Patterico's Pontifications


A Closer Look At The Appointment of Rachel Paulose To Be US Attorney in Minnesota

Filed under: General — WLS @ 1:15 pm

Paulose’s appointment isn’t that unusual in the third year of a second Presidential term.  Its clearly an act of “resume building” for someone who is highly thought of in DOJ.  To call her a “political hack” is simply a statement of ignorance, and anyone who thinks that could have found out a little more about her simply by Googling.   

I suspect the most important factors in selecting her for the post were the “firsts” she represented:

First woman to be US Attorney in Minnesota.

First woman of Indian (Asian) heritage to be US Attorney.

As the list of accomplishments below makes clear, she has spent almost NO TIME AT ALL serving in what one would call a “political” position.

While she is certainly lightly qualified, she is not unqualified.  Her resume, while somewhat light in experience, certainly shows an attorney of exceptional acumen, who is likely to have a long and prosperous career either in the practice of law, politics, or the judiciary:

— BA, Univ. Minn. (summa cum laude), Phi Beta Kappa
— JD, Yale Law School
   Coker Fellow
   Editor, Yale Journal of Law & Feminism
— Law Clerk for Cheif Judge, 8th Cir. Court of Appeals
— DOJ Honors Program (Trial Attorney – Civil Rights Division (in the Clinton Justice Department) though this is a lofty title for a position that really is for flunkies, as lawyers right out of law school are not DOJ Trial Attorneys)
— Assistant US Attorney, D.Minn. ’99-02.
— Private Practice 2002-05 (Dorsey & Whitney in Minneaoplis)

— Private Practice 2005-06 (Williams & Connelly in DC)
— “Senior Counsel” to Dep.AG McNulty for only 2 months prior to appointment as interim US Attorney in Feb. 2006. 

These “Special Counsel” appointments are generally “holding positions” for interim appointments, because an interim appointee usually is a DOJ employee.  If someone is going to be named interim US Attorney, for purposes of securing the necessary background checks and security clearances, there is a process they must go through before they can be named.  Its generally not possible to time the completion of that process with the resignation of the sitting US Attorney, so the person who is to be the interim is first “hired” into DOJ as a “Special Counsel” to somebody’s office while securing the necessary clearances, and then transferred to the position of interim US Attorney once the position is opened. 

So, lets track Paulose’s movement since law school:

Graduate Yale Law School — 1997

8th Cir. Appeals Court Clerk in Minneapolis — 1997-98

DOJ Honors in DC — 1998-99.

AUSA in Minneapolis — 1999-02

Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis — 2002-05

Williams & Connelly in DC — 2005-06

DOJ Dep.AG Office — 2006

Interim US Attorney Minneapolis — Feb. 28, 2006

 So, she’s not a “political hack” aide of Gonzales who is rewarded for her political activites by being appointed to a job to which she had no connection.  Heck, she only worked in a “political job” in the DAG’s office for 2 months, so I really question the reporting that she is “best pals” with Monica Goodling.

What she has is a “Gold Plated” resume.  If you think being a Yale Grad and Federalist Society member who worked for a year at Williams & Connelly in DC doesn’t open door for you at DOJ, then you don’t know anything about Washington, law schools,  politics, and DOJ.

 And, the same exact thing happened in the Clinton Admin. if you were a Yale Grad, ACLU/Alliance for Justice/People for the American Way/NOW member, who worked for Williams & Connelly, or Fried Frank, or Akin Gump, or Gibson Dunn, or a dozen other big DC Firms.  There are former senior Justice Dept. officials at all those firms from Administrations stretching back to Carter and Nixon.  Its an invaluable resource to draw upon for anyone that wants to seek an Administration appointment in DOJ or some other department.

Apparently members of the US Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis think she didn’t have the experience to be US Attorney.  I might feel the same way if I worked there and had worked with her.  But, they aren’t responsible for making the appointment, and they don’t have to work for her if they don’t want to.  Office politics always come into play in a US Attorney’s Office when a current member or former member of the office is given the top job.  In my office, when the US Attorney was named in 2001 (he was a AUSA in the office), the four most senior managers in the office either left or were demoted by him.   He appointed four other members of the office that he was close with to take over those jobs.  That happens in almost every changeover at the top of a US Attorney’s Office.

DOJ obviously anticipated some discord in Minneapolis office as a result of her inexperience.  I found it interesting that the following paragraph was included in the press release which announced her appointment as Interim US Attorney:

 The Justice Department also selected James E. Lackner to serve as the First Assistant United States Attorney. Mr. Lackner has worked as federal prosecutor for more than 22 years in the District of Minnesota, and has more than 17 years of experience in criminal prosecution. Mr. Lackner currently serves as the Chief of the Criminal Division, and previously held the position of Senior Litigation Counsel.

Normally the US Attorney is left to select their own First Assistant — its not “selected” by the Justice Department.  Here, DOJ took the unusual step of confirming that an  Assistant US Attorney with 22 years experience in Minnesota — then the Criminal Chief (usually the No.3 or 4 slot in an office, depending on organization) would become the First Assistant (the No.2 slot). 

 Lackner stayed in the job until last December, when Paulose named a new First Assistant, and Lackner went back to being Criminal Chief.  Lackner was one of the three managers to resign their management positions.

But, Paulose named another Assistant US Attorney with 18 years experience to be her new First Assistant.

Frankly, given my 15 years in DOJ, none of this is too unusual or troubling.  It would be more troubling if the most experienced prosecutors were leaving the office.  That’s not happening.  They are simply chosing to not be part of her management team.


15 Responses to “A Closer Look At The Appointment of Rachel Paulose To Be US Attorney in Minnesota”

  1. With a resume like that, she must get a lot of dates.

    Jake Gittes (dab029)

  2. You should watch the video: a color guard… and a choir!


    The four top administrators in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota have resigned their administrative positions. According to highly placed sources, the administrators have quit in protest over the job being done by Rachel Paulose, the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota.
    The resignations came in the aftermath of the controversial firing of eight U.S. Attorneys across the country.
    The Bush Administration did not want to see this happen and in an eleventh hour attempt to prevent it, sent a top justice official to Minneapolis Thursday to mediate the situation. The mediation failed.

    She’s not a hack she’s a joke

    And another one

    In a stunning reversal, a federal court of appeals struck down a state worker’s fraud conviction that Wisconsin Republicans used in efforts to paint Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration as corrupt.
    Attorneys on both sides of the case said the three-judge panel likely overruled the trial jury’s conviction of former state purchasing officer Georgia Thompson within hours of oral arguments due to a simple lack of evidence.
    The decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which will explain the judges’ reasoning, was not immediately available.
    “I have to say it strikes me that your evidence is beyond thin,” federal Appeals Judge Diane Wood told prosecutors. “I’m not sure what your actual theory in this case is.”

    More here.

    AF (c319c8)

  3. AF —

    Why don’t you go look for information about her yourself rather than rely on inaccurate reporting.

    For example, this:

    “A look at Paulose’s background indicates that she was handpicked by the Justice Department because of her personal connections, rather than her professional qualifications:

    She was a special assistant to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, worked as a senior counsel for deputy attorney general Paul McNulty and is best buds with Monica Goodling — the assistant U.S. Attorney who recently took the Fifth rather than testify before Congress.”

    The reason I posted the sequence of her employment stops was because it revealed the lie in the claim that she was picked because she was an aide to Gonzales.

    First, she worked as an aide to McNulty, not Gonzales — two different staffs.

    Second, she held that job for 2 months. Prior to that she had NO POLITICAL job on her resume at all. She was in the DOJ Civil Rights Section Honors Program her first year out of her Clerkship, then she had 3 years as an AUSA in Minnesota, and 4 years in private practice. She joined McNulty’s staff as a “Special Counsel” for 2 months before being named interim US Attorney in Feb. 2006. Do you think her two months there made such an impression on people as a “loyal Bushie political hack” that they just had to have her as the US Attorney in Minnesota??

    Of course not. Somewhere in her career path after Yale she acquired some influential friends who began looking out for her career. Those friends suggested she move to Williams & Connelly in DC while they angled to get her the job as US Attorney back in Minnesota. Maybe its a launching pad to a career in elective office. Who knows?

    But her move to Williams & Connelly was clearly for the purpose of bringing her back to DC where she could meet people of influence — like people on Norm Coleman’s staff. Once she was in line to be the next US Attorney, she was brought into DOJ as a “Special Counsel” so she could get the necessary background and security clearances. She was then appointed interim US Attorney in Feb. 2006 while already serving as a DOJ employee.

    Why is that significant?

    Well, if you look through some of the papers release by DOJ, you will find one where DOJ explains to a Senator why having federal judges pick interim US Attorneys had sometimes been problematic in the past. Sometimes the judge involved would pick someone to serve as interim US Attorney who wasn’t a current DOJ employee, and didn’t have the necessary security clearances — or couldn’t get the necessary security clearances — to serve in the position.

    If the AG did the same thing when he had the appointment power under the revised Patriot Act, it would make the complaint about judges picking outsiders seem hypocritical.

    So, find me something other than an idiot reporter who can’t read a resume/Wikipedia/press release an figure out that Paulose wasn’t a “policial hack”. A DOJ neophyte maybe, but she has no history of political employment.

    WLS (3f9087)

  4. Isn’t it possible the Minnesota DOJ employees who resigned their administrative positions in protest were the political hacks?

    DRJ (d57665)

  5. DRJ — No.

    The Minnesota AUSAs who chose to give up their management positions were all career AUSAs with lengthy terms of service in that office. They have done their jobs through the terms of several US Attorneys.

    They had all served in those positions for about a year, and it seems like from the reporting that they were just fed up with dealing with what they described as Paulose’s “dictatorial” management style.

    I’ve never set foot in that district and never met any of those people. But the dynamic is so predictable from the public information that I’m sure I could probably write a script of what went down that wouldn’t be too far from the truth, and politics would have almost no role in it.

    Here’s the set-up:

    Young attorney, Phi Beta Kappa, law degree from Yale, Circuit Court of Appeals Law Clerk, joins US Attorney’s Office after one year in DOJ Honors Program and immediately alienates everyone because she thinks she knows more than they do.

    If she had a significant role in indicting 2 cases in her year at DOJ, I’d be surprised. If she entered a courtroom more that 5 times in that year, I’d be surprised. The Honors Program is like a glorified internship because you don’t walk out of law school one day and suddenly begin representing the interests of the United States in federal courts the next day. But the Honors Program takes in the top of the graduating classes of the top 30 or so law schools every year, and after a year those that want to stay with DOJ generally find jobs somewhere in the Dept. and others leave to go into private practice or to teach.

    When you are hired into a US Attorney’s Office, daily life as a prosecutor is much different than it is at DOJ “Trial Attorney”. You have to hit the ground running with felony cases. There’s no misdemeanor court or juvenile court to learn the ropes. Some big offices have “Complaint Units” where the new AUSA’s spend some time simply learning how to review new cases and start the process rolling towards indictment.

    But Minneapolis has only 45 prosecutors, and I’m guessing they don’t have a complaint unit. So a new AUSA, even an inexperienced one, is going to get a case load that has to be handled in and out of court from day one.

    Paulose spent only 3 years in the US Attorney’s Office before leaving for a law firm in Minneapolis. That’s generally a bad sign — she probably left because she was unhappy with the work she was being given, or the US Attorney was unhappy with her. Three years is not a very long tenure, and I don’t expect that she had advanced very far in terms of her ability to handle complex cases.

    So, what happens next? Four years later the career prosecutors in the District of Minnesota learn that the inexperienced AUSA who had left them after spending only three years on the job is now headed back to be their boss.

    “What? You’ve got to be kidding?? Paulose?? She barely learned her way to the Grand Jury room. How many cases did she try while she was here — 2 or 3? And they are going to make her US Attorney, and she’s going to tell US what to do??

    Career AUSA’s have LARGE Egos — your’s truly included. Its a job that feeds your ego because generally only good things happen in your cases. You have access to a boatload of resources, a never-ending list of people who have broken the law to go after, and an army of agents from a dozen different agencies who follow your instructions.

    So, you try to tell 40 of them that a neophyte that none of them developed much professional respect for in her short tenure with the office is going to come back and be their boss.

    And couple with that the fact that they all know she’ll have the job for only two years. What do career employees do? They show up, do their job, and ignore her.

    Its not a good environment to work in, but it is what it is. Everyone’s professional, and the work gets done. But they are counting the days unitl she leaves.

    I had a similar experience in my first office. I won’t be too descriptive but the circumstances were very similar — minority female, Phi Beta Kappa, Harvard Law, Law Clerk, Main Justice position for 2 years, US Attorney’s Office.

    This person had NO IDEA what she was doing in a courtroom, and suffered an lengthy series of indignities at the hands of federal judges who just despised her arrogance.

    But you simply could not get through to her that she was making mistakes that she could avoid if she was just willing to listen more, talk less, and absorb some lessons from people who had been doing the job a lot longer than she had and with a lot more success.

    If I still worked there, I would quit that office if she was ever made US Attorney. I’ve heard a rumor that her name will be at the top of the list if Hillary wins in 2008.

    WLS (3f9087)

  6. “The top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales abruptly quit on Friday, almost two weeks after telling Congress she would not testify about her role in the firings of federal prosecutors.
    “I am hereby submitting my resignation to the office of attorney general,” Monica M. Goodling said in a three-sentence letter. There was no immediate reason given, but her refusal to face Congress had intensified a controversy that threatens Gonzales’ job…

    Calling her five-year stint at Justice an honor, Goodling told Gonzales in her letter, “May God bless your richly as you continue your service to America.”

    Thank you Pat Robertson.
    Regents University has 150 Alumni in the Bush Adminstration. “That is an astonishing figure for a university which has been operating for a mere quarter of a century.” Thank You Pat Robertson

    Once again: The Best and The Brightest?
    Don’t make me laugh

    AF (c319c8)

  7. I take it you think this is more likely a problem with her management or legal skills than a difference of political opinion. If so, why resign right now – as opposed to last year or next year – and why en masse? The mass resignations and timing in relation to the US Attorney firings seems too coincidental.

    DRJ (d57665)

  8. Tim Griffin

    Little Rock’s interim U.S. Attorney J. Timothy Griffin – already at the center of a firestorm over whether the White House has put politics ahead of prosecutorial integrity – made claims about his experience as an Army lawyer that have been put in doubt by military records.
    The 38-year-old Griffin claims on his official Web site that he prosecuted 40 criminal cases while at Ft. Campbell, where he was stationed from September 2005 to May 2006. But Army authorities say Ft. Campbell’s records show Griffin only serving as assistant trial counsel on three cases, none of which went to trial.

    AF (c319c8)

  9. I think its been leaked that they resigned en masse as an effort to force DOJ to remove her for incompetence. They didn’t resign from the office, they just stepped down from their management positions inside the office, and went back to handling individual caseloads as line prosecutors.

    If I were at DOJ, the two resignations that would get my attention would have been Lacker — who DOJ seemed to have imposed on her as her First Assistant when she was named Interim US Attorney in Feb. 2006 — and a guy named John Marti. Marti was picked by Paulose to be her First Assistant when she was confirmed this past December, with Lacker going back to being the Criminal Chief.

    The fact that Marti would step down after only 3 months as First Assistant, and that Lacker would also step down after he served as her First Assistant for 9 months before that, is a pretty clear indication that she won’t listen to anyone who differs with her.

    Who wants to work for someone like that?

    I think the timing was simply designed to put pressure on DOJ to move her out — the subject is so hot right now, why would DOJ want another fire to deal with. Given this much discontent in the office, moving her out would be the fastest and easiet thing they could do to fix the problem. I suspect you might see just that happening over the next few weeks if Paulose doesn’t have a strong political supporter in her corner.

    Its really not much different than what got Kevin Ryan canned in San Francisco.

    WLS (3f9087)

  10. AF — LOL.

    I saw an Army JAG handle 15 cases in 45 minutes in federal court last week.

    Saying you “prosecuted” a case is a pretty inexact term. The Army JAG I’m talking about disposed of about 10 DUIs, a couple criminal property damage cases, and a host of other various allegations of criminal conduct that takes place every day on a military base by both active duty personnel and civilians.

    Saying someone “prosecuted” a case isn’t necessarily synonymous with saying the case went to trial. I “prosecute” a few dozen cases a year, but only 2-3 go to trial. If I didn’t “prosecute” the others, what should I call what I did?

    WLS (3f9087)

  11. Just to establish my cred elsewhere, I’ll add that WLS’s #5 and #9 sound exactly right to me. I was going to ask WLS if he didn’t think it was possible that Paulouse had a problem with management style—but he’s already answered.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (3d032d)

  12. But someone should check out Paulose’s caseload. If anyone in her office has ever prosecuted any Republican on any level, then if DOJ tries to remove her for any reason, no matter how well-documented, it will be depicted as having been a partisan attempt to interfere with that prosecution.

    Anono (8e2b0c)

  13. Paulose ordered that an internal memo be prepared for high-ranking Justice Department officials who would be coming to Minneapolis from Washington to highlight the office’s high-profile cases, the attorneys said.
    Paulose instructed the head of the narcotics section, Andy Dunne, to state in the memo that prosecutors had won convictions that ended drug dealing by St. Paul’s Latin Kings gang, they said.

    Dunne was told by Paulose to say that the Latin Kings were the biggest gang in St. Paul and that the office’s recent convictions would stop the so-called Latin King Nation, the attorneys said.

    But Dunne told Paulose he couldn’t abide by the request, one of the attorneys said, and when he refused, Dunne was forced to give up his position as chief of the narcotics section. Dunne would not comment Friday.”

    AF (c319c8)

  14. I hope the media asks why USA Rachel Paulose has not released the FBI tapes of of Gary Dean Zimmermann to the media that were shown in open court.

    Does it have anything to do with the fact that Zimmermann (a Green) was taped requesting and receiving cash bribes from a developer who held a fundraiser for Senator Norm Coleman…. just asking.

    Ken Avidor (6fb5b6)

  15. Looking at this whole picture- Some things does not make any sense. If Paulose is so terrible, why would Marti accept the position as her assistant? – Unless Marti had some other ulterior motive.

    Ms. Paulose worked as the Assistant US Attorney, D.Minn. ‘99-02, and as the interim US Attorney for D.Minn from Feb. 2006-March 2007. So this Marti character had ample time to know Paulose’s work style and personality (worked together in the same office for 4years). It is possible that he convinced her that he will be better for the position as the first assistant than Lackner so she appoints him and 2 weeks after taking the job, may be forced her to resign or else he will embarrass her by publicly humiliating her in the media by doing what he did. And hopes she will resign now so that he can have a chance for promotion (as the interim) that otherwise he will not be eligible for.

    Just a thought – otherwise it makes no sense for Marti to accept the position (after Paulose was the interim attorney in MN for a year) and step down within two weeks after accepting the position. If her management style was so terrible, wouldn’t you think Marti would have noticed that in this 4 year period that she worked there? Or at the least in the one year when she was the interim?

    It is hard to believe that Paulose’s poor management style surfaced in two weeks and the first assistant just noticed that and stepped down right away and the whole thing happened in less than three weeks, makes no sense to any one with common sense. If you look at Marti background, he is a pro in mind manipulation.

    Tom (dfff63)

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