Ah, Shanetta’s a sorority girl. No wonder she’s so good at (allegedly) cultivating “an atmosphere of fear and paranoia.” Those sorority girls are VICIOUS.
(A Google image search for Shanetta Cutlar comes up empty. But if you have pictures of Ms. Cutlar, or know where on the internet we can find some, please contact us.)
Shanetta Y. Cutlar bio (PDF) [U.S. Department of Justice]
Earlier: DOJ Diva of the Day: Shanetta Y. Cutlar

Shanetta Cutlar Above the Law Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Above the Law.jpgThe Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department — one of the DOJ’s most important arms, charged with enforcing our nation’s anti-discrimination laws — has been experiencing some upheaval over the past few years. Several articles in the Washington Post have examined some of the conflicts within the division. See, e.g., here, here, and here.
We’ve learned that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee may be taking a closer look at what’s going on over at the Civil Rights Division. And when they do, some of their attention may focus on the Special Litigation Section, headed by Shanetta Y. Cutlar.
Here’s an explanation of the Section’s mission, from its website:

[The Section is] charged with enforcing federal civil rights statutes in four major areas: Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons, Conduct of Law Enforcement Agencies, Access to Reproductive Health Clinics and places of Religious Worship, and Religious Exercise of Institutionalized Persons. The Section undertakes investigations and litigation through the United States and its territories.

The Section Chief is Shanetta Cutlar, an award-winning litigatrix. And even though some attorneys and staff members have alleged that she’s “abusive” — what a subjective word! — Cutlar is a woman after our own heart. There’s nothing we love more than a high-powered female who takes charge of a situation and demands respect from her subordinates. We adore women in leadership roles who follow the teaching of Machiavelli: “[I]t is far safer to be feared than loved.”
A former attorney in the Special Litigation Section, Ty Clevenger — a Stanford Law grad and former law clerk to the highly esteemed Judge Morris Arnold (8th Cir.) — had some issues with Cutlar and how she ran the Section. Last fall, Clevenger sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Clevenger alleged that Cutlar — whom he described as “extremely intelligent” and “very charming,” but also “a Jekyll and Hyde personality” — created an “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” within the Section.
On October 4, 2006, Ty Clevenger sent his letter to McNulty. Clevenger’s office was searched overnight, and he was fired the next day. He is in the process of filing a whistleblower complaint.
Here’s the first page of Clevenger’s letter to the DAG:
Shanetta Cutlar Paul McNulty 1.jpg
There’s more. Juicy details about La Shanetta’s alleged behavior are described in the rest of Ty Clevenger’s letter. The letter has been distributed to all the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee (with supporting documentation).
We reprint the entire Clevenger letter, which a source helpfully leaked provided to us, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “DOJ Diva of the Day: Shanetta Y. Cutlar”

DC Circuit E Barett Prettyman Courthouse.gifFun news CAN break over a holiday weekend. Check out this Times article (by the indefatigable Adam Liptak, a Yale Law School alum):

A divided panel of the [exceedingly powerful] United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will soon decide an important case concerning detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rejected a friend-of-the-court brief submitted in the case by [seven] retired [federal] judges. Two former chief judges of the court were among those rebuffed.

The unsigned majority decision, for Judges David B. Sentelle and A. Raymond Randolph, said the brief violated a 1982 advisory opinion from a committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system.

“Judges should insure that the title ‘judge’ is not used in the courtroom or in papers involved in litigation before them to designate a former judge,” the advisory opinion said.

Translation: :”Former judges, you’re not such hot s***. You’re nothing but lawyers with frustrated gavel fetishes.”
The brief was rejected over the dissent of Judge Judith Rogers:

Judge Judith W. Rogers dissented. She said the 1982 advisory opinion was meant to address situations in which former judges acting as lawyers are referred to by the honorific title “Judge.” That practice, if allowed in court, could improperly influence juries, confuse people and make parties to lawsuits lose confidence in the judicial system.

But the situation here, with former judges submitting an appellate brief on their own behalf and with the government’s consent, is different, Judge Rogers wrote. “Indeed, denying the unopposed motion for leave to file may itself create an appearance of partiality,” she wrote.

Liptak points out that (1) Judge Sentelle and Judge Randolph, the judges in the majority, were appointed by Republicans (Reagan and Bush I, respectively); (2) Judge Rogers is a Clinton appointee; and (3) two of the former D.C. Circuit chief judges on the brief, Abner J. Mikva and Patricia M. Wald, were appointed by Carter.
So was the dissing of the brief politically motivated? Judge Mikva doesn’t think so — but ascribes the decision to even cattier reasons:

Mr. Mikva said the rejection of his brief was motivated by personal animus, not politics. “It’s not political at all,” he said in an interview. “This was clearly aimed at me.”

The judges in the majority, Mr. Mikva said, were furious with him because he opposed allowing judges to accept free trips to resorts for seminars sponsored by private groups.

“They’re so close to retirement age,” Mr. Mikva said of the judges in the majority. “They really should grow up.”

OUCH. Boy do we miss the good old days on the D.C. Circuit!
Pull up a chair, kiddies, and listen to our tale. Back when Abner Mikva was Chief Judge, from 1991 to 1994, the D.C. Circuit went through a period that judicial historians refer to as The Golden Age of Bench-Slappery.
Conservatives and liberals were at each other’s throats — almost literally. Abner Mikva didn’t get along with several of his more conservative colleagues, including David Sentelle and Laurence H. Silberman. During one heated argument, Laurence Silberman reportedly said to Abner Mikva, “If you were 10 years younger, I’d be tempted to punch you in the nose.” How delicious!
Sadly, the Golden Age couldn’t last forever. In 1994, Chief Judge Mikva resigned to become White House Counsel under President Bill Clinton. He was replaced by Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards.
The famously cantankerous Harry Edwards — who once asked a lawyer at oral argument, “Counsel, are you shitting me?” — raised hopes that the Reign of Bitchiness would continue at the D.C. Circuit. But as it turned out, Chief Judge Edwards actually emphasized collegiality during his reign. And the D.C. Circuit — an unfathomably prestigious court, baby steps away from the Supremes — has never been the same.
(For some excellent perspectives on the controversy over the spurned brief, check out this VC post by Jonathan Adler. In the comments, legal ethics experts such as Stephen Gillers and Steve Lubet weigh in.)
Appeals Court Rejects Brief Submitted by Ex-Judges [New York Times via How Appealing]
NYT on Judicial Amicus Brief Rejection [Volokh Conspiracy]
Court Nixes Brief Because Ex-Judges Called Themselves Judges [WSJ Law Blog]

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