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President to renominate IU professor

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An Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor is expected to be renominated by President Barack Obama to head the Office of Legal Counsel after the Senate sent her nomination back to the White House in December.

While the president first announced he planned to nominate Dawn Johnsen Jan. 5, 2009, he formally nominated her Feb. 11, 2009. She addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 25, 2009, and the committee approved her nomination 11-7 along party lines March 19, 2009. No progress was made since then, and because she wasn't confirmed by the full Senate by the end of the first year of its 2009-2010 session, the Senate sent her nomination back to the White House Dec. 24.

Hannah Buxbaum, executive associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at the school, said she is confident Johnsen will be renominated and has "no reason to doubt the accuracy of those reports."

Requests for comment from the White House and Sen. Evan Bayh's office were not returned by IL Daily deadline.

"We feel she's eminently qualified for the position," Buxbaum said. "She's a leading constitutional law scholar, particularly on the topic of separation of powers and other topics related to the position. More importantly, she already served in the position."

Johnsen worked for the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton Administration from 1993 to 1998, including one year as acting assistant attorney general, 1997 to 1998. But conservative groups have focused more on her work before her position with the Office of Legal Counsel. Pro-life advocates have been publicly against her because of her position as legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1988 to 1993. She was also a staff counsel fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project in New York City from 1987 to 1988.

Conservative groups also disagree with her strong positions regarding the Office of Legal Counsel's actions during the administration of President George W. Bush. She, along with 18 others who formerly worked for the office, released the "Principles to Guide the Office of Legal Counsel" Dec. 21, 2004. The first principle stated: "When providing legal advice to guide contemplated executive branch action, OLC should provide an accurate and honest appraisal of applicable law, even if that advice will constrain the administration's pursuit of desired policies. The advocacy model of lawyering, in which lawyers craft merely plausible legal arguments to support their clients' desired actions, inadequately promotes the President's constitutional obligation to ensure the legality of executive action."

Buxbaum said she doesn't expect the nomination process will be immediate this time around and that Johnsen, who taught classes last semester, is scheduled to teach again this semester. Johnsen will commute from her home in Washington, D.C. While Johnsen can't talk about the nomination process while it is pending, Buxbaum said the two recently have been in touch about Johnsen's duties for the law school, and she and others at the law school plan to continue to keep an eye on the nomination process.

"We are delighted to hear the president is planning to renominate her, and we look forward to her confirmation," Buxbaum said.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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