For Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, some meetings at the Justice Department must feel similar to those he held when he was President Bush's chief lawyer. After all, at least half a dozen of his senior aides also worked under him when he ran the White House counsel's office.
Former colleagues now at Justice include his chief of staff, his deputy chief of staff, two senior counselors and the head of the legal policy office. In addition, the Bush administration's nominee to be Gonzales's second-in-command, Timothy E. Flanigan, also served as his White House deputy.
But Justice officials are quick to stress that this group of alumni is part of a broader circle of advisers that Gonzales relies upon, including holdovers from John D. Ashcroft's tenure and new hires who have not worked closely with him in the past.
D. Kyle Sampson, his deputy chief of staff, said that "talking about a White House mafia or something like that would not accurately characterize his openness and inclusiveness."
"I like to think he just did a dang good job of hiring us all in the first place," said Sampson, who worked for Gonzales before coming to Justice in 2003 under Ashcroft. "I just think it's a matter of good lawyers he happens to know and be comfortable with."
Even as Gonzales is still cementing his team in place, of course, he is widely reported to be on the short list as a potential Supreme Court nominee. His chances are enhanced by his close relationship with Bush, who has been his boss since Bush was Texas governor. But Gonzales is viewed with suspicion by many within the Republican Party's conservative base, who disagree with moderate legal positions he has taken on issues such as abortion and affirmative action.
Many of his closest aides, by contrast, have extensive and deeply conservative credentials. Many are young lawyers with impressive resumes and fast-rising careers. Justice officials declined to speculate on what might happen to them if Gonzales moves on to the high court.
The key members of Gonzales's inner circle at Justice include:
* Theodore W. Ullyot, 38, chief of staff, had been a deputy assistant and deputy staff secretary for Bush at the White House. From 2003 to 2004, he worked in the counsel's office under Gonzales. Earlier, he was senior vice president and general counsel at AOL Time Warner Europe and a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.
Ullyot is one of the many "Luttigators" who work in the senior ranks of Justice, having clerked for federal appellate judge J. Michael Luttig, the prominent conservative frequently mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Ullyot also clerked for another hero in GOP legal circles, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
"His leadership style is to listen and engage," Ullyot said of Gonzales. "Our job on the staff is to make sure that he's hearing from all the people that he needs to be hearing from."
* D. Kyle Sampson, 35, deputy chief of staff, came to Justice in 2003 from Gonzales's shop at the White House, and was a counselor to Ashcroft. He learned the ropes on the Hill by working as counsel to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Like Ullyot and several other senior aides at Justice, Sampson is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, the alma mater of many prominent conservatives.
* Robert D. McCallum, 59, associate attorney general, arrived at Justice the week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Although he had not worked closely with Gonzales in the past, the Yale Law School alumnus has enjoyed a higher public profile in recent months than he did during the Ashcroft years.
McCallum also has found himself at the center of controversy in recent weeks over the department's decision to drastically scale back a proposed penalty in the government's tobacco lawsuit.
McCallum echoes the comments of others who have worked with Gonzales, saying he "encourages a very vigorous internal debate and deliberation" on issues.
* Tasia Scolinos, 33, is the director of public affairs and, like all of Gonzales's closest aides, a lawyer. She is directly involved in mapping out public relations strategies and in preparing the attorney general for media events, Hill testimony and other public appearances.
Scolinos came to Justice from the Department of Homeland Security, where she was senior director of communications.
"The Department of Justice has a wide portfolio, and many of those issues are very important," said Scolinos, a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Georgetown University law school. "We try to use the prestige of the attorney general's office to talk about and focus on issues that need attention."
* Raul F. Yanes, 39, senior counselor, worked with Gonzales as an associate counsel at the White House from 2003 until he moved to Justice to work for the new attorney general.
Yanes spent most of his career in private practice at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York and is a graduate of Harvard Law School.
* Jeffrey Taylor, 40, a Harvard Law graduate, is also a counselor to Gonzales. Taylor previously worked in private practice and as a federal prosecutor in San Diego.
Like Sampson, Taylor worked for Hatch in the Senate and first came to Justice as a counselor to Ashcroft in 2002.
* Courtney Simmons Elwood, 37, another counselor, worked with Gonzales at the White House counsel's office from 2001 to 2002 and then served as deputy counsel in Vice President Cheney's office from 2003 until arriving at Justice in February.
She also clerked for Luttig and is a graduate of Yale Law School.
* Rachel Brand, 32, currently serves as acting head of the department's influential Office of Legal Policy and is awaiting formal confirmation from the Senate.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota and Harvard Law School, she served as an associate White House counsel and clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
* Michael A. Battle, 49, is the new head of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, a liaison-type position that Gonzales intends to turn to in his bid to push for prosecutions of gang violence, obscenity and other crimes, according to aides.
Battle is a former public defender and family court judge who gained national attention as the U.S. attorney in Buffalo prosecuting the "Lackawanna Six," a group of Yemeni men convicted on terrorism charges after admitting they had trained at an al Qaeda camp before the Sept. 11 attacks.
* Timothy E. Flanigan, 51, is not technically a Gonzales aide yet, but he is certain to be one of the most important players at Justice if he is confirmed to replace James B. Comey as deputy attorney general. Flanigan was Gonzales's deputy at the White House from 2001 to 2002 before going to work for Tyco International Inc. as general counsel.
Officials have said Flanigan was closely involved in some of the most controversial decisions linked to Gonzales's office after the Sept. 11 attacks -- including the finding that the Geneva Conventions' protections do not apply to suspected terrorists captured on the battlefield and a since-retracted Justice memo narrowing the definition of what constitutes torture.
Flanigan was part of the litigation team representing the Bush campaign during the 2000 election dispute and previously worked at Justice during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
counselor.Rachel Brand, acting head of legal policy.Tasia Scolinos, director
of public affairs.Michael A. Battle, liaison for prosecutors.