The "Pros" Drain Out of Justice
The forced removal of the "professional" class from the Justice Department is a dangerous trend that has been exacerbated, but was not created, by the disastrous tenure of Alberto R. Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States. The pendulum was moving in this direction-- in the dubious, short-sighted direction of filling the Department with middling political partisans instead of bright career attorneys-- before the Bush administration fired eight federal prosecutors last year for not being "loyal Bushes." But the scandal over the dismissal of the U.S. Attorneys, and Gonzales' hapless stewardship, has cast a new spotlight on the practice; a focus that perhaps will help slow or even stop the brain drain at Justice.
In an excellent piece well worth reading, the Boston Globe on Sunday framed the issue in terms of what reporter Charlie Savage called "the administration's hiring of officials educated at smaller, conservative schools with sometimes marginal academic reputations." One of these "officials" was Monica Goodling, who helped coordinate the firings of the prosecutors, left her position on Good Friday, and signed her resignation mash note to Gonzales by asking God to "bless him richly" as he continues to swirl down the tubes in Washington. Like many of her former colleagues at Justice, Savage reports, Goodling is a graduate of Regent University School of Law, an institution founded by Pat Robertson which was ranked years ago as the 136th-best law school in the country (and there aren't many more below it on the scale).
No matter. According to Savage: [I]n 2001, the Bush administration picked the dean of Regent's government school, Kay Coles James , to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management -- essentially the head of human resources for the executive branch. The doors of opportunity for government jobs were thrown open to Regent alumni." And coming through those doors to the Justice Department, writes Savage, have been ideologically conservative attorneys who are willing and eager to change constitutional law to reflect what the dean of Regent told Savage were "eternal principles of justice." You get the idea. Read Savage piece if you want to comprehend the scope of the goal here by the White House and the Attorney General's office.
Savage's piece simply reinforces what many Washington legal insiders and historians have been telling me for the past few months. There is no longer a meritocracy in place at the Justice Department when it comes to hiring decisions. Where the Department once was staffed by some of the best and brightest lawyers in the nation, now it has become a repository for the Monica Goodlings of the world. If you were a dedicated federal prosecutor, a Bush appointee, would you want some younger lawyer from some fourth-rate law school determining your future? You wouldn't. And yet that's precisely what happened here to our Gang of Eight. They weren't judged by the best and the brightest and the most seasoned and respected attorneys in the nation; they were judged by Monica Goodling, a legal disciple of Pat Robertson.
Even if you take away the religious theme here, there is a problem. The demise of the professional class at Justice is a loss to us all regardless of the intelligence or political persuasion of the hacks who are taking their jobs. Nonpartisan federal attorneys are likely to make better, nonpartisan legal decisions that affect our lives--decisions that impact upon federal investigations, legal policy and even the language of our federal laws. Nonpartisan professionals at the Justice Department help create the appearance, if not the reality, of an unbiased judicial system that is free from fear or favor and beholden to no particular ideology except the Law. That is the way it ought to be. And we ought to expect our government, this government, to be trying to hire the best attorneys and not the ones who know best how to preach to the choir.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: H5N1 | April 9, 2007 09:45 AM
Posted by: William R. Cumming | April 9, 2007 12:44 PM
Posted by: ExAUSA | April 9, 2007 02:04 PM
Posted by: Robert James | April 9, 2007 04:50 PM
Posted by: Richard Newton | April 9, 2007 06:06 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2007 06:50 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2007 07:00 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2007 07:30 PM
Posted by: | April 9, 2007 08:20 PM
Posted by: Regent Law Grad | April 9, 2007 08:52 PM
Posted by: ExAUSA | April 9, 2007 09:31 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2007 10:19 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | April 9, 2007 10:36 PM
Posted by: Regent Law Grad | April 9, 2007 10:43 PM
Posted by: | April 9, 2007 10:58 PM
Posted by: JP2 | April 10, 2007 12:05 AM
Posted by: hjfjr | April 10, 2007 05:48 AM
Posted by: LarryH | April 10, 2007 06:27 AM
Posted by: Nellie | April 10, 2007 09:27 AM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 10:34 AM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 10:55 AM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 11:12 AM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 02:15 PM
Posted by: Nellie | April 10, 2007 02:28 PM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 02:50 PM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 03:29 PM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 04:37 PM
Posted by: spaceexplorer | April 10, 2007 06:34 PM
Posted by: JD 2008 | April 10, 2007 06:51 PM
Posted by: Nellie | April 10, 2007 08:50 PM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 08:51 PM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 08:53 PM
Posted by: | April 10, 2007 09:06 PM
Posted by: Michael | April 10, 2007 09:19 PM
Posted by: ExAUSA | April 10, 2007 09:58 PM
Posted by: Nellie | April 11, 2007 08:35 AM
Posted by: | April 11, 2007 03:37 PM
Posted by: Stewart | April 12, 2007 10:17 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.