Dawn Johnsen

  • March 1, 2010
    Scores of law professors have lined up behind the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Main Justice notes a letter signed by more than 400 law professors was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging action on the nomination. President Obama nominated Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor and former member of the ACS Board of Directors, a year ago. He re-nominated her earlier this year.

    The professors' letter blasts the Senate for "obstruction" that "is simply unacceptable."

    They also maintain:

    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."


  • February 16, 2010
    Senate Republicans should cease holding up President Obama's "well qualified" nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), top Senate Judiciary Committee members maintain in a column for The National Law Journal.

    Sens. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, write that months "of obstruction by Senate Republicans" have stymied a vote on Dawn Johnsen's nomination to lead the OLC, noting that Obama nominated her a year ago.

    Leahy and Sheldon write:

    Johnsen has previously served for five years in OLC. She defended legitimate presidential powers. She produced opinions that conformed to the law, even if they did not advance the president's political interests. She has a proven record of setting aside her personal views to render independent legal opinions rooted in the Constitution and the law. Johnsen's former colleagues have called her the conscience of the office. Walter Dellinger, her former boss at OLC, has said that she ‘will be the best head of the OLC in the history of the office.'

    Main Justice notes that after Obama re-nominated Johnsen, an Indiana University law school professor and a former member of the ACS Board of Directors, in January, the Senate committee has continued to delay a vote on the nomination. "The panel is expected to consider her nomination next week," according to Main Justice

  • February 4, 2010

    Dawn Johnsen's nomination to lead the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) was delayed again by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning. Johnsen, a former member of the ACS Board of Directors, was first announced as President Obama's OLC nomination in January 2009. After prior support of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Johnsen's nomination spent the better part of 2009 -- a year of unprecedented obstruction -- languishing on the Senate floor without a vote.

    The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal published editorials today staking out opposing views on Johnsen's nomination. This battle of the editorial boards follows last week's Los Angeles Times editorial stating that "the obstruction of this nomination is and always has been unjustified."

    The Journal's editorial criticized Johnsen for her views on the OLC's role under the Bush administration, when that office produced the infamous "torture memos," noting: 

    During the Bush years she [Johnsen] has said that OLC gave "horrific legal advice" and "advice premised on an extreme and unfounded view of presidential power to justify desired counter terrorism policies." On issues such as the use of domestic electronic surveillance or interrogation policies, she has called the Bush Administration's practices controversial and "sometimes flatly illegal."

    Considering these same facts, The Times editorial called Johnsen "a highly qualified choice" whose nomination has drawn "baseless objections" causing "unreasonable delay."

  • January 28, 2010
    President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) remains mired in the Senate, with today's decision by the Judiciary Committee to continue holding up the process. In a Jan. 28 editorial, the Los Angeles Times declared, "Obama's choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel is more than qualified, and the GOP obstruction to her confirmation needs to end." The newspaper's editorial page had previously urged the Senate to confirm Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law school professor and former member of the ACS Board of Directors.

    Today's editorial decries lawmakers' obstruction of the nomination, saying it relates to Johnsen's criticism of the OLC during the Bush administration, in particular its production of legal memos promoting the use of torture of detainees and her work for groups supportive of reproductive rights.

  • January 12, 2010

    Sen. Arlen Specter previously indicated that he was opposed to President Barack Obama's nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). MainJustice's Andrew Ramonas just reported that Specter has had a change of heart.

    "After voting ‘pass' [which means no position] in the Judiciary Committee, I had a second extensive meeting with Ms. Johnsen and have been prepared to support her nomination when it reaches the Senate floor," Specter said in statement. 

    The nomination of Johnsen, a former ACS board member, now appears to have the support of 60 senators, including Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, (potentially dependent upon the results of next week's special election in Massachusettes.) Specter's new position was made public following an attack by his primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak, in which Sestak faulted Specter for Johnsen's nomination remaining in limbo.