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Editorial: Quit stalling nominations

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
January 6, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial


After languishing in the U.S. Senate for about 10 months, the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel finally got some action.

We suppose "action" is in the eye of the beholder, because ultimately the Senate refused to take a final vote on the nomination of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor to hold the job as head of the Department of Justice's OLC. It's an office she worked for during the Clinton administration and led on an interim basis during that stint.

According to the Senate's rules, nominations must be acted upon by the end of the year of the legislative session. If that doesn't happen, nominations can be carried over into the next year's session by a unanimous agreement or sent back to the president for him to think over. This happened right before the Christmas holidays.

Now President Barack Obama must decide whether to renominate Johnsen and the other nominees the Senate refused to consider. Whether the president sticks with his original candidates or chooses new ones, the nomination process begins from square one.

We sincerely hope that the president sticks with this nominee, and we'd like to see him flex some political muscle in getting her confirmed. She's proven to be a tough and fearlessly outspoken critic of things that are unjust and unfair. Such behavior appears to have earned her some political enemies, but we find tough and outspoken to be admirable qualities.

Johnsen is not without controversy. She incites the ire of abortion opponents because of her previous work as legal director for National Abortion Rights Action League, now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Others are against Johnsen because of her criticism of the legal reasoning given to the George W. Bush administration by its OLC that cleared the way for changes in the way detainees suspected of terrorist connections were interrogated. Johnsen also criticized that office during the Bush administration for what some say undermined privacy and due process rights.

Opposition to her leading the office appears to depend in large part on what side of the aisle a politician happens to be on. Yet our U.S. Sens. Richard Lugar, a Republican, and Evan Bayh, a Democrat, have said publicly that they will vote for her confirmation. Perhaps these two gentlemen could give lessons to their fellow senators in how to have differences of opinion and get work done all at the same time.

We understand that the odds of President Obama reading this newspaper are small - after all, he's not an Indiana lawyer - but we're calling on him to renominate Dawn Johnsen to lead the OLC, and we'd like to see him forcefully get behind this nomination and the others that need to be made across the country.

Indiana has one vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, and two in the Southern District. We were happy to see David Capp get the nomination for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, but action needs to be taken on the Southern District job, which is being capably led on an interim basis by Tim Morrison.

It's time to nominate, confirm, and get some work done.*

 

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  1. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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