Shorter Terwilliger: Don’t Extend the Investigation Past January 20

We interrupt the focus on the auto industry to look briefly at the subpoenas Nora Dannehy–the special prosecutor investigating the US Attorney firings–has sent out.

A prosecutor who is investigating the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys has been meeting with defense lawyers, dispatching subpoenas and seeking information about the events, according to legal sources familiar with the case. 


Dannehy, a longtime assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut, in recent weeks has met with lawyers and government officials involved in the case. A grand jury in the District has issued subpoenas, the sources said. 

There are two worthwhile details here. First, the news that Kyle Sampson has taken a leave from his law firm.

D. Kyle Sampson, who served as the chief of staff to Gonzales until his March 2007 resignation, recently took a leave from his job as a partner at the law firm Hunton & Williams while the investigation proceeds. A spokeswoman for the law firm said he is on leave "pending admission to the D.C. bar." 

I can see how a swank firm wouldn’t want one of its partners indicted on its payroll.

The other, amusing, tidbit comes from George Terwilliger, Alberto Gonzales’ lawyer, making a pathetic case that the investigation–at least as it pertains to Gonzales–should end now. 

George J. Terwilliger III, an attorney for Gonzales, said that his client had engaged in no wrongdoing, "making it patently unfair and unwarranted to prolong an investigation that has no substantive justification. By the department’s own standards, this matter should be closed now as to Judge Gonzales." 

You don’t suppose he wants this to end yesterday because an Obama Administration might be less willing to shield Gonzales’ role by sustaining Bush’s executive privilege claim, do you?

20 replies
  1. canucklehead says:

    If Executive Privilage is not extended past January 20th, does the investigation get a new rope to skip with?

  2. bmaz says:

    I think what Big George may be even more worried about is that the Obama DOJ will no longer agree “to cover the legal expenses of Gonzales”.

    A very rational fear.

    • emptywheel says:

      Different issue. They’re covering his defense fees for the civil suits on behalf of people who weren’t hired because Goodling doesn’t like them.

      I presume some fat cat close to the Bush family is paying for Terwilliger’s fees on this criminal defense.

  3. scribe says:

    Y’know, as a lawyer, seeing Kyle Sampson hired as a partner in a prominent DC law firm smacks of, well, a payoff to someone, or a payback to someone. ‘Cause he sure impresses me as a schlub of the first order.

    Moreover, thinking back to the days of bar exams and admissions, the salient point about the DC Bar is that it was a gimme. All you had to have done was pass your home state’s bar and then DC would waive you in. For a not-so-nominal service charge, but it was that easy. Here’s the rule for people already admitted somewhere else (Rule 46(c)(3):

    Rule 46. Admission to the Bar.
    (c) Admission Without Examination of Members of the Bar of Other Jurisdictions.

    (3) Admissions Requirements. Any person may, upon proof of good moral
    character as it relates to the practice of law
    , be admitted to the Bar of this court without examination, provided that such person:

    (i) Has been a member in good standing of a Bar of a court of general jurisdiction in any state or territory of the United States for a period of five years immediately preceding the filing of the application; or

    (A) Has been awarded a J.D. or LL.B. degree by a law school which, at the time of the awarding of the degree, was approved by the American Bar Association;
    (B) Has been admitted to the practice of law in any state or territory of the United States upon the successful completion of a written bar examination and has received a scaled score of 133 or more on the Multistate Bar Examination which the state or territory deems to have been taken as a part of such examination; and
    (C) Has taken and passed, in accordance with paragraph (b)(5), the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE).

    (emphasis added).

    Suffice it to say, D. Kyle Sampson has (a) been admitted to the Bar somewhere for more the 5 years and (b) passed the Bar.

    So that leaves the third, boldfaced, requirement: “proof of good moral
    character as it relates to the practice of law” as being the unfulfilled one.

    Now, to be sure, there are a lot of things that get twigged in your proof of good moral character. When I went through my admissions, I had to go and explain, in person, those unpaid-for-a-long-time-but-ultimately-paid traffic tickets from a couple years previous, and some other stuff. And some of the stuff that people get tripped up on (e.g., waiting for your buddy outside the police station and getting yourself busted for drunk-and-disorderly after you start riffing on cops and donuts – it happened to someone) is positively ridiculous.

    But, given the context, I think Mr. Sampson’s got bigger problems than the article’s letting on.

    • bmaz says:

      You know, there was a time when getting into the DC Bar was more strict and onerous, required actual testing and stuff; but, once in, you were then a national lawyer able to practice in every state. I wish that were still available.

      • scribe says:

        Meeting the requirement of proving good moral character as it relates to the practice of law is inherently difficult to those whose ideology depends from the propositions that the word of the Republican President supersedes any written law, and that the machinery of the law is intended to be used to facilitate the expansion and maintenance of the Permanent Republican Majority in all organs of the State.

        People with actual morals tend to look dimly on both those propositions and those who act to carry them out.

        And, FWIW, a pardon would be no help as to getting admitted to the Bar. Acceptance of a pardon – even for uncharged offenses – necessarily indicates an admission that, indeed, the recipient did commit crimes. The Bar can (and would) hold that against the applicant.

      • scribe says:


        IF he had been disbarred or disciplined, there would be a public record of it. Simply, the Courts or Bar Associations that admit attorneys to the various state bars do their disciplining in public. (A note to the non-lawyers: it varies from state to state as to how attorneys are admitted to practice. In some states, licensing and admission are run by the state, usually through the state court system. In other states, licensing and admission is done by the State Bar Association, at core a private association with the public duty of licensing and admitting people. Those states are the so-called “mandatory bar association” states – you can’t practice without being a member of the bar association. In other states, it’s optional.)

        IF a court had disciplined him, that discipline would be a matter of public record, as in a court order or opinion stating that (a) he’d been brought up on disciplinary grounds, (b) that he’d been ordered to show why he should not be disciplined, (c) that he’d been ordered disciplined and (d) the quantum of discipline. It would have been published in the official reports. Since I’m not a member of the bar in a mandatory bar association state, I cannot say how the news that he’d been disciplined would have been published, but suffice it to say it would be a public record.

        More likely, IMHO, are one or both of two alternatives.
        Alternative (1): self-disclosure. On his application to the DC Bar, he would have to have listed “pending” or possibly “threatened” litigation or investigations of him, regardless of whether they were administrative, civil, or criminal. One of the standard questions on the application is to the effect of “have you ever been a party in a civil, administrative or criminal action?” In other words, everything from “did you get sued over that car accident?” to “were you ever charged with anything that could conceivably bear jail time?” And, that includes all those things in juvenile court which they told you were “Sealed”. They weren’t.
        If his answer was “yes” (and it is for almost anyone), then the follow up is “tell us all about it”.
        I’d suspect the fact that the Congress hauled him in front of it and he won a TPM award for best performance in the field of testimonial stupidity, plus being the subject of innumerable blog posts and youtubes, got caught in this screen.

        There are also provisions which require you to allow the bar authorities to have a look at your criminal record – including a waiver of letting them look at federal and state databases about you.

        And then there is “have you ever had a security clearance?” and “if so, has it ever been revoked or limited?”

        And “have you ever been fired from a job, forced to resign in lieu of being fired, or otherwise been compelled to give up some work?” followed by “please tell us all about it”

        And, also, “tell us about every job you ever had and who you worked for, and allow us to talk to them”.

        The application to a bar is even more intrusive than the application to work in the Obama administration.

        Alternative (2): people complaining about you. This is where the idea that people writing letters may have had some effect, and I think this is what you were talking about.

        There is no reason not to, and every reason to, write letters to the Bars which had admitted to practice the Bush crime family’s consiglieri – there is no telling when they may decide to get admitted somewhere else, and no telling when they might get into a bind in some other case where the bar authorities would take a look at the file and say “hey, ten thousand people complained about this guy – let’s make an example of him”.

    • AlbertFall says:

      Kyle sort of gave off the impression of being a real weenie and go-fer. Him as a partner smacks of doing Bush/Rove a favor.

      If there is no Republican rain to make looking ahead, and the law firm only took him on as a favor to Karl, using the subpoena as a good excuse to cut costs by dumping him works out for the firm.

      I hear he and the other Rove proteges ran up some pretty stiff legal bills during the USA probe, and maybe they will have incentives to testify truthfully and turn state’s evidence if they are not getting enough wingnut welfare.

    • Neil says:

      Good stuff scribe, I’m buying it. Hunton & Williams has its reputation to keep and the reason they give for Sampson’s absence is only one-sidestep from honest; while Sampson’s problem, passing the DC bar, points to his legal jeopardy issue, not making time to study, and his exam-taking abilities.

  4. Peterr says:

    If all it takes to get a case dismissed or an investigation ended is the word of the defendant’s attorney that his/her client “had engaged in no wrongdoing,” I think the Federal Courts would be a lot less crowded.

    Meanwhile, Uncle Ted must be kicking himself for not hiring Terwilliger: “I sure could have used that argument, to keep me out of court.”

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    If a major DC Law firm wanted one of it’s partners admitted to the DC bar, that would happen. Period.

    It’s interesting, going through the firms DC office roster, to see that they’ve got other lawyers not admitted to the DC bar. In fact, if you look, you’ll see that several lawyers, including partners aren’t admitted to various bars. Wonder why it was a problem for Sampson…

    Boxturtle (Really, a lawyer should be able make a lie hang together)

  6. SaltinWound says:

    I’m still assuming Bush will assert some sort of fabricated privilege from Crawford, and that the onus will be on Obama to decide whether to fight it.

  7. Mary says:

    As a ‘once upon a time, a long time ago’ VA lawyer, the thing that jawdropped me the most on all of that is that Huntin & Gruntin made Sampson a PARTNER. Did that reporter really get that right? A PARTNER? Not an associate – a freakin PARTNER? Even if it was a baby partner, sheez louise.

    I wonder what bar he belonged to before his decision to sit for the DC Bar, bc it’s not as if Hunton doesn’t have more than one office. [ok- catching up comments while I’m typing and Scribe has the same wonderment; yes Kyle, there really is a Santa Clause, it was in the very fine fine print of your K to screw the country] The pending admission thing, though, could just be that they’ve sent in the app and it hasn’t been processed yet – I’ve known some reciprocity admissitons to take a month or two. I agree on the letter writing though – um, doesn’t DC have a Congresswoman now? To be honest, as weasely as he was, I think Sampson looked like a giant next to Gonzales, McNulty, Goodling and even Margolis – he at least came, testified (albeit with big gaps) and didn’t take the 5th or require an immunity deal.

    2/3 – Terwilliger & firm are handling the Metcalfe lawsuit and IIRC the Texas prisons suit for Gonzales too. To what extent bills are going where – I won’t pretend to know, but there’s an off chance taxpayers are picking up the tab for some of the atty firing crim investigation as well as atty discrimination civil suit – I dunno.

    13 – Hunton is really more a “major” VA firm than DC firm, but like all the biggies in VA and Maryland and all the biggies everywhere that do lobbyist and defense work, it has offices around and in DC. Also TX, CA, FL, NC, overseas … They could find him a perch if they wanted.

  8. radiofreewill says:

    This is Terwilliger’s “Give me back my Scooter!” moment – he really ’sounds’ like an exhausted lawyer, frustrated with endless process, who is now reduced to making a Public Pleading for Pardon – Begging for Relief on behalf of his unfortunate and heavily bank-rolled Client.

    It would seem that it’s theatrical dramatics like Terwilliger’s that *Mezmerize* the Legal Defense Funds and their Losing Clients.

    So, Jeffress and Terwilliger do their Pardon Dances, and the ‘interested parties’ plus their backers are squealing with barely muffled anticipatory delight.

    It’s because, imvho, when they go theatrical – it’s the ‘wink-and-nod’ – they’re playing to Bush the Deciderer.

    So, Terwilliger gets the big-bucks because he knows ‘How the Game is Played’: Make Bush feel goofy-loyal to his bumbling, hooligan henchpeople, and it’s just like pushing back on the head of the Pez Pardon Dispenser.

    So, even if they’ve Lost the Battle in Court, they can Still Wink for a Pardon, and Get it with a Nod – and Win the War.

Comments are closed.