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It always helps to know the right people when you’re looking for a job, but that’s especially true at the U.S. Department of Justice these days. Ever since President Bush first took office, his administration has systematically staffed key Justice posts with attorneys who’ve been groomed by leading figures of the modern conservative movement. A look at the resumes of Bush’s Justice appointees shows that they often share certain credentials, including membership in the Federalist Society; a degree from the University of Chicago Law School; a clerkship with a prominent conservative judge; and a stint in the appellate practice group at Kirkland and Ellis. These experiences work like a form of shorthand, signaling that an applicant subscribes to the Bush administration’s priorities. All political hires at the Justice Department require the blessing of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. Applicants who aren’t considered to be sufficiently supportive of the administration’s policy goals can be rejected regardless of their other qualifications, according to several Justice Department lawyers familiar with the process. “One way to identify candidates who share the president’s values is to look toward certain sources,” says Adam Ciongoli, a counselor to previous attorney general John Ashcroft and now GC for Time Warner Europe. Ciongoli adds, “You can’t get to know someone in a one-hour interview, so what you want is a proxy, a reference point, something that connects a candidate to someone you know.” According to Ciongoli, the links between Justice officials and certain organizations, judges, and law schools also reflect conscious career decisions on the part of applicants. “If you think you want to work in a Republican administration, the natural thing to do is to go to a law school like the University of Chicago and clerk for a judge like [appellate justice J. Michael] Luttig and go to events sponsored by the Federalist Society,” Ciongoli says. “The kinds of people the administration wants are going to have chosen these paths.” Among the credentials shared by political appointees at Justice, the most common is membership in the Federalist Society. Former attorney general Ashcroft once quipped that the executive suites at his department’s D.C. offices would empty whenever the Federalists held a convention in the capital. He wasn’t entirely kidding. Membership in the society � a powerful network of conservative lawyers � is so routine among high-level Bush administration officials that they consider it hardly worth mentioning. “All the political [appointees at Justice] are in the Federalist Society,” says one department official who declined to be identified. Founded in 1981, the organization promotes judicial restraint, states’ rights, free enterprise, and conservative social values. The University of Chicago Law School, one of the law schools where the Federalist Society got its start, is another valuable credential on a Republican resume. The school has nearly as many alums in senior Justice posts as Harvard Law School, which is roughly three times the size. “There is a certain circularity that develops because people are comfortable with people they know,” says Chicago law dean Saul Levmore. “All it takes is one or two people to go to a place like the Justice Department, and it’s natural that other people will go.” After law school, an ambitious Republican graduate will seek a clerkship with a prominent conservative judge. Most likely to impress: toiling for U.S. Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. The chambers of senior judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Judge J. Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit, both Republican appointees, have also produced an impressive roster of administration officials, in part because clerks for both judges routinely go on to land clerkships with Scalia or Thomas. “There’s a networking aspect to these clerkships,” says John Yoo, now a professor at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. Yoo clerked for Silberman in 1992 and Thomas in 1994, and went on to hold an influential post in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003. Luttig says he encourages his clerks to help one another professionally. As he explains, “No one achieves anything alone.” So many of Luttig’s former clerks have risen to prominence that they’ve earned the nickname “luttigators.” At least seven of Luttig’s ex-clerks currently hold top posts at the Justice Department, including Theodore Ullyot, chief of staff for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Not only do the political appointees at Justice tend to know somebody important in government, they’ve often made beneficial relationships outside of government. One of the key nodes in the network of Justice officials is the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis. In 1993, after leaving the post of solicitor general, Kenneth Starr went to Kirkland with a handful of other former Justice officials. Their goal was to build an appellate litigation practice with an ideological tilt to the right. After Starr’s second stint in government, as the independent counsel who pursued the Whitewater investigation against President Bill Clinton, he rejoined Kirkland as an of counsel. Starr’s reputation as a leading conservative thinker has drawn many young lawyers to Kirkland who identify with his politics. Nearly all came from prestigious appellate and Supreme Court clerkships. Perhaps without fully intending it, Kirkland’s recruiting efforts built a farm team for the current Republican administration. Thomas Yannucci, chairman of Kirkland’s board and a former official in the Carter Justice Department, says the firm doesn’t consider itself to have a Republican or Democratic bias. “We try to recruit from everywhere. We invite all the Supreme Court clerks to come to Kirkland.” But Yannucci acknowledges, “Obviously there’s a stronger pipeline to Scalia and Thomas. People want to come and work with people they met through clerkships and law school.” The obvious question is whether the current hiring dynamic at Justice is any different than it was in the Clinton administration. Yes and no, say those who served under the previous president. “There wasn’t the same degree of uniformity,” claims Eric Holder, Jr., who was deputy attorney general from 1997 to 2001 and is now a partner at Covington & Burling. “People did tend to have Democratic connections, but there was a pretty vast diversity within that universe as to what they did before, and where they came from.” Still, Holder admits: “Were we hiring Republicans? Probably not.” Bush appointees to the Justice Department like M. Edward Whelan maintain that political ties will always be a consideration at hiring time, no matter which party controls the White House. Whelan left Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel to become president of the D.C. � based Ethics and Public Policy Center. In his view, “You can have the most talented lawyer in the country, but if he doesn’t know someone, he’s not going to get the job.”

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