The Paulose departure

The Minnesota Attorney’s Office has been given a chance to move on.

As newly appointed Attorney General Michael Mukasey begins to piece together the Justice Department that Alberto Gonzales left, we’re glad that he has focused attention on the Minnesota office and its attorney, Rachel Paulose. Yesterday, Paulose resigned to take a job in Washington amid growing criticism by colleagues of her management and as a representative of how politics won out over competence during Gonzales’s tenure.

Paulose replaced former attorney Tom Heffelfinger last year, and first made headlines this April, when three top deputies were reported to have voluntarily demoted themselves to protest her management of the department. The real story, though, looks to be more sordid than that. The Office of Special Counsel, a watchdog group independent of the Justice Department that protects whistleblowers inside the government, has been investigating Paulose for allegedly retaliating against one of those top deputies because he notified the Justice Department that Paulose had been mishandling classified national security related documents, and leaving them out in the open in her office, according to former Star Tribune reporter Eric Black. Paulose was accused of threatening to fire him before he took his voluntary demotion, and also accused of treating employees harshly.

The final straw appears to be two more career officials in the office who had or threatened to resign on Monday to protest her management.

Paulose, 34, had little management or prosecutorial experience before being appointed and Monica Goodling, the Justice Department’s liaison to the White House, admitted that she was nominated in part because she was a Republican. It’s customary for a president to nominate members of their own party for the U.S. attorney jobs, but usually these people have qualifications in addition to their politics, which doesn’t seem to have been the case with Paulose. It’s clear that ideology had trumped experience, and our state was the real loser because an office of dysfunction amid a department of dysfunction isn’t good for the cause of justice. We hope that her resignation signals an end to Alberto Gonzales’s destructive reign and the Minnesota Attorney’s office can move on.