Dis-Honored Program

From Law . com:

A former candidate for the Justice Department’s honors program is suing for $100,000 in damages, alleging Justice officials violated his rights and those of others when they brought political bias into vetting honors-program applications.

The class action by Sean Gerlich — filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — is the first suit resulting from an internal Justice report issued last week that says two former Justice officials illegally screened applicants to the honors and summer intern programs.

The two officials were Esther Slater McDonald, then counsel to the associate attorney general and now an associate at Seyfarth Shaw, and Michael Elston, then chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and now a partner at McGuireWoods.

Original DVD cover.

Gerlich’s suit says the department politicized the selection process, mishandled the applications and failed to maintain the records, all in violation of the Privacy Act, the Civil Service Reform Act and the Federal Records Act. In addition, the suit claims violations of the First and 14th Amendments.

From CREW:

7 Jul 2008 // Washington, DC – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed bar complaints against former Department of Justice officials Michael J. Elston and Esther Slater McDonald. CREW based its complaint on the report recently released by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring in the Department of Justice Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program (DOJ Report).


Both Ms. McDonald and Mr. Elston rejected applicants who they believed to be liberal or who had worked for Democrats.


The Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit attorneys from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty and conduct that “seriously interferes with the administration of justice.”

From The Washington Post (Editorial):

NOWHERE IS the need for impartial, nonpartisan decision-making more important than at the Justice Department. […] These policies, however, were systematically shredded by some in the Bush administration’s Justice Department.

A recently released report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility confirmed that in 2002 under Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and again in 2006 under Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales applicants for entry-level positions through the department’s honors and summer internship programs were weeded out based on their perceived liberal leanings. The report is one in a series that examines the alleged politicization of the department during the Bush administration.


In 2006 Mr. [Michael] Elston was chair of the three-member committee that screened applications for both programs; Ms. [Esther Slater] McDonald was a member, as was career prosecutor Daniel Fridman, who is praised in the report for reporting violations by Mr. Elston and Ms. McDonald.

How did these two sniff out political proclivities? According to the report, Ms. McDonald searched candidates’ applications for ” ‘leftist commentary and buzzwords’ such as ‘environmental justice,’ ‘social justice,’ ‘making policy,’ or ‘anything else that involves legislating rather than enforcing’ “; she also apparently punished membership in liberal organizations. The report faults Mr. Elston for failing to stop Ms. McDonald’s breaches and at times for using political markers to disqualify candidates on his own.

Kids, you can follow the story through the newspapers or CREW or Law dot com, or you can bookmark our buddy E. M.’s excellent website, The Grievance Project. You will find lots more links over there, as well as E. M.’s excellent analysis on a lot of law-related subjects.


Filed under Alberto Gonzales, Chimpy, Democrats, First Amendment, George W. Bush, humor, John Ashcroft, Justice Department, movies, parody, Paul McNulty, politics, Republicans, snark, Wordpress Political Blogs

10 responses to “Dis-Honored Program

  1. Nonnie,

    Thanks for the link. I posted a couple of comments on the CREW filings on Monday:

    * 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:
    o Naomi Seligman, CREW’s Deputy Director and Communications Director, at 202.408.5565 or nseligman @ citizensforethics.org, and
    o Melanie Sloan, CREW’s Executive Director, at msloan @ citizensforethics.org.

    And USDOJ stopped by TGP yesterday. Hopefully, they learned something.

  2. jeb

    Obviously these mooks thought that “The Scarlet Letter” was an instructional manual instead of a cautionary tale. Substitutes L or D for A and get busy excluding.

  3. you are very welcome, e.m.. i hope that it was not the cleaning lady over at doj who stopped by your site. it seems that at least daniel fridman has integrity. i hope that a few more doj employees find or maybe rediscover their moral and ethical backbones and testify to the abuses they saw.

  4. jeb,
    it seems that, for some people, studying law has nothing to do with justice and is just a stepping stone to greater glory or a tool to further some agenda.
    by the way, didja know that esther was welcomed into the doj by no other than monica goodling? you need to read about her alma mater, pensacola christian college. this is from tpm:

    Of Pensacola’s many rules, those dealing with male-female relationships are the most talked about. There are restrictions on when and where men and women may speak to each other. Some elevators and stairwells may be used only by women; others may be used only by men. Socializing on particular benches is forbidden. If a man and a woman are walking to class, they may chat; if they stop en route, though, they may be in trouble. Generally men and women caught interacting in any “unchaperoned area” — which is most of the campus — could be subject to severe penalties.

    Those rules extend beyond the campus. A man and a woman cannot go to an off-campus restaurant together without a chaperon (usually a faculty member). Even running into members of the opposite sex off campus can lead to punishment. One student told of how a group of men and a group of women from the college happened to meet at a McDonald’s last spring. Both groups were returning from the beach (they had gone to separate beaches; men and women are not allowed to be at the beach together). The administration found out, and all 15 students were expelled.

    Even couples who are not talking or touching can be reprimanded. Sabrina Poirier, a student at Pensacola who withdrew in 1997, was disciplined for what is known on the campus as “optical intercourse” — staring too intently into the eyes of a member of the opposite sex. This is also referred to as “making eye babies.” While the rule does not appear in written form, most students interviewed for this article were familiar with the concept.

    she comes from the land of the invisible burqa, yet people like her are supposed to keep us safe from the terrists!

  5. jeb

    Yep, and I heard they banned sex in the standing position because it might lead to dancing.

  6. 😆 they make the amish look like party animals.

  7. Nick Ryan

    Elston is now at the USPS where he is engaging in similar behavior.

    • Hello Nick Ryan,

      Welcome to the Raisin. 🙂

      Not sure how you found this very old post, but thank you for the update. Interesting that these people who seem to hate government always love the paychecks they get from them.

      • Nick Ryan

        I’m actually researching him. We’re interested in how he was hired by another federal agency after he was effectively terminated by DOJ – and after DOJ OIG found he violated civil service laws and labeled him not re-employable by DOJ. We submitted a FOIA for his application but have met with a stone wall. The agency’s FOIA office reports to him.

        On Sat, Oct 29, 2016 at 8:35 PM HYSTERICAL RAISINS wrote:

        nonnie9999 commented: “Hello Nick Ryan,Welcome to the Raisin. :)Not sure how you found this very old post, but thank you for the update. Interesting that these people who seem to hate government always love the paychecks they get from them.”

        • Thanks for responding, Ryan. Every once in a while, someone comes along and comments on old posts, and I always wonder how they find them. Usually it’s because there is something or someone in the news that makes people search for them. However, this particular poster didn’t highlight anyone currently in the news. Interesting that you zeroed in on the most obscure guy in the bunch.

          Just curious, why Elston and why now? I know some of these guys fly under the radar but are just as dangerous as the ones who are more recognizable.

          Once again, thanks for coming back, Ryan. I hope you will drop in from time to time to let us know if there is anyone else we should be keeping an eye on.