CREW files grievances against Michael J. Elston and Esther Slater McDonald

As far back as 2006, I began contacting various parties – including CREW – to suggest that an organized effort to file grievances would be an effective tactic for responding to the litany of attorneys engaged in questionable ethical conduct. Like most people and organizations I contacted, CREW never responded. Of the few responses I did receive, only one or two were in support of the idea and the rest usually just stated a simple reason or two why the idea wouldn’t work. As attorney after attorney continued to violate their ethical obligations with impunity, my frustration grew that there was no organized effort to promote a grievance strategy. As a result, I launched The Grievance Project in October, 2007.

When the DOJ IG report An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring in the Department of Justice Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program was released, I began preparing a grievance complaint against Michael J. Elston for his conduct described therein as well as for his role in the firing of United States Attorneys, including John McKay, Bud Cummins, Carol Lam and Paul Charlton. When I first saw Marcy Wheeler’s headline today declaring that CREW had filed grievances against Mr. Elston, my initial thoughts were that I just got ‘scooped’ by CREW and that I had wasted a lot time working on my Elston complaint. Almost immediately, I was quite pleased that CREW had finally adopted a (my?) grievance strategy and had filed the complaints.

A few thoughts now that I’ve read both Wheeler’s post and CREW’s press release:

  • Marcy Wheeler notes that this may have an affect on the law firms that have hired Mr. Elston and Ms. Esther Slater McDonald, stating that “[a]t the very least, one would hope this would embarrass the big corporate firms these two alleged law-breakers work for. After all, it appears that Alberto Gonzales still has only temporary employment. If all these hacks found themselves unemployable because of what they did, that’d be a start.” This was precisely my point regarding Hunton & Williams when they hired Kyle D. Sampson .
  • Although Mr. Elston is a member of the Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia Bars, CREW filed a complaint against Mr. Elston only in Virginia and only sent copies of Virginia complaint to the the Illinois, Kansas and Missouri Bars. I believe a stronger approach would not just provide these states with a copy of the Virginia complaint but would also be to file official complaints against Mr. Elston in Illinois, Kansas and Missouri (or .pdf ).
  • CREW’s complaint against Mr. Elston only addresses his violations of his ethical obligations with respect to the issues raised in the DOJ IG report . Because Mr. Elston is also in violation of his ethical obligations due to his involvement with his role in the firing of United States Attorneys, including John McKay, Bud Cummins, Carol Lam and Paul Charlton, I will finish my Elston complaint with respect to to these violations.
  • Now that CREW has adopted a (my?) grievance strategy, I’ve prepared grievance complaints against Alberto Gonzales, Kyle D. Sampson, Lisa Murkowski, Harriet E. Miers, Mark Everett Fuller, and John Yoo that are ready for CREW to simply print and file. If you agree, contact:
    • Naomi Seligman, CREW’s Deputy Director and Communications Director, at 202.408.5565 or nseligman @, and
    • Melanie Sloan, CREW’s Executive Director, at msloan @

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2 Responses

  1. […] Illinois, Kansas or Missouri Bars, jurisdictions in which Mr. Elston is also admitted, as explained here, but only sent these associations a copy of the Virginia complaint. More importantly, because the […]

  2. […] unethical activity taking place at the state level in Texas. At the federal level, CREW has filed grievances against Michael J. Elston and Esther Slater McDonald for their part in the politicized hiring practices taking place at the DoJ, although CREW’s […]

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