President Obama's nominee to lead the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), selected well over a year ago, has withdrawn her nomination, The Associated Press reported Friday. Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law school professor, who has extensive service in the OLC, serving as its acting head during the Clinton administration, faced vociferous opposition from Senate Republicans and conservative pundits. Johnsen, a former member of the ACS Board of Directors, was targeted for her past work on behalf of reproductive rights groups and her criticism of the Bush administration's OLC, especially its memorandums advocating for torture of military detainees.
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt blamed Senate Republicans for the failed nomination.
"Her credentials are exemplary and her commitment to the rule of law has been proven time and again, but it is now clear that Senate Republicans will not allow her to be confirmed," LaBolt said. He added that "it is time for the Senate to move beyond politics and allow the Office of Legal Counsel to serve the role it was intended to - to provide impartial legal advice and constitutional analysis to the executive branch."
Johnsen's nomination received the backing of former Department of Justice leaders, of both political persuasions, scores of law school professors and newspaper editorial pages nationwide. Attorney General Eric Holder on numerous occasions strongly urged the Senate to stop holding up Johnsen's confirmation.
In March, 400 law professors sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging it move her nomination.
The letter, in part, maintained:
Professor Johnsen is immensely qualified for this position. She has extensive previous experience in the Office of Legal Counsel, including service as its acting head for more than a year during the Clinton Administration. Doug Kmiec - the OLC head under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush - has applauded Professor Johnsen's track record during that service, noting that she "repeatedly separated policy preference from rendered opinion."
In February, The New York Times editorial paged blasted Republican obstructionism, calling Johnsen, "a highly qualified choice" whose nomination has drawn "baseless objection."