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Key Justice nominees rooted in academia

USA Today
Jan. 6, 2009

By Joan Biskupic

President-elect Barack Obama filled two prominent Justice Department posts Monday, choosing the dean of Harvard Law School to be the first female U.S. solicitor general and an outspoken Bush administration critic to lead the sensitive Office of Legal Counsel.

Obama also named Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen, 47, to be assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel. The office advises the president on the scope of executive power under the Constitution and federal law and has played an important role on national security legal dilemmas. It was at the center of a controversy in recent years for memos providing the rationale for coercive interrogation of foreign detainees. Johnsen, who was an acting chief of the office from 1997-98, criticized its support for Bush's policy on terrorism. She argued the "administration's abuses threaten to distort presidential authority and the federal balance of powers for years."

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