Tongues were wagging in the spring of 2006 when Rachel Paulose was named U.S. Attorney for Minnesota. She was so young. She had so little trial experience. She was so rigid, they said. People who like and admire her thought taking the job would be a big mistake.
Turns out, they were right. Paulose, 34, resigned Monday, effective in January, to take a job in Washington, D.C., as counselor to the assistant attorney general for the office of legal policy.
One lawyer who knows Paulose well said the controversy has been a deeply disturbing experience for her.
John French, Minneapolis attorney now retired and Paulose’s mentor, spoke with her Monday before she announced her departure.
“From her perspective the controversy made her life so miserable that another opportunity for public service was a relief,” French said. “From the perspective of the Justice Department it would have been a shame to throw away such a talented, competent person. The Justice Department was helping extract her from a bad environment.”
French met Paulose 10 years ago when she was a summer associate at Faegre and Benson, where French was a highly respected managing partner. Paulose was assigned to French “and we hit it off.”
Later, she was a clerk for Chief Judge James B. Loken of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Loken who had been a partner at Faegre and close friend to French. The three kept in touch.
“I’ve talked to her for every job she’s had,” French said.
French scoffs at the notion Paulose was young and unqualified. “At 34 you’re not in diapers anymore,” he said.
Still, former Minnesota U.S. attorney David Lillehaug thinks her decision is “in the best interest of everyone. It’s wise to leave for the good of the office that has gone through a great deal of stress.”
At least one of Paulose’s conservative admirers says she’s deeply loyal to her friends and equally difficult with her opponents.
Four attorneys in the office have taken demotions since Paulose became their boss to return to trying cases, rather than working for her as managers.
“The last straw came over the weekend when she suggested that her critics might be motivated by discrimination,” Lillehaug said.
In a National Review Online opinion piece, Minneapolis attorney Scott Johnson said Paulose was the victim of a “media lynching” because she is a conservative.
Johnson quoted Paulose as saying, “The McCarthyite hysteria that permits the anonymous smearing of any public servant who is now, or ever may have been, a member of the Federalist Society; a person of faith; and/or a conservative (especially a young, conservative woman of color) is truly a disservice to our country.”
French, a lifelong Democrat, said Paulose has no problem getting along with people of a different persuasion, despite her conservative politics.
“I bet Rachel and I cancel each other out every time we vote,” he said.