WASHINGTON (CNN) - When Michael Mukasey took the reins of the Justice Department, he was informed that as attorney general he could select any painting from inside the building - or one from the Smithsonian art museums - to adorn his private office, even if someone else was already displaying it.
Mukasey without hesitation chose a portrait of former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, an FDR Democrat. He had to snatch it away from one of his top lieutenants, Solicitor General Paul Clement, who had displayed it in his front office.
"We loved it - but were only too happy to give it up," chuckled one of Clement's aides.
The large Jackson portrait, which dominates the attorney general's office, replaces a scenic painting that former Attorney General John Ashcroft had chosen from the National Art Gallery. That painting had remained in place during the tenure of Alberto Gonzales as well.
Former Attorney General Janet Reno had selected an artistic rendering of Robert F. Kennedy when she entered the Justice Department, and it remained in her office throughout her tenure.
Mukasey, a conservative, said he has long been an admirer of Jackson's writings and had displayed a painting of him in his judicial chambers in New York.
At Mukasey's confirmation hearing last October, Jackson's "three-part test" from an important Supreme Court ruling was repeatedly thrown about by senators pressing Mukasey on his views of the balance of power between the president and Congress.
During a grilling over the conflict between personal liberty and national security, Mukasey at one point in the hearing praised Jackson, who had been an attorney general for President Franklin D. Roosevelt before he was appointed to the high court in 1941.
"A great attorney general, perhaps the greatest to serve in the modern era, Robert Jackson, said that the issue between authority and liberty is not between a right and a wrong. That never presents a dilemma. The dilemma is because the conflict is between two rights, each in its own way important."
Jackson, who was the chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, was popularized when Alec Baldwin portrayed him in the 2000 TNT television film "Nuremberg."
– CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden