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March 27, 2009

Obama law prof update: Conservatives attack progressive feminist

Since my last post a month ago, the White House got around to formally announcing Harold Koh's designation as chief lawyer at the State Department, and Jonathan Cannon withdrew his name as nominee for Deputy Administrator at EPA. By far the most important developments center on Dawn Johnsen, the President's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel at Justice.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Dawn's nomination out of committee late last week, but it was a party-line vote with all Republicans except Specter, who abstained, voting against her. Dawn should be proud of these enemies. Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas called her a "hardened partisan."  Cornyn was a major defender of Alberto Gonzalez, so his cred on this point is in the sub-basement. Plus, he's working hard to torpedo judicial nominees as well. Because of these hypocritical antics, Dawn's nomination may have to endure a battle in the Senate. Kudos to the NY Times, which ran an editorial yesterday calling for her confirmation:

Ms. Johnsen is superbly qualified and has fought for just the sort of change the office needs. The Senate should confirm her without further delay. ... There is no corner of the executive branch in greater need of a new direction than the Office of Legal Counsel. The impressive Ms. Johnsen is an excellent choice to provide it.

The attacks stem from her reproductive rights work and her scholarship addressing DoJ issues such as executive branch abuse of power. She'll be a terrific head of OLC.

UPDATE: Two law prof nominees for the Treasury Department were announced Saturday: Michael Barr (Michigan) as Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions and Beth Garrett (Southern Cal) as Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy.


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