Making a splash in Washington

WE SAY IU law professor Dawn Johnsen a superb choice for Office of Legal Counsel

POSTED AT 10:35 PM ON Jan. 11, 2009 


When President-elect Barack Obama announced several appointments to his administration’s Justice Department last week, the nomination of IU law professor Dawn Johnsen was among the most highly praised.

Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald heralded Johnsen’s appointment to head the Office of Legal Counsel, a Department of Justice subsidiary, saying her appo intment “may be Obama’s best yet, perhaps by far.”

Johnsen’s stellar record merits the praise. While at IU, Johnsen blogged frequently for Slate, especially singling out the Bush administration’s law-breaking in regard to torture. Greenwald noted that Johnsen’s work was especially important for extending her argument outside of the legal community and calling for all Americans to “regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments.”

Yet Johnsen’s credentials aren’t limited to critiquing others’ failures. Before coming to IU, she was an official in Clinton’s Office of Legal Counsel and worked on the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project in addition to serving as the legal director for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

And Dawn Johnsen understands the Office of Legal Counsel. Before she was mentioned for the job, she wrote that the duty of the Office of Legal Counsel is “making sure the President obeys the law.”

Having now lived through eight years of an administration widely criticized for using the attorney general as its private legal counsel rather than to represent the interests of the American people, Obama’s choice of Johnsen sends a clear, refreshing message that a restoration of justice is on the way.

IU should be proud to have one of its own serving in such an important office. We’re even more proud that she has promised to take the department in an honorable direction we can support.


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