DOJ Ends Role of Political Appointees in Honors Program Hiring: The Washington Post has the story here. From the introduction:
The Justice Department is removing political appointees from the hiring process for rookie lawyers and summer interns, amid allegations that the Bush administration had rigged the programs in favor of candidates with connections to conservative or Republican groups, according to documents and officials.

The decision, outlined in an internal memo distributed Thursday, returns control of the Attorney General's Honors Program and the Summer Law Intern Program to career lawyers in the department after four years during which political appointees directed the process.
WaPo on The DOJ Hiring "Scandal":

Orin linked the article, but he failed to highlight the truly scandalous nature of the hiring process, as reported by our diligent scribes:

According to a former deputy chief in the civil rights division, one honors hire was a University of Mississippi law school graduate who had been a clerk for U.S. District Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. about the time the judge's nomination by President Bush to a federal appeals court provoked opposition by congressional Democrats, who contended that Pickering was hostile to civil rights.

A few months after he arrived, that lawyer was given a cash award by the department, after he was the only member of a four-person team in the civil rights division who sided with a Georgia voter-identification law that was later struck down by the courts as discriminatory to minorities, according to two former Justice lawyers.

Another honors hire, a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law who had been president of the campus chapter of the Federalist Society, displayed a bust of President James Madison in his Justice office, according to a former honors program lawyer who was hired during the Clinton administration. A profile of Madison's face is the logo of the society, which is based on conservative precepts.

Oh my goodness--a bust of James Madison in his very office! Gracious, a civil rights lawyer who clerked for Charles Pickering--who "congressional Democrats ... contended" was hostile to civil rights (apparently since some congressional Democrats "contended it," all of his clerks are disqualified from working in the office).

The other example cited in the article seems odd as well--why is it supposed to be a problem that a graduate of Regent Law School might be interested in working on "some religious liberties" cases. Would we be similarly shocked if a minority graduate of Southern Law School, for example, expressed a particular interest in working on Voting Rights cases, or a former intern at a pro-choice organization was interested in reproductive rights cases?

The unintentional irony of this is that these examples are provided as examples of the "nonideological" bona fides of the career lawyers who offered them as examples. The career lawyer who is cited (as well as the authors of the article) seems confident that any right-minded person would shocked and outraged that a lawyer was a member of the Federalist Society and had a bust of James Madison in his office or that one of Judge Pickering's clerks worked in the civil rights division.

This is not to say one way or the other whether the new policy is a good one. Or that there may be real examples that actually prove the reporters' point. Or that there were improper ideological pressures in this case that were fundamentally different from Democratic administrations, or that political favoritism is somehow different or more pernicious than all of the other sorts of preferences and favoritism that also play into hiring processes. I don't know the answer to these questions, but it seems obvious that merit alone has never the sole criterion for securing these positions, and that a variety of other personal, geographic, and demographic factors have always played into these decisions.

But if these are the "smoking gun" examples that are the best ones that career attorneys can offer as conservative ideology run amuck at the DOJ, then it seems to me that this says more about the real biases of the supposedly "nonpolitical" attitudes of DOJs career attorneys and the ideological parochialism of the Washington Post than about some sort of hiring "scandal" at DOJ. If these are the sorts of trivialities that career DOJ attorneys consider to be evidence of an extreme ideological shift to the right at the DOJ, then forgive me for being skeptical that the end result of giving career lawyers a monopoly on hiring for these positions is going to eliminate ideology from the hiring process.

Moreover, it is naive to think that putting these career lawyers in charge of hiring will remove ideology from the hiring process (not to mention the thinly-veiled elite snobbery in the otherwise-irrelevant references to University of Mississippi and University of Kentucky Law Schools in the article). It seems evident that a Federalist Society member or Pickering clerk would have those credentials held against him or her by at least this particular career lawyer. If so, is that different from the concern expressed by congressional investigators that senior political appointees appeared to reject applicants who "had interned for a Hill Democrat, clerked for a Democratic judge, worked for a 'liberal' cause, or otherwise appeared to have 'liberal' leanings?"

Did Sampson and Goodling Have Total Control of DOJ Political Hiring?: The National Journal has a fascinating story about the hiring and firing of political appointees at DOJ that may help explain the context of the U.S. Attorney "purge" story:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides — who have since resigned because of their central roles in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys — extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department. A copy of the order and other Justice Department records related to the conception and implementation of the order were provided to National Journal.

In the order, Gonzales delegated to his then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, and his White House liaison "the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration" of virtually all non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department, including all of the department's political appointees who do not require Senate confirmation. Monica Goodling became White House liaison in April 2006, the month after Gonzales signed the order. . . .

A senior executive branch official familiar with the delegation of authority said in an interview that — as was the case with the firings of the U.S. attorneys and the selection of their replacements — the two aides intended to work closely with White House political aides and the White House counsel's office in deciding which senior Justice Department officials to dismiss and whom to appoint to their posts. "It was an attempt to make the department more responsive to the political side of the White House and to do it in such a way that people would not know it was going on," the official said.

An original draft of Gonzales's delegation of authority to Sampson and Goodling was so broad that it did not even require the two aides to obtain the final approval of the attorney general before moving to dismiss other department officials, according to records obtained by National Journal. . . .

The department's Office of Legal Counsel feared that such an unconditional delegation of authority was unconstitutional, the documents show. As a result, the original delegation was rewritten so that in its final form the order required "any proposed appointments or removals of personnel" be "presented to the Attorney General... for approval, and each appointment or removal shall be made in the name of the Attorney General."

The senior administration official who had firsthand knowledge of the plan said that Gonzales and other Justice officials had a "clear obligation" to disclose the plan's existence to the House and Senate Judiciary committees — but the official said that, as far as he knew, they had not done so.
  Remarkable. And assuming this story checks out, it certainly explains why Gonzales seemed so clueless about the U.S. Attorney firings. It seems that Gonzales had taken himself completely out of the loop of all DOJ political appointee hiring. He had delegated that role completely to two 30-somethings, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling; his only role was a formality, required just so that OLC would find the practice constitutional.

  Thanks to reader Bob English for the link.
Bradley Schlozman and Hiring for Career Spots in the DOJ Civil Rights Division: From McClatchy, via Josh Marshall:
  Congressional investigators are beginning to focus on accusations that a top civil rights official at the Justice Department illegally hired lawyers based on their political affiliations, especially for sensitive voting rights jobs.
  Two former department lawyers told McClatchy Newspapers that Bradley Schlozman, a senior civil rights official, told them in early 2005, after spotting mention of their Republican affiliations on their job applications, to delete those references and resubmit their resumes. Both attorneys were hired.
  One of them, Ty Clevenger, . . . said his resume stated that he was a member of the conservative Federalist Society and the Texas chapter of the Republican National Lawyers Association. The other applicant's resume cited work on President Bush's 2000 campaign, said the attorney, who insisted upon anonymity for fear of retaliation.
  They said Schlozman directed them to drop the political references and resubmit the resumes in what they believed were an effort to hide those conservative affiliations.
  Clevenger also recalled once passing on to Schlozman the name of a friend from Stanford as a possible hire.
  "Schlozman called me up and asked me something to the effect of, `Is he one of us?'" Clevenger said. "He wanted to know what the guy's partisan credentials were."