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Law professor not named as recess appointment

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A Bloomington law professor tapped for a leading Department of Justice job wasn't among those included in recess appointments during the weekend by President Barack Obama, but the administration hopes that she'll soon be considered for a full Senate vote.

On Saturday, the White House named 15 individuals by recess appointment, which allows the president to circumvent the full Senate confirmation process typically required and fill a position temporarily until the end of the Congressional session or until a vote happens.

"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees" to administration posts, Obama said in a written statement that also named the 15 individuals. "But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government."

Not on that list was Dawn Johnsen, the Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor who's become a controversial nominee chosen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel. The president first nominated her in February 2009, but after getting a partisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee her nomination languished and eventually died without a vote by the full Senate. Her nomination was resubmitted in January, and a second partisan vote in early March sent her name to the full Senate for consideration. The Senate didn't schedule her for a vote before going on its two-week recess at the end of last week.

While not included on the recess appointment list, a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said future recess appointments could be possible if the Senate doesn't move more quickly once it returns April 12.

"Of the 77 people on the calendar, we are only recess appointing 15, and there are a number of qualified individuals the president has nominated that do not fall in this group," the official wrote in an e-mail to Indiana Lawyer. "If the Republicans do not end their campaign of obstruction, the president reserves the option of exerting his authority to recess appoint qualified individuals in the future, but our hope is that we can move beyond the partisan politics that have held up the process for the last 15 months for the good of the American people."

Johnsen served as acting assistant attorney general in the OLC during the Clinton administration. But she has drawn Republican opposition because of her criticisms of the OLC during George W. Bush's administration and generally because of her positions on terrorism, executive power, and abortion issues. She's received opposition from pro-life organizations for her work with NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1988 to 1993.

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  1. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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