The Revolt of the Working Class at Justice
Lost last week amid the fire and storm of bigger news-- Virginia Tech, abortion, etc.-- was the revelation of yet another layer of inappropriate partisanship at the Justice Department. If there were any lingering doubt before about the extent to which its current crop of leaders are trying to douse the Department with one particular ideology at the expense of others, and to undermine intellectual rigor and independence in doing so, it now ought to be erased completely by the story of how Republican cronies at Justice are skewing long-standing (and sensible) hiring practices to bring to the Department a new generation of crony wannabes.
Even as they dilute the work of nonpartisan career professionals (and U.S. Attorneys) by politicizing the "grown-up" staff at Justice, officials there also apparently have turned their greedy eyes to the Department's student "Honors Program" and "Summer Law Internship Program." The Attorney General and his deputy clearly have put in place priorities and practices to gin up a new crop of Monica Goodlings and Kyle Sampsons whom they hope and expect will one day lead the Department into a new era of unformity in thought and doctrine. The focus of hte latest controversy? A young lawyer named Michael Elston, who is, in turn, the chief of staff for Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, himself the object these days of a great deal of scorn.
A group of unidentified "concerned Department of Justice employees" wrote a letter earlier this month to the chairman of both Judiciary Committees of Congress complaining that Elston (the group spelled his name "Ellston" for some reason) was "offensive to the point of insulting" when they questioned him about selection irregularities in the two student-related job programs. These folks claim that well-qualifiied candidates for the programs were scuttled without good reason, or for bad reasons, when their applications were forwarded up the chain of command to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. Sound familiar?
Here is the gravamen of the charge against Elston offered by the letter writers: "Most of those struck from the list had interned for a Hill Democrat, clerked for a Democratic judge, worked for a 'liberal' cause, or otherwise appeared to have 'liberal' leanings. Summa cum laude graduates of both Yale and Harvard were rejected for interviews...." And here is their rationale for complaining: "While it might be said that whoever wins an election can do the hiring, this new hiring procedure is contrary to Department of Justice tradition. The Department represents the entire country and has always had attorneys from a variety of schools and political leanings. There should be no litmus test for a top law student to get an interview at the Department of Justice."
Elston, you may remember, is the attorney who already was infamous for reportedly calling one of the fired U.S. Attorneys and threatening him with retaliation if he went public with the details of the dismissal. Was he reprimanded internally for his role in that? Apparently not. Was he questioned by his superiors about the money business with the student programs? Apparently not. Instead, last year, while all of this was swirling around, he was given an award from the Justice Department-- one of the 54th annual Attorney General Awards-- and a $2,000 monetary prize. You read that right. Elston received a "John Marshall Award" (the highest offered) for "leadership and legal advice related to significant appellate cases." John Marshall surely is rolling over in his grave even as Elston and the hacks who gave him his award are laughing all the way to the bank. You still unconvinced that this bunch is no good?
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