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 is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.