The action is the latest fallout from the high-profile battles that overtook the Justice Department in 2007 and led to the resignation of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his top aides, including Goodling.
A three-member bar subcommittee agreed to the public reprimand in March, according to an order being released today. The four-page order says the outcome of the disciplinary case was an “agreed disposition” that was “presented by the parties” in the case.
The subcommittee found that Goodling violated a bar rule against misconduct when she “improperly utilized political affiliation and other political considerations when making hiring decisions for career positions.” Goodling admitted to doing so while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee under oath in May 2007, the order says.
“I crossed the line of the civil service rules,” she said then, according to the order. “I believe I crossed the lines. But I didn’t mean to.”
At the time she resigned from the Justice Department, Goodling was senior counsel to Gonzales and the department liaison to the White House. According to a July 2008 internal DOJ report (PDF) on hiring practices, Goodling would ask potential hires a series of politically focused questions, such as, “Why are you a Republican?”
The Virginia bar rule in question says it is misconduct for a lawyer to “commit a criminal or deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law.”
Goodling, Gonzales and other former DOJ officials have not faced criminal charges for their role in hiring decisions or in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. In July 2010, a special prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. concluded there was not enough evidence to pursue charges.
D. Kyle Sampson, who was Gonzales’ chief of staff, faced a bar dispute of his own, but after a long fight with admission officials, he was admitted to the D.C. Bar in December. He’s a partner in Hunton & Williams’ food and drug practice.
Goodling was not immediately available for comment today. She is working, but not as a lawyer, according to the bar order. John Dowd, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who has represented Goodling, declined to comment.
The disciplinary order was signed by Roger Amole, a name partner at Amole & Bray in Alexandria, Va. Amole did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Click here (PDF) for a copy of the order.
Updated at 11:51 a.m. National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.