Ex-Bush official Scott Bloch was granted a law license last year after the staff of a DC court didn’t notice that he is under criminal investigation by the FBI — and failed to flag that fact to the Committee on Admissions, despite extensive documentation provided by Bloch.
He now practices at a business law firm in the District he joined several months ago. The clerk of the court for the D.C. Court of Appeals revealed the error to TPMmuckraker today after we inquired about the case.
In October 2008, Bloch ended a rocky tenure leading the Office of Special Counsel during the Bush Administration that was marked by charges of retaliation against his employees and politicization of the agency in charge of protecting the rights of federal workers.
But one scandal refused to go away: while being probed for the alleged retaliation, he allegedly destroyed evidence and, investigating Bloch for obstruction of justice, the FBI raided his home and office.
In the months before Bloch left the administration, he applied for a law license in the District of Columbia, which was granted in November; several months ago he joined DC-based Tarone & McLaughlin LLP.
All of which made us wonder: wouldn’t the body in charge of granting law licenses in the District think twice before admitting a man who was under criminal investigation — for obstruction of justice no less?
It turns out, they might have — had they noticed.
The staff in charge of reviewing Bloch’s application for a license blundered, overlooking documents he submitted about the criminal probe, the clerk of the court of the DC Court of Appeals tells TPMmuckraker. After the breakdown, his application sailed through. Now he’s practicing in the District and even touting on his law firm bio the “notoriety” he attained during the Bush years. Meanwhile, the criminal probe goes on.
Here’s how the failure happened: Bloch wrote the office of admissions of the DC Court of Appeals in May 2008 notifying them he was under investigation, even providing relevant subpoenas.
At that point, what “should have happened and didn’t” is that the matter of the criminal probe be flagged as a possible issue by the staff to the lawyers who make up the Committee on Admissions, says Clerk of the Court Garland Pinkston.
Pinkston blames “staff oversights” for the error and notes a small group of people are processing 3,500 applications a year.
Up to a point, Bloch’s situation was a lot like the case Kyle Sampson, another ex-Bushie currently under investigation who is also practicing law in Washington. But in Sampson’s case, the Committee on Admissions of the DC Court of Appeals noticed the ongoing probe and refused to grant him a law license. He was able to wrangle his way into practice only after an intense lobbying campaign on his behalf and intervention by a three-judge panel.
What would have happened if the criminal probe of Bloch was brought to the attention of the Committee on Admissions? Pinkston tells TPMmuckraker it’s “difficult to say.” But he calls the Kyle Sampson situation an “analogy.”
In other words, Bloch may well have been refused a license, pending the completion of the criminal investigation. And we could have seen a court fight just like in the Sampson case, from which Bloch may or may not have emerged with a law license.
Where does all this leave us? Pinkston says there’s nothing to be done. “You can’t take a person’s license because they’re under investigation.”
As for the staff blunder, he said he plans to “use this as a teaching exercise.”
Late Update: We’ve put in calls to Bloch and a named partner at his firm for their reaction to the DC Court of Appeals blunder. We’ll let you know if we hear back.