WASHINGTON - Negative news coverage might have cost Alberto Gonzales his job as attorney general, but it won him a dubious honor yesterday from a magazine published by the American Bar Association: Lawyer of the Year.
Additionally, the ABA Journal named Gonzales' successor, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, its top lawyer for 2008 - mostly in anticipation of how often he'll be in the spotlight for trying to repair the beleaguered Justice Department.
The monthly magazine gave the awards to lawyers who made the most news, said editor and publisher Edward A. Adams.
"Think about Time magazine's Person of the Year," Adams said in an interview. "In years past they've named people like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin. So we're not suggesting by these awards that these are the best lawyers in any sense of the word. We are saying they are the most newsworthy - and perhaps also the best."
Gonzales resigned in September after 2½ years at the department amid investigations into whether he broke the law and lied to Congress. He has denied any wrongdoing.
A furor that surfaced last January over the firings of nine US attorneys, and whether they were politically motivated, marked the beginning of the end of Gonzales's post as attorney general. His conflicting statements about the ousters led Democrats and Republicans alike to question his honesty.
It's unusual for the ABA Journal to pick its Lawyer of the Year even before the year has begun. But the magazine did just that with Mukasey for 2008, predicting in a news release that the attorney general will be a top newsmaker "as he deals with the problems he inherited from Gonzales in the politically charged climate of a presidential election year."
The American Bar Association comprises about 400,000 lawyers in the United States.