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Ethics group files bar complaints against ex-DOJ officials for partisan hiring

[JURIST] Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) [advocacy website] Monday filed bar complaints [press release] against two former US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] officials, alleging that Michael J. Elston and Esther Slater McDonald [bar complaints, PDF] improperly considered applicants' political affiliations when reviewing applications for DOJ jobs and summer internships. Both McDonald and Elston were named in a June report [PDF text; JURIST report] released by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General [official website], which found that the DOJ had granted preferential treatment to conservative candidates under 2002 and 2006 screening programs.

The June report found that political officials played a significant role in the department's hiring processes, supporting accusations that the Bush administration has politicized the supposedly nonpartisan department. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned [JURIST report] last year amidst related allegations concerning the alleged firing of US Attorneys for political reasons [JURIST news archive]. On Monday, former DOJ intern Sean Gerlich announced he was seeking class action status for a suit against the DOJ for discrimination based on political affiliation [PDF complaint; JURIST report]. In the suit, Gerlich alleges that he was denied a position in the department's Honors Program [DOJ materials] because of his earlier work with a human rights group and a democratic campaign. The Office of Special Counsel [official website] has also announced that it will be conducting an investigation into whether or not disciplinary measures are warranted for employees involved in the illegal screening of applicants. Legal Times has more.

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