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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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