Mary Smith has been appointed to the Justice Departmentâ€™s Civil Division pending the outcome of her long-stalled nomination to lead the Tax Division, a Justice official said.
She is expected to begin work on Wednesday as Senior Counsel to Assistant Attorney General Tony West, the official said.
Her nomination has been controversial.Â Republican senators have complained of Smithâ€™s lack of tax law experience, but Democrats have defended her, saying her past work as an in-house counsel at Tyco International and as a DOJ trial attorney qualifies her for the post.
Smith was a trial attorney in the Civil Division in the 1990s, before leaving to work on President Bill Clintonâ€™s reelection campaign. She later worked in Clintonâ€™s White House counselâ€™s office. After she left government, Smith was senior litigation counsel for Tyco during a class action against the company that ended in $3 billion settlement.
Most recently, she was a partner at the Chicago law firm Schoeman, Updike & Kaufman.
In the front office, Smith will be advising West on division organization and coordinating with other offices, among other duties, the official said. She was appointed to the Civil Division, rather than the Tax Division, because nominees are barred from handling matters in the office to which they are nominated.
Smith may be in the Civil Division for awhile. Republican Sen.Â Richard Shelby of Alabama has placed a blanket hold on all nominations pending on the Senate Executive Calendar, over concerns he has about a tanker contract that could bring 1,500 jobs to Mobile, Ala., and over funds he is requesting to build an FBI counterterrorism center in his state.
The Senate panel approved Smith on a party line vote last June, but in the face of Republican opposition, her nomination never reached the Senate floor. The nomination was returned at the end of the session in December. President Barack Obama renominated her this year, and she again moved through committee on a party line vote last Thursday.