Dawn Johnsen

  • January 6, 2010

    With the end of Congress' 2009 term, all pending nominations were returned to the President as a matter of standard procedure. Now, eight of those nominations are once again set to be in the Senate's hands.

    Steve Benen writes

    Sam Stein reported that seven judicial and political appointees will be re-nominated by the president, including Dawn Johnsen, who was nominated in March to head the Office of Legal Counsel, but who can't get a floor vote, in part because conservatives disapprove of her opposition to Bush-era torture memos.

    The re-nominations can't formally happen until the Senate returns on Jan. 20[.]

    Of course, if the president really wanted to shake things up, he could use recess appointments and highlight their necessity in the face of a dysfunctional Senate process....

    On a related note, ACS guest blogger Derek Duarte recently published "The Abuse of the Filibuster" on ACSblog here.

  • December 31, 2009

    The Senate recently confirmed "roughly three dozen" of the Obama administration's nominees, but left dozens more languishing, The Washington Post reported. Regarding nominations to the federal bench, The Post noted that the Senate has confirmed "just 13 judges, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor." The newspaper continued, "Nineteen judicial nominations are pending in the Senate with four referred to lawmakers last week."

    In a Dec. 23 press statement, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy blasted conservatives for slowing the nomination process. Leahy said:

    I have been calling on the Republican leadership to end the delays and obstruction of judicial nominations and join with us to make progress in filling some of the many vacancies on Federal circuit and district courts. I have done so repeatedly for most of the year, and several times over this last month. Regrettably, as we head into the winter recess and the end of the first session of the 111th Congress, Republican obstruction is setting a new low for the Senate in our consideration of judicial nominations.

    The Posted noted, however, that despite opposition on "some judicial picks, the Obama administration has nominated far fewer judges in its first year than did the administrations of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton."

    The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the embattled nominations of Magistrate Judge Edward Chen (right) for a federal judgeship in California and Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The Chronicle stated that both nominations were sent back to the administration for reconsideration. 

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein told the Chronicle that she hoped the administration would renominate Chen, saying he has a "pristine record" as a magistrate judge.

    Opposition to Johnsen, an Indiana University law school professor and former member of the ACS Board of Directors, has been especially protracted, and, in part, has targeted her critique of the OLC during the Bush administration. Attorney General Eric Holder, on numerous occasions, has expressed strong support for Johnsen's nomination.

  • November 25, 2009

    Lawyers Harangue Solicitor General: In their brief on civil immunity for the architects of torture, attorneys representing four former Guantanamo detainees offered what "may be the most eloquent statement on the issue I've seen yet," says Daphne Eviatar at The Washington Independent.

    Detainee Affairs Resignation: Phillip Carter is leaving his post as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy. Glenn Greenwald and Marcy Wheeler offer their takes.

    OLC Nominee: Is Dawn Johnsen on the cusp of being confirmed as the Office of Legal Counsel's top lawyer?

    KSM & the Death Penalty: Critics are concerned that executing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others convicted in terror-related charges may martyr them.

    More KSM: Adam Serwer untangles the arguments for and against trying KSM in federal court at The American Prospect's blog.

  • November 3, 2009

    Speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., former Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin, who headed the Bush Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from 2004-2005, said that Sen. Patrick Leahy's proposed Truth Commissions to investigate torture "would be useful."

    Daphne Eviatar reports:

    "I personally am not opposed to criminal investigation of my conduct and others during the period in question." Levin was referring to the period between 2002 and 2006, when the Office of Legal Counsel was producing memos justifying the use of "extreme" interrogation tactics on detainees in U.S. custody which many legal experts now say amounted to torture. 


    "Maybe the [Office of Professional Responsibility] report will give some of the factual basis that will allow people to make judgments about that," said Levin, referring to the ethics report of the OLC lawyers' work conducted by a division of the Justice Department which has yet to be released. The report was drafted over several years and completed by the end of the Bush administration. "But I would agree if you could have a serious look at this it would be very valuable." 

  • November 2, 2009

    Storm clouds appear to be gathering over two of President Obama's judicial nominees facing what Professor Carl Tobias calls an increasingly tight "bottle neck in the Senate." Apparently added to the hit-list for those obstructing nominations are Judge David Hamilton, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Magistrate Judge Edward Chen, nominated to the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

    Both Judges Hamilton and Chen are rated as "well qualified" by the non-partisan American Bar Association (ABA), which rates nominations to the federal bench. "Well qualified" is the highest rating provided by the ABA.

    As to Judge Hamilton, Senator Jeff Sessions disagrees with the ABA, having written a letter urging his colleagues to filibuster Hamilton's nomination. Sessions writes that Hamilton's nomination presents "one of the extraordinary circumstances where the President should be informed that his nominee is not qualified."

    Sessions, a failed nominee to the federal bench himself, is currently the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite his central role in judicial nominations, filibustering Judge Hamilton's advancement to the Seventh Circuit may prove particularly challenging in light of the support for Hamilton's nomination from his home-state Senator Richard Lugar. That said, Lugar's support has yet to prove dispositive for another of Obama's legal nominees -- Indianan Dawn Johnsen, whose nomination to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has languished for almost eight months.

    One of the charges being repeatedly lobbed at Hamilton's nomination is that he "ruled that praying to Allah does not violate the Establishment of Religion clause in the First Amendment, but praying in Jesus Christ's name does." This allegation was assessed by one observer last April who wrote, "it's all a lie, but ... I was surprised how despicably rancid a lie it it." The opinion at issue is in Hinrichs v Bosma, and is available here.