January 5th, 2009
11:40 AM ET
14 years ago

Transition announces more Justice Department nominations

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama's transition team announced Monday that four former Clinton administration officials have been tapped to serve in the Justice Department under attorney general nominee Eric Holder.

For the high-profile job of solicitor general, who represents the Justice Department before the Supreme Court, the president-elect chose Elena Kagan, currently dean of the Harvard Law School. She served as a key domestic policy adviser for President Bill Clinton and, according to the transition team, helped formulate and implement law and policy in such areas as education, crime and public health.

Kagan was nominated as an appeals court judge in 1999, but Republicans held up confirmation until their party took over the White House.

Legal observers will be watching the positions taken by the new Justice Department in several upcoming key Supreme Court cases, including one in which a defendant - Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident - is contesting his detention for more than five years as an enemy combatant in a military brig without the government bringing any charges against him.

Tapped for the No. 2 job in the department is David Ogden, who is currently serving in the transition team examining the Justice Department. He previously served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Division, chief
of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno and counselor to the attorney general.

Dawn Johnsen, a professor of law at Indiana University, will take over the job of overseeing the department's Office of Legal Counsel, which is responsible for drafting opinions examining the legality of laws and actions.

In the Bush administration, the OLC's opinions about U.S. interrogation policies - some of which are still classified - have been roundly criticized by human rights activists. Those opinions included allowing the use of severe techniques and strictly defining what would be considered torture. The document on torture was later amended by Justice Department officials.

Several human rights groups are pushing for the OLC under Obama to do a thorough review of all of the opinions issued during the Bush administration and to quickly reverse at least some of them.

Johnsen was a deputy assistant attorney general from 1993 to 1996, and acting assistant attorney general in 1997 and 1998.

"These individuals bring the integrity, depth of experience and tenacity that the Department of Justice demands in these uncertain times," Obama said in a written statement. "I have the fullest confidence that they will ensure that the Department of Justice once again fulfills its highest purpose: to uphold the Constitution and protect the American people."

The final pick announced Monday is that of Tom Perrelli as associate attorney general. Perrelli, now with a District of Columbia law firm, became counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno in 1997, and later became a deputy assistant attorney general.

All four nominees, three of whom have connections to Harvard, will go to the Senate for confirmation.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, praised the appointments.

"They will be a strong team," he said. "The need to have the new leadership team at the department up and running without delay could not be greater in light of the department's vital missions and the unprecedented politicization that has weakened morale throughout the department."

Attorney general designate Eric Holder's confirmation hearing is set to begin on January 15.

(Updated Monday afternoon with additional details)

soundoff (31 Responses)

    Talk about stacking the deck.....Obama is great for that.... These people that he picks should open up the lives and let everybody look at what they are about to recieve in the government.

    Get some people in there that are not tied up in the corporate world

    January 5, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. jrzshor

    one thing to remember here

    law is an OPINION based system.

    and there are as many a holes as there are OPINIONS!

    January 5, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Willy Brown

    More Clinton left overs

    January 5, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  4. Left Coast Mike, Laguna Niguel, CA

    Apparently, DC Observer is legally blind.

    January 5, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  5. Dave in Atlanta

    Obviously DC Observer is not very observant. They clearly didn't read the article probably just read the title. There was very little about constitutional law in the descriptions of these people's background; on the contrary they have a range of experience from private law practice to government serviceand the academic sector. Read the article again.

    January 5, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. Mike L

    That these picks are from Harvard and Yale is a non-sequitor. The real revelationis that they all served Pres. Clinton. Where is all the change that Obama championed?

    January 5, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
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