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Michael James Elston (born February 7, 1969), a United States lawyer and a partner in the Tysons Corner, Virginia, and Washington offices of McGuireWoods LLP.

He was a political appointee in the administration of President George W. Bush, serving as the Chief of Staff & Counselor, Office of the Deputy Attorney General, United States Department of Justicemarker, from November 2005 to June 2007.

Personal

Elston grew up in Rockford, Illinoismarker where he attended Rockford Auburn High School graduating in 1987. He received his undergraduate degree from Drake Universitymarker in 1991, and a law degree from the Duke University School of Law where he graduated with high honors in 1994.

Career

Elston is a partner with McGuireWoods LLP. According to the McGuireWoods website, "Mr. Elston’s practice includes white collar criminal defense, internal corporate audits and investigations, commercial litigation and appellate litigation. He has advised several major corporations on government investigations and criminal matters. His internal investigation and audit experience includes both export-control (ITAR) and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) matters. He has also argued more than 20 cases before federal courts of appeals."

The Rockford Register Star in March 2007 profiled Elston's earlier career. It states he "clerked for the Honorable Pasco M. Bowman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit from 1994 to 1996. From 1997 to 1999 he worked as an attorney on the staff of Shughart Thomson & Kilroy firm in Kansas City, Mo. While there, he argued and won a case involving prisoner rights before all 11 judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In 1999, he was named Assistant U.S. attorney in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Rockford where he served until 2002. From there he moved to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and became Assistant U.S. Attorney; there he worked on the prosecutions of John Walker Lindh, the American who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan; and Zacarias Moussaoui, the recently convicted al-Qaida operative who alternately claimed and denied a role in the Sept. 11 attacks. Since 2005, he has served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty."

In September 2006, the Department of Justice gave Elston its highest award presented to attorneys for contributions and excellence in legal performance -- the John Marshall Award -- "for his outstanding legal advice, leadership and excellence related to the appellate work of the Eastern District of Virginia."

Elston also worked on early drafts of the Patriot Act. Writing about the Patriot Act in 2005 Elston stated, "Whenever laws are changed to give law enforcement new tools, as occurred with passage of the Patriot Act, there is an accompanying concern about the potential for abuse of those tools. And rightly so. Our country’s strength depends on, and has always depended on, our ability to have fully informed, free and open debates on these issues.... In my experience, the federal law enforcement community is full of hard working, honest people with integrity, who believe passionately in the Bill of Rights. I am confident that we will reach the right balance between what we need to do to keep the country safe and what we need to do to protect our constitutional rights."

Controversy

While serving as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General, Elston was involved in the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys, and "was accused of threatening at least four of the eight fired U.S. attorneys to keep quiet about their ousters."Former U.S. Attorney John McKay of Seattle told Congress -before he left as U.S. Attorney for Seattle- that he had received a phone call from Elston that he "greatly resented." He said Elston attempted to "buy my silence by promising that the attorney general would not demean me in his Senate testimony."

Elston denied these allegations, and a subsequent report by the Department of Justice Inspector General exonerated him (see below). At the time, however, House Democratic Committee Chair John Conyers, stated the following: "When yet another significant player resigns in the U.S. attorney scandal, it only deepens the mystery of who targeted U.S. attorneys for firing, why they did it, and what exactly is going on in the highest reaches of the Justice Department and who is filling the vacuum of leadership that has developed there."

After interviewing the U.S. Attorneys involved, the Department of Justice Inspector General's report regarding the dismissal of the U.S. Attorneys cleared Elston of any wrongdoing, stating "we do not have sufficient evidence to conclude that Elston intended to threaten" any of the dismissed U.S. Attorneys.

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