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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.