Sunday, January 11, 2009

Alberto Gonzales's Job Search

The Austin American-Statesman reports that Alberto Gonzales has been unable to land a job with a law firm since resigning from his position as attorney general. Gonzales blames this on the economy and the "tough time for law firms." Under the circumstances, he says, firms "are going to be careful about bringing on people where there are questions about things that may have happened in their past."

Apparently Gonzales thinks that in good times law firms don't care about "things that may have happened in [a job applicant's] past." With the caveat that I don't know much about law firm hiring practices, I'd venture he's off base about that.

Carolyn Elefant's interpretation at Legal Blog Watch is that firms are giving Gonzales a taste of his own medicine and rejecting him on the basis of his political views. She points out that many big firms are representing Guantanamo detainees in habeas proceedings and suggests that Gonzales's approach to detainees while at DOJ would make him unwelcome at those firms.

I dig the poetic justice in this explanation, and it's more plausible than the tough job market. It doesn't seem correct to me, though, because I'd think that there are well-regarded law firms whose partnerships mostly share Gonzales's views on detainee policy (and other issues of public controversy).

My guess is that Gonzales is in a tough spot because much of what he did as attorney general looks to be not just despicable but also illegal and, possibly, criminal. Criminal prosecution, perhaps for perjurious testimony before Congress, is possible. (Less likely, but not out of the question, is eventual prosecution in the United States or elsewhere for his role in war crimes while he was White House counsel.) In good times and bad, most firms with reputations to protect are probably reluctant to attach their name to a lawyer who may soon be indicted for his performance at his last job.

Posted by David Gold