Solicitor General and Deputy Attorney General Named
By Carrie Johnson and Robert Barnes
The new Justice Department began to take shape this morning as President-elect Barack Obama announced he would nominate a quartet of well known lawyers to key posts including the department's chief operating officer, its top representative to the U.S. Supreme Court and the chief of the Office of Legal Counsel.
As expected, David W. Ogden will be nominated to serve as deputy attorney general, second in command to Attorney General-designee Eric H. Holder Jr. Ogden is a partner at the WilmerHale law firm in Washington. He previously led the Justice Department's civil division and held several other top advisory posts at Justice and Defense in the Clinton Administration.
Ogden has been overseeing the Justice Department transition team, with an assist from Tom Perrelli, a Harvard law school classmate of Obama's who today was selected to lead the department's civil division. Perrelli, a genial Justice veteran, currently manages the Washington office of the law firm Jenner & Block.
Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, a leading contender for the deputy job, instead will become the U.S. Solicitor General, the administration's liaison with the Supreme Court. The SG job, often likened to being the court's "tenth justice," can be a springboard to an eventual nomination to the Supreme Court. Kagan has been law school dean since 2003, where she balanced hiring to include conservative legal voices and won plaudits from the GOP. She previously held domestic policy and legal posts in the White House during the Clinton era.
And Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law school professor who has been handling transition work for the department's sensitive Office of Legal Counsel, today was picked to lead the office. The once obscure OLC took on new importance during the Bush Administration after lawyers there blessed coercive detainee interrogation practices and warrantless domestic surveillance programs. Johnsen had served as an OLC deputy in the Clinton era. In an interview before the election, Johnsen told the Washington Post that a review of all of the Bush era legal opinions would be a major undertaking for the new administration.
"These individuals bring the integrity, depth of experience and tenacity that the Department of Justice demands in these uncertain times," Obama said in a prepared statement. "I have the fullest confidence that they will ensure that the Department of Justice once again fulfills its highest purpose: to uphold the Constitution and protect the American people."
Holder, the Attorney General nominee, will begin Senate confirmation hearings January 15. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has expressed interest in quickly moving nominees for critical Justice Department posts through the Senate as part of a package deal.
Yet to be named are leaders for two other important department units: the criminal division and the national security division, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks.
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