A Stanford Law Professor in DOJ Ranks: Pam Karlan Works for Stanford University, Not the Taxpayer

A disclosure filed by Pamela Karlan reveals that she is currently "on detail" to the Civil Rights Division while still being paid by Stanford University under something called an "Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement." AAF investigates whether this arrangement -- which is unusual for a senior appointee -- raises conflict of interest concerns.


According to a Public Financial Disclosure Report obtained and published by Reuters, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan is still employed by Stanford University, rather than employed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).


While disclosing her employment agreements and arrangements, Karlan noted that “I remain in my position [with Stanford University]. I am on detail to the Department of Justice for the duration of my government service (which ends in September 2022). I am being paid my normal salary, minus my summer stipend. My employer will continue to make its normal contributions to my retirement account,”[1] the disclosure showed:

Karlan further explained in the disclosure’s endnotes that her detail to the DOJ is “pursuant to an Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement between Stanford and the Department,”:[2]

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) describes how Intergovernmental Personnel Act Agreements work. The operative words in Karlan’s disclosure are that she is “on detail” to the DOJ. OPM notes that “Non-Federal employees on detail to Federal agencies remain employees of their permanent organizations for most purposes.” Additionally, the detailee agreements may (or may not) be reimbursed by the Federal Government, according to OPM:


…Status of a Non-federal Employee on Detail


Non-Federal employees on detail to Federal agencies remain employees of their permanent organizations for most purposes. Detailees are not eligible to enroll in Federal health benefits programs, group life insurance, or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). An employee assigned by detail to a Federal agency may be assigned to an established, classified position in the Federal agency, or may be given a set of ad hoc, unclassified duties, relevant only to the specific assignment project...

...

...If the assignee is detailed to a set of unclassified duties, the assignee continues to be paid directly by the non-Federal organization at a rate of pay based on the assignee's non-Federal job. The Federal agency may agree to reimburse the non-Federal organization for all, some, or none of the costs of the assignment.


Detailees will usually have the same workweek and hours of duty as Federal employees in the agency to which they are assigned. However, if the workweek of the permanent employer is, by law or local ordinance, shorter than the Federal workweek, the employee's workweek should be adjusted as needed. Detailees are eligible to participate in alternative work schedule arrangements of the Federal agency to which they are assigned.


Detailees are covered under their permanent employer's leave system. The assignment agreement will specify how the permanent employer will be notified of leave taken and how the use of leave will be approved. The agreement will also spell out what holidays will be observed by the assignee…


Importantly, Reuters confirmed with a DOJ spokesperson that Karlan is not receiving a U.S. government salary:


…She will continue to receive her Stanford salary until her job at DOJ ends in September 2022, according to the disclosure. Karlan is not receiving a U.S. government salary, a DOJ spokesperson said…


Simply put, Pamela Karlan is an employee of Stanford University, not the US Government. Pamela Karlan is the Number 2 in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and is a supervisor, decision maker, and policy maker for DOJ, despite not being a federal government employee.


The Intergovernmental Personnel Act Agreement under which Pamela Karlan is detailed raises serious conflict of interest questions – questions the American Accountability Foundation is is determined to get answers to. Is Pamela Karlan accountable to the American People? Or instead, is Pamela Karlan beholden to Stanford University and Stanford’s big-money donors?


AAF Research Note: AAF has requested a copy of Pamela Karlan's IPA Agreement through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. To date, AAF has not received a copy of this arrangement, but we anticipate that it will shine light on this unusual arrangement between the Department and Stanford University. When received, we will share the Agreement with you on this website.


Sources: [1] Pamela Karlan Form 278e, Page 7 (Obtained by Reuters, Last Revised 11/17/2021) [2] Pamela Karlan Form 278e, Page 14 (Obtained by Reuters, Last Revised 11/17/2021)