In Lubbock, Texas at this hour, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is scheduled to be deposed as a witness in a lawsuit challenging the Justice Department's politicized handling of applicants for the department's honors program during his tenure.
The deposition comes in the case of Gerlich v. Department of Justice, in which plaintiffs claim they were not hired for the department's honors or intern programs because officials including Gonzales and Monica Goodling either authorized or failed to stop consideration of political and ideological factors in hiring decisions. Reports by the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility in 2008 found that officials did Internet searches to discern the applicants' political and ideological affiliations, included that information in applicants' files, and used it to "deselect" some of those who would otherwise have been interviewed for the prestigious jobs.
In September 2009, Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the so-called Bivens claims of constitutional violations directed at the Justice Department officials personally. But Bates allowed the lawsuit to proceed against the department for some of the plaintiffs who had made plausible claims of Privacy Act violations. The Privacy Act explicitly prohibits the government from maintaining records about individuals' exercise of First Amendment rights unless authorized by law.
Gonzales is being deposed for that remaining segment of the litigation, which could result in a trial later this year or early next year. The former attorney general is teaching courses in the political science department at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and assisting the university in increasing student diversity. Representing Gonzales is Lisa Fishberg, partner at D.C.'s Schertler & Onorato law firm.
It is noteworthy that Gonzales did not move to quash or limit the deposition, and current Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. did not block it, says plaintiffs' lawyer Daniel Metcalfe. Metcalfe, a former career official of the Justice Department who now who teaches at American University's Washington College of Law, said in a statement, "Among other things, this deposition will provide a measure of accountability, not to mention future deterrence, for high-level Justice Department misconduct that was, in the words of the Court, 'gravely serious' and 'deplorable.' The very fact that the current Justice Department did not seek to block this rare questioning of a former attorney general under oath in a civil case stands as clear testament to that."