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Rachel Paulose's Departure
from her position as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota has been getting a lot of press recently, including an editorial in Thursday's New York Times. I don't know exactly what to make of the situation: I've never met Paulose, and I don't have any close contacts (at least any that come to mind) in that particular office. If I had to guess, though, I would imagine that this commentary from the Minnesota Lawyer Blog is probably about right. Thanks to Legal Blog Watch for the link.

  UPDATE: Over at Concurring Opinions, my friend and colleague Dan Solove adds:
As one who has been very critical of the Bush Administration and of how it has politicized the DOJ, I ordinarily would not be very sympathetic to Rachel.

But I know Rachel Paulose. We were in the same class at Yale Law School. It is hard to believe some of the media accounts of her, as she always struck me as incredibly kind and nice. Rachel and I are at different ends of the political spectrum, and I would not have been friendly with somebody who was a hack, who was strident in her ideology, who was obtrusive about her religious beliefs. But I found Rachel to be quite likable, and I had many good conversations with her in law school. I never found her to be aloof, pushy, fiercely ideological, nasty, or many of the other characteristics currently being attributed to her. In my experience, she was always thoughtful, respectful, and friendly. Therefore, I doubt the accounts of her I've been reading in the media -- they certainly don't reflect the person I knew when I was in law school.
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

This seemed a bit too trivial to send an email about, so I thought I'd just stick it under the top post: Today's Non Sequitur cartoon is about the "seeing-eye constitutional scholar", and is quite funny.
11.23.2007 8:54am
AntonK (mail):
Orin says, "If I had to guess, though, I would imagine that this commentary from the Minnesota Lawyer Blog is probably about right."

How about all the commentary over at Powerline, by attorneys who know Paulose? Is there no chance that their commentary is "about right" as well?
11.23.2007 9:36am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
How about all the commentary over at Powerline, by attorneys who know Paulose? Is there no chance that their commentary is "about right" as well?

What, commentary by a bunch of Bush sycophants and well-known partisan hacks who lie with regularity to advance the agenda of the administration? Not a chance.

The simple fact is that no 32 year old, no matter how brilliant they are, is qualified to be a U.S. District Attorney. The job requires maturity and managerial experience that takes more than just native intelligence and ideological purity. In fact I would contend that someone who is such a shining star is probably the last person you would want to be a manager, ever, because they tend to be arrogant, dismissive of "mere mortals" and think those who have not achieved such a high position at such a young age are rank idiots.

And if a quarter of the things that are reported about Paulose are true (e.g., taking disciplinary action against someone who had the gall to point out she was mishandling classified information) then she is nothing but a horribly ineffective, bad, and vindicative manager who should be fired, not kicked upstairs.
11.23.2007 9:57am
Cornellian (mail):
As Scott has noted at length, our friend Rachel Paulose, who by any objective standard was doing a fine job in the position, was forced out by the Democrats and their press minions after she committed the "offense" of defending herself against their partisan smears.

I read the first paragraph of Anton's link, which includes this:

"As Scott has noted at length, our friend Rachel Paulose, who by any objective standard was doing a fine job in the position, was forced out by the Democrats and their press minions after she committed the "offense" of defending herself against their partisan smears. "

So given its sneering, hysterical, hyper-ventilating tone I'd say no, there is little or no chance that it's "about right."
11.23.2007 9:58am
GV_:
How many AUSAs are democrats? I can't imagine any federal prosecutor's office in the country is overwhelming liberal. This office seemed to be working fine under the prior conservative US Attorney. Isn't that pretty good evidence that this uprising is not politically related? And isn't the fact that career workers in the office who had worked through both republican and democratic administrations had problems with Paulose also fairly damning to conservatives who are trying to defend Paulose now?
11.23.2007 10:10am
mariner (mail):
The simple fact is that no 32 year old, no matter how brilliant they are, is qualified to be a U.S. District Attorney.


I wonder how old Rudy Giuliani was, when he was U.S. Atty in New York?
11.23.2007 10:28am
33yearprof:
Actually, the job, setting priorities and coordinating federal and local law enforcement was done quote well.

She was the victim of a revolt by prima donna's who didn't want to dance to the new orchestra leader's music selections (Bush DOJ priorities). If she'd been a former football playing, cigar chomping, American boy, she'd have turned the staff over (by resignation or firing) as soon as possible. Hired new staff (there are plenty of lawyers in Minneapolis) and got it behind her the first week.

Here's some balance. http://www.startribune.com/10216/story/1566944.html
11.23.2007 10:38am
Chris Bell (mail):
Guiliani was 39 when he became USDA in NY, after having already been the Associate Attorney General for two years under Reagan. Before that he was an Assistant USDA and eventually became head of the Narcotics Department in the District Attorney's office.
11.23.2007 10:58am
RL:
Rachel Paulose, who by any objective standard was doing a fine job in the position

Say what? Why is it so hard to admit that Paulose did not do a good job of managing her minions? Moreover, it's wrong to assume that her management failures are a result of race, gender, or politics. Kevin Ryan in the NDCA office faced the same charges of being aloof and out of touch with his staff, and he lost his job.

33yearprof, you obviously have no idea how difficult it is to fire a civil servant. It's just not done.
11.23.2007 11:01am
Nessuno:
I agree with 33yearprof. Her biggest management mistake seems to be not exerting more control over the staff.

As a matter of democratic principle, I'm always very uncomfortable when the bureaucracy revolts against political appointees who are trying to implement the policies of the President, especially when the revolt is done through leaks.

We have seen this too often with the State Department and with the CIA, and now we are seeing it with the Justice Department. Elections should mean something, and the people we elect should have infinitely more power to control the direction of policy than unelected bureaucrats.
11.23.2007 11:01am
Hoosier:
Perhaps she just read the post on not becoming a lawyer.
11.23.2007 11:05am
alias:
The simple fact is that no 32 year old, no matter how brilliant they are, is qualified to be a U.S. District Attorney.

This is just silly. It might be true that it's difficult to get the sort of experience necessary to be a good U.S. Attorney before age 32 and that most 32-year-olds don't have it, but the absolute position is unreasonable.

Second, Ms. Paulose's title wasn't "U.S. District Attorney."
11.23.2007 11:22am
Tony Tutins (mail):
I don't know anything about this woman, but I can offer some generalizations and bromides: The qualities that make a good managee (nose to the grindstone, good work product, substantive knowledge, attention to detail) are not the same as those that make a good manager (awareness of what's going on, ability to delegate, ability to manage down as well as manage up, understanding of people, motivational skills). Learning how to manage is on-the-job training which burdens the managed more than anyone else. Perfectionism leads to micromanagement and treating every employee as a time bomb waiting to go off, which tends to confuse the hell out of and demoralize the staff. Only if the workers are seasoned enough to know how to manage their rookie manager will it work.
11.23.2007 11:26am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Second, Ms. Paulose's title wasn't "U.S. District Attorney."

Sorry "U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota". I was being lazy.

No, the absolute position is not silly. Is there a 32 year-old alive who is qualified to be a senior partner at a major law firm? Then why on earth would a U.S. Attorney's office be any different? Good managers are not born, they are made, and no one that young has the experience and wisdom to manage an office like that.

As a matter of democratic principle, I'm always very uncomfortable when the bureaucracy revolts against political appointees who are trying to implement the policies of the President, especially when the revolt is done through leaks.

You seem to have a serious misunderstanding about how our government, especially the Justice Department, works. The government is not a patronage system. The civil service is there to provide continuity and stability across administrations. It is deeply ironic that the very same people who were complaining about the perceived politicization of the civil service under the Clinton Administration are now complaining that the Bush administration civil service is not politicized enough (even though politics seems to be involved in almost every agency decision made during this administration's tenure)
11.23.2007 11:38am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
33yearprof, you obviously have no idea how difficult it is to fire a civil servant. It's just not done.

Well yeah, you just can't fire civil servants because you don't like their politics, their personality or they point out that you leave classified documents laying around your office unsecured.

You have to have a job performance related reason. What an odd concept!
11.23.2007 11:43am
Jake (Guest):
I've heard of this scary place called the "private sector" where you can be fired just for undermining your boss.
11.23.2007 11:58am
Tony Tutins (mail):

I've heard of this scary place called the "private sector" where you can be fired just for undermining your boss.

What I have noticed from 30 years in the private sector: If one employee can't get along with the new boss -- employee leaves. If no employee gets along with the new boss -- boss leaves.
11.23.2007 12:21pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I've heard of this scary place called the "private sector" where you can be fired just for undermining your boss.

Because of the political nature of her position, she is (rightly) limited in her ability to directly hire and fire people. Generally (if DOJ works like other federal agencies, which I assume it does), the only people in the office she is the hiring authority over (in that she has the right to hire and fire--and even then not really), are the SES's and her direct office staff. And even those people she can only move out of her office and in the case of the non-political SES's, transfer or demote back to a GS position. She is very few people's boss in her office in the sense that she writes or signs off on their performance reviews. Most civil servants are reviewed by other civil servants. Senior managers are reviewed by mostly non-political SES's.* Only the most senior people in the office directly report to the U.S. Attorney.

Civil service positions are supposed to be filled without regard to political affiliation, because after all, government employees work for the citizens and serve the government of the United States, not the administration or the political party that controls the White House.

* SES's are Senior Executive Service. They can either be direct political appointees who come and go with the administration or career civil service personnel whose position, but not job, is dependent on a presedential appointment (i.e., they may get removed from their position but they must be given another job in the government).
11.23.2007 12:23pm
FC:
As Prof. Kerr does not know any more about this situation than any of us, and admits he "ha[s] to guess", he should have left it alone.
11.23.2007 12:23pm
FC:
Further to Jake's comment:

In the military, middle-aged NCOs every day execute the orders of twentysomething officers.
11.23.2007 12:30pm
r78:
Since none of us know anything about her personally, all we can do is look to the context.

Is this an administration that has a proven track record of searching out extremely talented young people and appointing them to positions of power?

Or is this an administration that has a track record of appointing young partisan hacks to positions for which they are not qualified.

I'd suggest we start the discussion with the Regents grads in the Justice Department and then look back over the appointment of various 20-something campaign volunteers during the "reconstruction" of Iraq for clues.
11.23.2007 12:50pm
Temp Guest (mail):
Thomas: Can you be briefer in yor comments. It would make it easier to cursor past them
11.23.2007 1:11pm
RL:
r78,

In all fairness, Paulose is clearly several leagues apart from Goodling.
11.23.2007 1:20pm
OrinKerr:
J.F. Thomas writes:
The simple fact is that no 32 year old, no matter how brilliant they are, is qualified to be a U.S. District [sic] Attorney.
I disagree. Some people are natural leaders with the personal skills to manage such a large group even at a very young age. It just seems like Paulose wasn't right for the job. Incidentally, given that she was in the office for a few years previously, I wonder if she had a reputation from that earlier stint that started things off on the wrong foot.

FC writes:
As Prof. Kerr does not know any more about this situation than any of us, and admits he "ha[s] to guess", he should have left it alone.
Well, that's not accurate. I know significantly more about this than most VC readers. I just don't have perfect knowledge, and I think it's only fair and honest to say so up front.
11.23.2007 1:45pm
alias:
Is there a 32 year-old alive who is qualified to be a senior partner at a major law firm?

Probably. Someone who goes straight through college and law school would be done with law school roughly at age 25, on average. If that person gets seven years of good experience and knows enough people to bring in paying clients, I don't see why not. David Boies was probably ready at age 32, though I doubt someone needs to be quite that impressive to clear the bar.
11.23.2007 1:48pm
Anderson (mail):
As Prof. Kerr does not know any more about this situation than any of us, and admits he "ha[s] to guess", he should have left it alone.

Oh yes, let's not discuss our government, since none of us on the outside has sufficient knowledge about what really goes on.

So ... anyone else got a firsthand opinion on Britney's new album?
11.23.2007 1:57pm
Observer:
Gentlemen,

May I suggest that you refrain from feeding the troll. Prof. Somin's thread has done remarkably well today in maintaining a well-educated discussion, despite numerous posts by the usual suspect.

R78: I would point out that in any agency, one will find some appointees who fall short. After all, the bell curve has two tails.
11.23.2007 3:06pm
Flash Gordon (mail):
The commentary about Ms. Paulose's lack of management ability is just bull. This was about nothing more than Ms. Paulose broke the rule that says you are not allowed to be a minority or a woman while being conservative.
11.23.2007 3:24pm
Passing By:
I don't know Paulose or her personality. I assume she's quite capable, as evidenced by the fact that she achieved her position at such a young age without being Strom Thurmond's son. She may be a very nice person. But she did not have control of her office and, to the extent that things like her coronation ceremony made her look like a self-indulgent, narcissistic prima donna, she has nobody to blame but herself. She's going to have a very soft landing, so I see no particular cause to shed tears for her.
11.23.2007 4:13pm
Anderson (mail):
After all, the bell curve has two tails.

Yes, and some bell curves are fairly shallow, whereas others are narrower, lengthier, ... well, positively phallic. I think r78 had the latter more in mind ... "F--ked up" takes on a whole new statistical meaning.
11.23.2007 4:25pm
AntonK (mail):
Interesting. The comments in your update above by Dan Solove mirror almost to the letter the comments of the posters over at Powerline.

So, according to the post above by the angry little J.F.Thomas, Solove must be a "Bush sycophant" as well?
11.23.2007 4:42pm
alias:
Once you've decided in your mind what happened, people who agree with you are "reasonable" and "well-informed" and people who disagree with you are "hacks," "liars" or deluded...


Seems to be the common thread here. I wish the people here expressing opinions would explain the basis for them. Solove, to his credit, tells us that he knew Ms. Paulose in law school. In the commentary to which Prof. Kerr links, the author explains that he has gotten to know Ms. Paulose by frequent contact with her through his job.

Most of the commenters here seem to view her departure as the latest bit of evidence for either: (1) the theory that the Bush administration's m.o. is to find young incompetent ideologues and put them in positions of power, so long as they are ideologically committed, or (2) the theory that anytime someone who occupies a position of power, isn't a white male, and dares to express conservative views, it's only a matter of time before the liberals turn on that person and run him/her out of town on a rail based on a pretext.

This calls to mind Prof. Kerr's mad lib op-ed re: judicial nominations.

If you people are so resistant to actual information, why do you bother reading at all?
11.23.2007 5:21pm
Public_Defender (mail):

What I have noticed from 30 years in the private sector: If one employee can't get along with the new boss -- employee leaves. If no employee gets along with the new boss -- boss leaves.


I join everyone else here in the category of people-who-are-just-guessing, but this seems like the most plausible guess. AUSA's tend not to be bleeding heart liberals, so liberal revolt theory doesn't sound plausible either, especially since there was no revolt under her Republican predecessor.


In the military, middle-aged NCOs every day execute the orders of twentysomething officers


Yes, but military officers are trained to lead, lawyers aren't. In fact, lawyers tend to be horrible leaders.


The commentary about Ms. Paulose's lack of management ability is just bull. This was about nothing more than Ms. Paulose broke the rule that says you are not allowed to be a minority or a woman while being conservative.


I love it when conservatives channel Al Sharpton.
11.23.2007 7:48pm
GaryC (mail):
J. F. Thomas:


No, the absolute position is not silly. Is there a 32 year-old alive who is qualified to be a senior partner at a major law firm? Then why on earth would a U.S. Attorney's office be any different? Good managers are not born, they are made, and no one that young has the experience and wisdom to manage an office like that.


At the age of 32, Joseph Story became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He is widely acknowledged as a "Great Justice", and probably the best legal scholar ever to sit on the Court. He supplied the legal scholarship and background that supported many of the decisions of the Marshall Court. He also served from 1829 until his death as Dane Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, which was nearly defunct when he joined the faculty, with only 1 student. Story wrote 9 of the textbooks used at the school, and adopted by many others. His textbook on Constitutional Law was still being used 50 years after its initial publication. With Daniel Webster, Story compiled the criminal code that was enacted into law in 1825 as the first complete U.S. Code.
11.23.2007 9:10pm
SP:
Given that Alexander had conquered much of the known world by 32, then, yes, I believe it is possible to manage a bunch of prima donnas despite being 32.
11.23.2007 10:28pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
At the age of 32, Joseph Story became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He is widely acknowledged as a "Great Justice", and probably the best legal scholar ever to sit on the Court.

Well, besides the fact that 1829 was one hundred eighty years ago, where on earth did I say that this had anything to do with being a brilliant legal scholar? The position of U.S. Attorney is primarily a management one. That you equate legal scholarship with management ability shows that you are completely clueless too. They are two completely different skill sets.

And I will note that the comparison to military officers is also bullshit. A military officers job is to manage (lead). A 2LT (at least a good one) relies heavily on his or her NCO's. At the age of 32, they have reached the prestigious rank of Captain (Major if they are the creme de la creme) and command a company of a hundred or so (and if they are good they listen closely to their first Seargent), most of whom have no more than a high school diploma. A lawyer does not even begin to manage people until years into their career. A U.S. Attorney is one of 50 odd in the entire country. They manage a team of several hundred professionals, most of whom have graduate degrees and are highly competitive.
11.23.2007 10:45pm
AnonLawStudent:
JF,

Your education continues. And please, please, please quit citing to military examples of which you know naught.

(1) Bill Gates founded Microsoft at the age of 21. At 25, he signed a contract with IBM to develop MS-DOS. I guess he didn't know anything about management either.
(2) At 4 platoons (Marines) or 4-6 (Army), a company Captain commands closer to 200 men. While you're correct that a J.O. relies heavily on his senior NCOs, I guess those 32 year old O-4s who are battalion commanders or squadron operations officers know nothing of management either. I guess a squadron of highly trained professional pilots, most of whom have graduate degrees and are highly competitive, are oh so easy to take care of... not to mention a few billion dollars worth of equipment.
11.23.2007 11:05pm
Public_Defender (mail):

Bill Gates founded Microsoft at the age of 21.

* * *

At the age of 32, Joseph Story became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.


Two truly exceptional cases. It's no insult to say that Paulose was no Bill Gates or Justice Story. There are a few 32 year olds prepared to lead headstrong employees (you have to be headstrong to be an AUSA). The military actively trains young officers in leadership, but outside of the military, 32 year-old leaders are the exception, not the rule.

Leading lawyers who are far more experienced than you are is hard. The most plausible interpretation of what we know is that Paulose was simply in over her head.
11.24.2007 7:23am
Letalis Maximus, Esq. (mail):
Puh-lease. I've heard just about enough about how lawyers need to be the 65 year old functional equivalent of David Bois morphed with Oliver Wendell Holmes to be a United States Attorney in a backwater like Minnesota, OK? Most U.S. Attorneys are political hacks. Period. They get the job because they have sucked up to their local Senators.

It is common knowledge that the First Assistants really run nearly all of the United States Attorney offices across the country, particularly on the criminal side. The Chiefs of Civil run the civil sides (and most U.S. Attorneys have ZERO interest in what goes on in civil because prosecuting criminals is what gets you elected Senator, not winning complex FTCA cases). All the average U.S. Attorneys have to do is show up at the press conferences and read what is handed to them. It may be a little different in NY, CA, IL, and the bigger offices, but MN? Give me a break.
11.24.2007 10:42am
dcuser (mail):
Ms. Paulose would not be the first case of someone who was nice to colleagues (her classmates at Yale), and terrible to subordinates (her underlings in the U.S. Attorney's office, many of whom had decades more experience than her).

That just means that DOJ takes a tremendous chance when putting someone so young, with so little experience, in such a position. To do so simply to score political points -- by positioning the next generation of up-and-comers, like Kyle Sampson, Karl Rove, and Alberto Gonzales were trying to do, is simply unconscionable.
11.24.2007 3:51pm
dew:

Bill Gates founded Microsoft at the age of 21.
* * *
At the age of 32, Joseph Story became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Two truly exceptional cases.


Or maybe just two irrelevant cases.
Neither were hired to manage an existing, modestly large organization. Microsoft had existed for 6-7 years before it got to 100 employees, so Gates also had years of on-the-job management experience by the time Microsoft got that big; even then, shortly after Microsoft reached 100 employees, Gates & Allen hired an experienced professional as president/COO.
11.24.2007 5:40pm
byomtov (mail):
She was the victim of a revolt by prima donna's who didn't want to dance to the new orchestra leader's music selections (Bush DOJ priorities).

The facts don't remotely support this.

Paulose was appointed in 2006. The "new orchestra leader" had been in office well over five years, and the "prima donna's" apparently had no problem with Bush DOJ priorities during all that time. It was Paulose who was the problem.
11.24.2007 6:44pm
Anderson (mail):
Given that Alexander had conquered much of the known world by 32

Alexander was not particularly notable for his management skills. He murdered one of his lieutenants in a drunken fit, drove his army to the point of mutiny, and then retaliated against their refusal to press further east by marching them back through a desert. Then he died before he had to try to govern the empire he'd founded.
11.24.2007 7:28pm
Jerry F:
Paulose's lynching was nothing but political. What else to expect? As was said convincingly on Powerline, with her minority female from YLS status, if Paulose had been a left-wing Democrat rather than a Christian, she would have been seen as a hero rather than a villain to be lynched.
11.25.2007 12:49am
Jerry F:
Didn't Alexander the Great already take over much of then-known world by the age of 21? Paulose had extremely impressive credentials: Yale Law School, Williams &Connelly (most selective D.C. firm), etc. She was not unqualified for the job unless left-leaning political ideology is itself a qualification.
11.25.2007 12:55am
byomtov (mail):
if Paulose had been a left-wing Democrat rather than a Christian,

Interesting alternatives.
11.25.2007 10:26am
Public_Defender (mail):
<i>Paulose's lynching was nothing but political. What else to expect? As was said convincingly on Powerline, with her minority female from YLS status, if Paulose had been a left-wing Democrat rather than a Christian, she would have been seen as a hero rather than a villain to be lynched.</i>

Who let Al Sharpton post here?
11.25.2007 11:45am
Firma (mail) (www):
11.25.2007 11:52am
Reid (mail):
I don't know Rachel Paulose, but I know something about the challenges of management and about the scarcity and related preciousness of talent.

From the mass I have read about Paulose, she obviously was not an unusually bad US Attorney. She was smart and hardworking. She was young; perhaps she made some common, youthful management mistakes. Given an even remotely normal amount of time to grow in her new management post, she well could have turned out to be excellent.

By far the most remarkable thing about Rachel Paulose's story is how she was run out of her office in record time. Any useful and honest report on her fate needs to answer this question: Why did the pressure on her to leave rise so fast? Not Orin Kerr and not one of Paulose's detractors here has made a minimally convincing case that the reason was Paulose's actions.
11.25.2007 7:19pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Why did the pressure on her to leave rise so fast? Not Orin Kerr and not one of Paulose's detractors here has made a minimally convincing case that the reason was Paulose's actions.

Most commonly, people are fired for gross incompetence, or a personality clash on the order of insubordination. Is there bad blood between her and Mukasey? Because I haven't seen any of Paulose's supporters make a case for any other reason.
11.26.2007 11:36am
Public_Defender (mail):
By far the most remarkable thing about Rachel Paulose's story is how she was run out of her office in record time. Any useful and honest report on her fate needs to answer this question: Why did the pressure on her to leave rise so fast? Not Orin Kerr and not one of Paulose's detractors here has made a minimally convincing case that the reason was Paulose's actions.

1. Paulose had ticked off pretty much her entire staff, who were taking demotions rather than help her lead.

2. The only people who supported her at HQ just quit before taking the Fifth.

3. She helped keep the US Attorneys scandal going.

4. Her home state Republican senator had turned on her.

5. Allowing her to take a staff job in Washington gave her a chance to rehabilitate herself, a chance she might have squandered by blaming racism and sexism for her management inadequacies (which makes me further question her judgment).
11.26.2007 7:26pm