by Amy Matsui, Senior Counsel
National Women’s Law Center

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice.  The committee approved the nomination by an 11-7 vote (Senator Specter passed, saying he didn’t want to delay a vote before the full Senate).  The next step is for the nomination to be voted on by the full Senate, but that vote has not yet been scheduled.

The Office of Legal Counsel, or OLC, has the unique role of offering the Administration objective, unbiased legal advice.  Johnsen worked in that office for five years – including as Acting Assistant Attorney General — during the Clinton Administration, so she understands both the Office’s crucial role and how it functions as a practical matter.  After her time at OLC, she taught constitutional law at the University of Indiana School of Law, with an emphasis on issues of separation of powers, executive authority, and women’s reproductive rights.  She commented extensively on the dramatic failure of the OLC to fulfill its proper role under the Bush Administration, and with a number of other OLC alumni wrote up ten Principles to Guide the Office of Legal Counsel. 

Because she has outstanding legal qualifications, as well as the experience to hit the ground running and begin the important work that awaits OLC, NWLC applauds the Senate Judiciary Committee for approving Dawn Johnsen’s nomination, and urges the Senate to quickly confirm her.