Marty Lederman, a top official in the Office of Legal Counsel, is leaving the Justice Department to return to teaching.
A Deputy Assistant Attorney General who joined the OLC in January 2009, Lederman will resume his teaching post at Georgetown University Law Center this fall, where he will teach a class on separation of powers, according to the Blog of Legal Times
Lederman is the second official to announce his departure from OLC in the past few weeks. Last month, acting Assistant Attorney General David Barron said he was leaving the office and would return to teaching at Harvard Law School.
Jonathan Cedarbaum, formerly a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, will take over as the acting head of OLC. The office has been without a Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for six years.
Lederman, who will remain at the Justice Department through August, said that he and Barron did not plan to stay at OLC for more than two years.
Lederman told BLT he is confident that Cedarbaum will do a “terrific” job and said OLC is fully staffed for the first time since the transition to the Obama administration, with about 20 line attorneys.
President Barack Obama’s nominee to head OLC, Dawn Johnsen, withdrew in April. Obama has not made a new nomination since Johnsen withdrew.
Additional reporting by Joe Palazzolo.
A couple months back, we were whining about the lack of published opinions from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. By the end of May, the Justice Department had released 13 previously secret Bush-era legal memos but just one penned during the Obama administration.
Well, the office threw us all a few bones yesterday, posting 12 opinions — including six issued since Barack Obama took office.
Here they are:
- ELIGIBILITY OF A RETIRED MILITARY OFFICER FOR APPOINTMENT AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISRATION (Issued July 8, 2009)
- CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE MATTHEW SHEPARD HATE CRIMES PREVENTION ACT (Issued June 16, 2009)
- WITHDRAWAL OF OFFICE OF LEGAL COUNSEL OPINION (Issued June 11, 2009)
- CONSTITUTIONALITY OF SECTION 7054 OF THE FISCAL YEAR 2009 FOREIGN APPROPRIATIONS ACT (Issued June 1, 2009)
- CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE RONALD REAGAN CENTENNIAL COMMISSION ACT OF 2009 (Issued April 21, 2009)
- WITHDRAWAL OF OFFICE OF LEGAL COUNSEL CIA INTERROGATION OPINIONS (Issued April 15, 2009)
- APPLICABILITY OF 18 U.S.C. § 207(f) TO PUBLIC RELATIONS ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN FOR A FOREIGN CORPORATION CONTROLLED BY A FOREIGN GOVERNMENT (Issued Aug. 13, 2008)
- WHETHER THE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATION IS AN “AGENCY” FOR PURPOSES OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (Issued Aug. 21, 2007)
- DEPLOYMENT OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES TO HAITI
(Issued March 17, 2004)
- ASSERTION OF CONSTITUTIONALLY BASED PRIVILEGE OVER REAGAN ADMINISTRATION RECORDS
(Issued Jan. 12, 2004 )
- APPLICABILITY OF POST-EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS IN 18 U.S.C. § 207 TO A FORMER GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL REPRESENTING A FORMER PRESIDENT OR VICE PRESIDENT IN CONNECTION WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS ACT (Issued June 20, 2001)
- RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION REFORM AND IMMIGRANT RESPONSIBILITY ACT OF 1996 AND STATUTORY REQUIREMENT FOR CONFIDENTIALITY OF CENSUS INFORMATION (Issued May 18, 1999)
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The New Republic profiles John Durham, the special prosecutor from Connecticut appointed by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the CIA’s destruction of videotapes documenting brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects.
After Attorney General Eric Holder was quoted in Newsweek earlier this month saying he was leaning towards appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush-era interrogations, this Washington Post story by Carrie Johnson named Durham as a possible choice for the job.
“Durham may be under consideration for an expanded mandate, given that he already has reviewed hundreds of sensitive CIA cables and other documents related to treatment of detainees.”
Read a more recent New York Times’s story about Holder’s deliberations here.
Quinnipiac law professor Jeffrey Meyer, a former colleague of Durham, told the New Republic: “Think of him as the second coming of Patrick Fitzgerald”– yet without the publicity hound aspect to him.
To us, the most interesting part of the profile is the unearthing of this blog post from a year and a half ago by Georgetown law professor Marty Lederman, a vocal critic of torture. Lederman is now a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, whose lawyers during the Bush administration produced the legal opinions authorizing torture.
Lederman was highly skeptical of Durham’s appointment, questioning his independence (Durham reports to the Deputy Attorney General in the CIA tapes matter):
But there’s nothing really “outside” about John Durham. He’s a career DOJ prosecutor, the number two official in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut. As the Attorney General explained today (see statement below), the case would ordinarily be handled by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, but that U.S. Attorney requested that his office be recused from the matter “in order to avoid any possible appearance of a conflict with other matters handled by that office.” (Hmm . . . what might that mean? That the investigation deals with whether there was obstruction of justice in cases being prosecuted by the E.D. Va., perhaps?)
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The Georgetown law professor, prolific blogger and tenacious Bush critic joins Dawn Johnsen at the Office of Legal Counsel, Politico reports. He also served with Johnsen on Obama’s DOJ transition team.
Also: another Georgetown law professor, Neal Katyla, will be principal deputy solicitor general, Legal Times blog reported. Katyal argued the landmark Hamdan v. Rumsfeld before the Supreme Court, which successfully challenged the policy of military trials at Guantanamo Bay.
The rise of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) in the Obama administration has been widely noted. ACS is the liberal antidote to the long-influential Federalist Society; Monica Goodling and her gang blackballed applicants to the prestigious Summer Law Intern Program (SLIP) who cited ACS affiliations.
But what’s been overlooked is how activist and outspoken many of the Obama DOJ transition team members have been – often in ACS forums – about the Bush DOJ’s frequent disregard for the law. Law professor Dawn Johnsen, a former Acting Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel and Obama DOJ transition team “leader,” wrote a hard-hitting paper in 2007 called “All the President’s Lawyers: How to Avoid Another ‘Torture Opinion’ Debacle. “Presidential lawyers must be prepared to resign in the extraordinary event the President persists in acting unlawfully,” she wrote.
Here’s Johnsen in her own words: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8-FrzhHT_w&feature=channel]
Georgetown law professor Martin Lederman and Duke law professor Christopher Schroeder — both Obama DOJ transition team members — have also been publicly outspoken. (For more details, see my post on my friend Al Lengel’s federal law enforcement site, Tickle the Wire.) And of course, ACS executive director Lisa Brown will be Obama’s White House staff secretary. But Obama is a political animal through and through; it remains to be seen whether he’ll satisfy liberal bloggers and activists screaming for blood, including prosecution of any government officials involved with illegal practices such as torture.
UPDATE: As expected, Dawn Johnsen was tapped to head of the Office of Legal Counsel Monday.