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11-25-2008, 08:47 AM
Taxpayers to cover Gonzales' legal bills
Department of Justice to pay a lawyer to defend him in civil case


By MARISA TAYLOR Mcclatchy-tribune

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has agreed to pay for a private lawyer to defend former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against allegations that he encouraged officials to inject partisan politics into the department's hiring and firing practices.

Lawyers from the Justice Department's civil division often represent department employees who are sued in connection with their official actions. However, Gonzales' attorney recently revealed in court papers that the Justice Department had approved his request to pay private attorney's fees arising from the federal lawsuit.

Dan Metcalfe, a former high-ranking veteran Justice Department official who filed the suit on behalf of eight law students, called the department's decision to pay for a private attorney rather than rely on its civil division "exceptional."

"It undoubtedly will cost the taxpayers far more," he said.

According to a person with knowledge of the case, the Justice Department has imposed a limit of $200 an hour or $24,000 a month on attorneys' fees. Top Justice Department attorneys generally earn no more than $100 per hour. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Asked why Gonzales made the request, Gonzales spokesman Robert Bork Jr. said that his client "values the work that the department's civil attorneys do in all cases" but thinks that "private counsel can often be useful where (department) officials are sued in an individual capacity, even where the suit has no substantive merit."

Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, said the department wouldn't comment on the reasons for the approval and wouldn't answer questions about the cost to taxpayers.

The lawsuit accuses Gonzales and other former and current Justice Department officials of instituting hiring practices that blocked liberal-leaning applicants from two programs for law students. Gonzales resigned last year amid a controversy over the alleged practices and over the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

Metcalfe filed the lawsuit after Justice Department watchdog reports found that department officials under Gonzales weeded out liberal-leaning applicants in favor of conservative ones for various jobs ranging from internships to prosecutor slots and immigration judgeships. In a separate but related report, the two watchdog agencies detailed "substantial evidence" that Republican politics had played a role in several of the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

11-25-2008, 08:47 AM
Lawmakers ask: Why are taxpayers footing Gonzales's legal bills?


Nick Juliano
Published: Monday November 24, 2008

Two members of Congress are demanding answers following revelations that taxpayers are paying up to $24,000 per month to foot former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's legal bills.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who chair the Judiciary committees in their respective chambers, wrote to Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Monday demanding to know the details of the arrangement.

At issue is a lawsuit filed against Gonzales alleging that he oversaw discrimination in two Justice Department programs aimed at recruiting law students into federal service. During his time in office, department officials systematically denied entry to liberal applicants and only admitted Republican supporters.

Administration of the Department of Justice Honor Program and Summer Law Intern Program were two of the many areas in which Gonzales is alleged to have politicized the Department. The politicization scandal, best known for the firing of nine US Attorneys who refused to pursue partisan charges, contributed to Gonzales's resignation in disgrace last year.

Several law students who were denied entry to the honors and intern programs are suing Gonzales, alleging they were unfairly disqualified. The Justice Department is paying Gonzales's bills.

The government has the authority to pay for private attorneys for employees who were sued for actions they performed as a part of their official duties. But, as Conyers and Leahy note, the conduct at issue in Gonzales's case was criticized by the Justice Department's own Inspector General and Office of Professional Conduct.

"Given the Inspector General's findings of violations of Department policy and Federal law in connection with the politicization of Department hiring, on what basis did the Department determine that the conduct at issue in this lawsuit was within the scope of Mr. Gonzales's employment and that his representation is in the interest of the United States?" the two ask.

A full copy of the letter is reprinted below (.pdf here):

The Honorable Michael B. Mukasey
Attorney General of the United States
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Mukasey:

We write to follow up on reports that the Department will be covering legal expenses for former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in connection with findings of politicized hiring for the Department of Justice Honor Program and Summer Law Intern Program. Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine released a report this past June which concluded that hiring was improperly politicized, including in 2006 when, the report concluded, several Department officials engaged in hiring practices that “constituted misconduct and also violated the Department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.”

Following the publication of the Inspector General’s report, several individuals whose applications for employment through these programs were turned down during the period that the hiring process was improperly politicized have filed suit against Mr. Gonzales and others who held senior positions at the Department at the time. Recent press accounts indicated that the Department of Justice has decided to pay up to $24,000 a month for a private attorney to represent Mr. Gonzales in connection with this lawsuit. As far as we can tell, the Department has thus far failed to confirm or publicly account for any aspect of this arrangement.

Under section 50.16 of title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the Department may provide for a private attorney for a current or former employee sued individually for conduct within the scope of his employment, but the Government should not pay for private representation if the Attorney General or his designee “determines that the employee’s actions do not reasonably appear to have been performed within the scope of his employment” or that “representation is not in the interest of the United States.”

There is precedent for disclosure of information to Congress about this type of arrangement. In May 2003, for example, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the release of similar information regarding fees paid by the Department of the Interior to private attorneys to defend its employees in a class action lawsuit. Judge Lamberth wrote that “the Court believes that Congress should have all available information at its disposal” in order to inform the process of appropriating funds for court-appointed officials and attorneys’ fees in the case.

We would appreciate your responses to these questions on this issue:

What is the arrangement the Department has reached with Mr. Gonzales in connection with representation in this matter, and why has that arrangement not been made public?

Who made the decision to pay for Mr. Gonzales’s private legal expenses in connection with the politicization of hiring at the Justice Department, and how, when, and on what basis was the decision made? Please include with your response any standing guidelines governing the procedures for retention and payment for private counsel for individual employees or former employees.

For what other current or former Department officials has the Department decided to pay legal expenses in connection with these matters?

Given the Inspector General’s findings of violations of Department policy and Federal law in connection with the politicization of Department hiring, on what basis did the Department determine that the conduct at issue in this lawsuit was within the scope of Mr. Gonzales’s employment and that his representation is in the interest of the United States?

We look forward to your responses to these questions. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Chairman, U.S. Senate, Chairman, U.S. House of Representatives,
Committee on the Judiciary Committee on the Judiciary