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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Law - "Dawn Johnsen secret keeps David Hamilton appointment festive"

More from Prof. Johnsen's "home town" paper, the Bloomington Herald Times, today -- reporter Mike Leonard has a long commentary ($$) that begins:

At the reception following the lengthy and elaborate swearing-in ceremony making his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals official, David Hamilton stood before a more casual and festive audience and confessed that he felt like he’d just watched his own funeral.

It probably did feel like an out-of-body experience, watching speaker after speaker saying the kindest and most flattering things a person could say about another human being.

The odd thing is that the affair might well have included some of the sadder and more somber aspects of a funeral, had it been generally known that Hamilton’s sister-in-law, Dawn Johnsen, had withdrawn her name for consideration to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Some of the people at the swearing-in ceremony and Columbia Club reception knew, but didn’t let on. I didn’t know, and in my conversations with people close to the situation, and with Hamilton, it was never divulged. I even said to Hamilton and to his former law clerk, Allison R. Brown, that I wished that President Obama would have made Johnsen a recess nomination.

Both seemed a bit fidgety at the suggestion, but that would have been normal, even if Johnsen hadn’t withdrawn. Since Johnsen was first nominated by the president in January 2009, people close to Johnsen and the Hamilton family have politely declined to comment on the dispiriting political controversy surrounding her candidacy.

Perhaps I should have been more curious about the absence of three people I expected to be there: Johnsen; her husband, John; and John and David’s uncle Lee, the former congressman.

I had left the reception and was standing outside of the Columbia Club on Monument Circle when I pulled out my iPhone and picked up two messages from my managing editor that the AP news wire had delivered the news from Washington that Johnsen had withdrawn — and that the paper wanted comments from the family. Hamilton and his father, Richard, both declined, but David pointed me toward his cousin, Doug Schmidt.

Schmidt decried the ugly politics and unfair characterizations of Johnsen’s record and called her an example of a person of the highest possible integrity, speaking out against the country’s use of torture when it is now abundantly clear her definitive stance was morally right but politically costly.

The delicate dance around the looming sad news worked. The day rightly belonged to David Hamilton.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 11, 2010 12:07 PM
Posted to General Law Related