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)
  1. Sye the Pychic

    Maybe we can find out what really happened to Michael Connell.

    January 5, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. DC Observer

    A bunch of Ivy League theoretical constitutional educators who have never worked hands on in the mainstream criminal or corporate law segment portends a rise in corporate and criminal activity.

    January 5, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Laverne

    I hope all this "smartness" pays off.

    January 5, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. Richard S

    I have great hopes for these picks.Maybe they can restore our sense of Justice in the United States.

    January 5, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  5. Louise D. Amherst, MA

    WOW ! I'm impressed.

    January 5, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Jeff in Illinois

    Better Harvard than Yale. I'll take anyone over those Skellies.

    January 5, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. naqib

    Ah the old loyalist paybacks again... big shocker here considering Obama and Justice are like screen doors and submarines.

    January 5, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. S Callahan

    PE Sen. Obama, you know I have been a adement supporter of you on this journey..long before it became 'popular' but I have grave concerns that you intend to sign the Freedom of Choice Act which will overturn state and federal statues regarding abortion....we have had enough killing in this country...and consequences to that killing....the day of judgement if on this Nation...one would have to be a fool not to see that. I appeal to you to NOT sign this order...
    God has walked this journey with you, do not turn your back on him!

    There are way too many other issues for their members to focus their attention, starting with fair and equal treatments in the criminal justice system and a host of other issues.

    January 5, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Thomas

    These sound like good picks.

    Keep up the good work PEBO. So far, we are liking what you are doing.

    January 5, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. TCM

    more paybacks for obama supporters. All hail the corruption kingdom!

    January 5, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. Virginia

    Have they been vetted as well as Richardson was?????

    January 5, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. sohawkins.777

    It's about time we got some "Ivy-league" heavy hitters in power, at least they will consider the Constitution before taking the rest of us down the drain. Good Luck to them, remember we are all in the same boat.

    January 5, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  13. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Thank God there are no Aggies!

    January 5, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. No Hillary = No Obama

    What's with this Harvard this and Harvard that – talk about elitist. You know George Bush got an MBA from Harvard – and look how UNsucessful he was. All this emphasis on intellect thanks to Obama who seems to need reflections of himself around, does not necessarily equate with leadership, competence or results. It just means 4 years of snobbery.

    January 5, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  15. Matt, Minneapolis, MN

    1) Clinton era
    2) Clinton era
    3) Clinton era
    4) Clinton era

    Does anyone see a theme here. I thought this guy was about change. Turns out he's about changing back to clinton. Heck even the guy's wife is 4th in line.

    January 5, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. Gorbashov - Long Beach, Ca.

    DC Observer,

    You are not to OBSERVANT are you?

    Corporate criminal activity has been on the rise for years! It has nothing to do with who will be overseeing these activities!

    Wake up and smell the coffee!

    Just because Bush and his cronies looked the other way doesn't mean it wasn't happening!

    WOW, the "base" is as clueless as the GOP Leadership!

    January 5, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  17. Lyndon from CA

    A toast to Harvard Law.

    January 5, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    Maybe now the Justice Department will start living up to its name.

    January 5, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    Are they going to go after their Wall Street Lawyer and CEO buddies? Are they going to go after terrorist before they have already carried out their plan? Are they going to enforce all of our laws including immigration and drug distribution laws? We will wait and see!

    January 5, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  20. a little sad

    How'd the Yalie get in there?

    January 5, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  21. MikeH

    DC Observer, just what kind of medication are you on?

    Bush's #3 in the Justic department was a Religious school nutjob with no legal background whatsoever.

    I bet you thought she was an excellent choice.

    January 5, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  22. Blake

    DC Observer– have you been paying attention to the last eight years?

    January 5, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. Jackie in Dallas

    Yeah, DC Observer...
    Picking Gonso did President Bush so much good, didn't it? Face it, the majority of the top lawyers in the country go to Ivy League schools. From the sounds of their resumes, I don't think any of them are "theoretical" lawyers, either. Clerking for a sitting member of the Supreme Court or a US Court of appeals means that you are exposed to law from all areas, including criminal, business, real estate, constitutional, and civil.

    What do you really have against a group of lawyers who mostly graduated cum laude or better from some of our countries top law schools: the fact that they are intelligent, or the fact that aren't tied to conservative causes?

    January 5, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  24. Lots of corruption to root out

    solid picks are necessary

    January 5, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  25. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*

    DC Observer– why so much hate towards a group of obviously well educated and well regarded legal minds?? Has it not occurred to you that if they are teaching the law at the university law school level, then they are the very ones turning out the "hands on" attorneys you prefer? It takes "educators" to produce practicing attorneys, you know.

    And why the slam at "Ivy League"?? A little jealous maybe that you perhaps weren't "Ivy League" material? Harvard & Yale are among the finest & most competitive law schools in the country. Just ask anybody trying to get admitted to them.

    January 5, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
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