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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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