Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How to Destroy the DOJ in Five Easy Lessons

Today, the news broke (or "broke" as I will explain) that the inspector general for the department of justice (the IG for the DOJ, in Beltspeak) has released a report slamming the Ashcroft and Gonzalez' terms as the Attorney General. Apparently they turned the Honors Program into a political game, where federalist society members got bids but (often better) students with some liberal or even moderate tendencies were politically screened out. This has never, ever been done before.

I just want to explain how outraged I am. The Honors Program is, by design, a very exclusive program. The DOJ does not have a lot of money, but they want the best lawyers. So they carefully, over decades really, created a special Honors Program to entice the best and brightest law students into spending at least 2-3 years at the DOJ - and perhaps longer. Thus, the DOJ was able to avoid what most pubic agencies suffer from: recruiting problems. I have indicated before that I went to a top-5 law school (in the 1990s), so I might have been able to apply, although I did not. Of the three in my class who I can think of that did, one clerked for a Supreme Court justice. So you get the idea. Brilliant people doing service for their country. Or at least that was the idea. Also, honest people. The legend of Robert Kennedy and others who fought the civil rights battles loomed large in the aura of the office. I would describe these colleagues of mine as the sort of people who, if they found a $5 bill on the street, would turn it in to the police station. In very many ways, by dint of hard work, the DOJ had established a stellar cadre with an equally stellar reputation. Sure, nothing's perfect, but when you see someone with US Attorney on their resume, it stands out. I mean, just listen to me. That's a lot of hard work to impress law students so much.

Well, not any more. Of course, the news really "broke" that two years ago. When we discovered that the people surrounding Gonzales went to such places as Liberty University or Regent University or Ave Maria University - all basically phoney right-wing madrasas. That was the first sign that the political appointees were bad eggs. But now we hear it went all the way down the line, even to the honors program. What a shame. Mukasey (the new AG) has fixed some of this, but he can't repair the damage so quickly. It will take a decade or more to make law students believe once again that the DOJ is about pure merit and public service.

Once more, the GOP has proven it is totally unfit to run any agency in this government.


Raised By Republicans said...

How long will take the "Madrasa" lawyers (good analogy by the way) to get weeded out of the DOJ? I mean if they spent much of the last 8 years putting underqualified political hacks on the DOJ roster, how long will it take for those people to leave?

And if they were hired for political reasons would it neccessarily be ethical for the next AG to fire them and replace them with more traditionally qualified lawyers?

USwest said...

What really bothers me is that they were able to basically conduct a perge-and-replace mission in the one agency that is supposed to check the President and Congress on behalf of the judicary branch. It is bananna republic, guys. It was the GOP attempt to take over the entire government.

And none of these people will be properly punished. No one is going to hold Ashcroft and Gonzales responsible. That is one thing that might give credibility back to the DOJ and its Honor's program. What will prevent someone else from doing something similar in the future?

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

Personally I expect that the fat salaries of the private sector would draw many of these "Madrasa" law folks. Combine an unsupportive Obama environment with the fact that they now have a few years of resume building experience and I bet many will bail for a chance to make some serious money.

What I'm worried about is that the sort of unethical hiring practices instituted under Ashcroft and Gonzales will become something of a trend... to be repeated by the next bunch of GOP fundamentalist crazies that gain power (at whatever level of government).

Sarah said...

As a recovering Honors Attorney, initially recruited under Ashcroft, but sworn in under Gonzalez, I feel I should clarify that these allegedly political hires in the Honors program were limited to branches of the DOJ that are already pretty political. At least a few of us National Lawyers Guild members sneaked in the outer reaches. As far as undeserving folks padding their resumes, future employers can do the same resume calculus LTG did: Ashcroft/Gonzalez era hire + John Birch Society Membership + less than stellar law school = not the most honorable of Honors attorneys. Though having practiced in the employment law section of a federal agency I can assure you that trying to get these attorneys to leave DOJ if they don't want to will be nigh impossible. Thank you for taking the "Honor" in the Honors Attorney Program seriously. From the inside it seemed "Honor" just meant they could fire you without cause for your first two years, unlike the usual civil service hires.