Some good news?


In his 1,000th column at White House Watch, Dan Froomkin quotes from Washington Post Staff Writer Carrie Johnson’s article that the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility notified unspecified bar associations of the findings of wrongdoing in An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General:

Separately, an official in the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility said the unit has notified bar associations of its findings against five lawyers singled out in reports thus far.

The elation I initially felt reading the portion of Ms. Johnson’s article that Mr. Froomkin excerpted was tempered when I read the complete paragraph:

Separately, an official in the Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility said the unit has notified bar associations of its findings against five lawyers singled out in reports thus far. The bar groups could initiate their own disciplinary proceedings against the lawyers, who include former Justice Department White House liaison Monica M. Goodling; former attorney general chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson; and former deputy attorney general chief of staff Michael D. Elston. Two lower-ranking officials, Esther Slater McDonald and John Nowacki, also were cited in the previous reports and their bar associations were notified, the official said. (Emphasis supplied.)

First, either Ms. Johnson did not report or her source did not specify which bar associations that OPR notified of the various allegations. She also didn’t specify whether each bar association in which these attorneys are admitted was notified of the findings. For example, Michael J. Elston , a partner at McGuireWoods LLP , is a member of the Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia Bar Associations. Were each of these bar associations ‘notified’ of Mr. Elston’s conduct?

Second, and more importantly, OPR did not file grievance complaints against any of these five (5) attorneys. As reported by Ms. Johnson, OPR only “notified bar associations of its findings.” This is a distinction with a difference: mere ‘notification’ does not initiate a grievance review process. The effect of OPR’s notification, as Ms. Johnson notes, is that the bar associations “could initiate their own disciplinary proceedings.” This is no different than if a bar association employee had simply learned about An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General online or in a newspaper because, just as with the OPR notification, that bar association also “could initiate their own disciplinary proceedings.” So, unless and until one of these bar associations actually initiates a grievance review, OPR’s ‘notification’ has done nothing more than provide some positive press.

Second, either Ms. Johnson did not report or her source did not specify which bar associations OPR notified of the various allegations and whether each bar association in which one of these attorneys is admitted was notified of the findings. For example, Michael J. Elston , a partner at McGuireWoods LLP , is a member of the Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia Bar Associations. Were each of these bar associations ‘notified’ of Mr. Elston’s conduct?

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2 Responses

  1. “Not every violation of the law is a crime” (Attorney General Michael Mukasey).

  2. Shimmy,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I enjoyed your post, “Not every violation of the law is a crime”.

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