In Transition

In Transition Justice Department

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Elena Kagan

Current job: Dean, Harvard Law School

What she offers: She is admired for her legal scholarship, government experience and five-year tenure at Harvard, where she ushered in curriculum changes, encouraged public service and hired some of the nation's brightest legal scholars across the political spectrum.

Vetting: She has limited courtroom experience and has never argued a case before the Supreme Court.

Quote: "I have accepted this nomination because it offers me the opportunity, working under the leadership of the President-elect and his nominee for Attorney General, Eric Holder, to help advance this nation's commitment to the rule of law at what I think is a critical time in our history." -- e-mail sent to Harvard legal community.

Thomas J. Perrelli

Current job: Managing partner, Washington office of the law firm Jenner & Block

What he offers: The former Harvard Law School classmate and Law Review colleague of President-elect Barack Obama is widely remembered among career staff members at the Justice Department for his easygoing temperament and his legal skills. He advised then-Attorney General Janet Reno and went on to manage an important Justice Department unit that defends federal agencies from lawsuits.

Vetting: During his government service, Perrelli handled cases against tobacco companies. In private practice, he represented Democratic officials in redistricting battles. Both issues could draw questions at the confirmation hearings.

Dawn E. Johnsen

Current job: Professor, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

What she offers: Johnsen is a former deputy and acting chief of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel and has written widely on its work in the Bush era. She also serves on the board of directors of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, an influential group that Obama has looked to for several nominees.

Vetting: Johnsen has offered congressional testimony critical of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policy and once worked as legal director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, now called NARAL Pro-Choice America, which could make her a target for GOP senators.

Quote: "Since September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration has engaged in a host of controversial counterterrorism actions that threaten civil liberties and even the physical safety of those targeted," Johnsen wrote in a 2007 article. "To justify otherwise-unlawful policies, President Bush and his lawyers have espoused an extreme view of expansive presidential power during times of war and national emergency."

David W. Ogden

Current job: Partner, Washington office of the law firm WilmerHale

What he offers: Ogden has presided over the transition team at the Justice Department and led its civil division during the Clinton administration. Ogden also held senior legal positions at the Defense Department.

Vetting: Ogden's private-sector client base could force him to recuse himself from cases involving the airline, oil and pharmaceutical industries.


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