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Professor faces Senate Judiciary Committee

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Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor Dawn Johnsen faced the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday as part of the nomination process to become the next assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, the office that advises the president on legal matters.

Johnsen, who was introduced by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, faced the senators along with David S. Kris, nominated to be assistant attorney general in the National Security Division.

Among the questions asked was how Johnsen's experience as acting assistant attorney general and as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1998 would apply now. Johnsen and the senators referenced "Principles to Guide the Office of Legal Counsel," written by Johnsen with the help of 19 former Office of Legal Counsel attorneys in late 2004 to reflect on the office's nonpartisan role.

While the Democrat senators who questioned Johnsen openly agreed with her political views, they were concerned that instead of serving as a neutral advisor to President Barack Obama, her opinions would lead to advice from the office to serve a particular, left-leaning agenda. Johnsen has written a number of academic papers criticizing the Bush Administration and was legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1988-1993.

Johnsen said her job would be strictly to uphold the rule of law.

The senators also asked her about her thoughts on confidential orders by the Office of Legal Counsel, including those issued during the Bush Administration.

Johnsen said the issue of transparency between the Office of Legal Counsel and Congress was a top priority for her, adding that if there were any conflicts between the office's interpretation of the law and Congress' interpretation of the law, she would prefer the two would come to an understanding before the Office of Legal Counsel would make a decision.

At the end of the hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said the record typically remains open for a week to accept further questions in writing. If Johnsen gets an affirmative vote from the committee, her nomination will move to the full Senate for a vote.

The two-hour hearing is available as a webcast using Real Player. Johnsen's completed questionnaire, letters of recommendation, and published works are also available on the committee's Web site.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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