Obama Taps Seitz for Office of Legal Counsel
By Andrew Ramonas | January 5, 2011 5:31 pm

President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated D.C. lawyer Virginia Seitz as the next Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.

Virginia Seitz (American Constitution Society)

Seitz, a partner at the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP, is Obama’s second nominee for the post. The first nominee, Dawn Johnsen, withdrew last April after facing Republican criticism for more than a year.

If confirmed, Seitz would be the first OLC leader approved by the Senate since 2003, when Jack Goldsmith resigned after coming into conflict with other George W. Bush administration officials over their aggressive post 9/11 national security policies. The office is currently led by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Cedarbaum.

As was Johnsen, Seitz is a member of the American Constitution Society, a left-leaning legal organization. She also clerked for Justice William Brennan, who was a member of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing. Seitz is married to acting Deputy Solicitor General Roy McLeese.

The D.C. lawyer handles labor, employment and administrative cases at her firm. Conservatives told the Wall Street Journal that her lack of experience with national security law could worry Republicans.

OLC gives legal advice to the president and other administration officials on a range of issues, including national security matters. The office was at the center of the bitter controversy over the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects, methods critics called torture.

OLC authorized those techniques during the administration of President George W. Bush. Johnsen was a leading critic of OLC’s actions, one of the issues that later created a Republican backlash against her nomination.

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