[JURIST] The US Justice Department Offices of Inspector General and Professional Responsibility [official websites] concluded in a report [PDF text] issued Monday that department aides illegally made hiring decisions based on consideration of applicants' political and ideological beliefs. In early 2007, officials began investigating allegations [JURIST report] that former DOJ aide Monica Goodling [JURIST news archive] and two other aides considered the political affiliations of candidates for career prosecutor positions in the Department, contrary to federal law [OSC backgrounder] and internal practices. The report observed:
It is not improper to consider political or ideological affiliations in making hiring decisions for political positions. However, both Department policy and federal law prohibit discrimination in hiring for career positions on the basis of political affiliations.The report also concluded that Goodling and one of the other aides committed misconduct through their actions. It recommended that the DOJ consider the aides' actions if any sought DOJ employment, while noting they could not currently be sanctioned because they had all resigned from the Department. Attorney General Michael Mukasey responded [press release] late Monday that the Department had made institutional improvements since the investigation began and that the Department would implement the Offices' new recommendations. AP has more.
Our investigation found that Goodling improperly subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions, in violation of federal law and Department policy.
Documents - including written notes by Goodling - handed over by the Department of Justice to the House Judiciary Committee in April 2007 indicated that officials in the Department took sitting federal prosecutors' political activities [JURIST report] and connections to the conservative Federalist Society into account in deciding whether to retain them. Goodling also was given broad authority [JURIST report] over the hiring of non-civil service lawyers and officers with the Department, leading Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to express concern that the practice was part of a "systematic scheme to inject political influence into the hiring and firing decisions of key Justice employees." Goodling resigned the same month over her alleged role in the firings of US Attorneys [JURIST news archive] for political reasons, but in May 2007 she testified before the House Judiciary Committee that she did not play a key role in the firings [prepared statement, PDF; JURIST report].