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The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has seen its share of turmoil in recent years, owing at least in part to changes initiated under former Attorney General John Ashcroft that shifted line-attorney hiring decisions to political appointees. Now one of the conservatives brought in by former acting Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman has filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, charging he was wrongfully fired by the DOJ for complaining about what he calls the “toxic work atmosphere” in the special litigation section of the Civil Rights Division — an office responsible for investigating civil-rights abuses in law enforcement and prisons and protecting access to abortion clinics. Ty Clevenger, 37, a former Washington Times reporter and line attorney in the section who was fired in October, has accused veteran Section Chief Shanetta Cutlar of being “abusive toward attorneys and support staff,” specifically those hired by Schlozman. Among Clevenger’s allegations: Secretaries were ordered not to assist him with an eight-hour typing project, another attorney was publicly berated for using a paper clip rather than a binder clip on a document, and an intern was reprimanded for not greeting Cutlar while passing her in the hallway. In his whistle-blower complaint, Clevenger included a copy of a statement by the intern, Deborah Meiners, 24, to a DOJ ombudsman about the hallway incident. “I did get the sense that this was a common occurrence,” says Meiners, now a third-year law student, of her treatment. As for Clevenger, he says he decided to go public (the complaint was first posted on the blog Above the Law) after his attempts to get traction with Cutlar’s superiors failed. “Even after I was fired, I called some of my friends in DOJ who are political appointees and I said, �Let’s not make things ugly,’ ” says Clevenger, now in private practice in College Station, Texas. Cutlar’s office referred questions to a DOJ spokeswoman, who issued a statement saying the department is looking into the allegations.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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