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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. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  2. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  3. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  4. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  5. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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