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Friday, June 18, 2010

Law - "Dawn Johnsen: Let Me Be Clear, I Have No ‘Regrets’ "

From the American Constitution Society blog this morning:

Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's initial nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) provided a ringing call for young lawyers and other advocates of progressive values to stay to true to their principles and not fear speaking out on behalf of them for fear of losing potential political rewards.

Johnsen, an Indiana University law school professor and former OLC lawyer in the Clinton administration, was nominated more than a year ago to lead the OLC, which provides legal analysis on potential actions by the executive branch. Johnsen's nomination was defeated by a sustained threat of a Republican filibuster, largely because of her criticisms of the OLC's work during the Bush administration. Specifically, Johnsen tagged the OLC's advice on torture of military detainees to be legally reckless. She withdrew her nomination earlier this year.

Tonight at the start of the 2010 ACS National Convention, Johnsen announced she was rejoining the ACS Board of Directors and that she had no regrets, whatsoever, about her outspoken criticism of the Bush administration OLC's office and its disastrous advice on the treatment of military detainees.

Stay true to your principles and do not be cowed into silence by political ambitions, she urged the packed Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Video of Johnsen's remarks will be available soon on the ACS Web site. [ILB - check back here]

David Ingram has more details on Johnsen's 13-minute speech in this story from The Blog of Legal Times, including:
A law professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, she said her biography “should hardly be used as an example of why we should not stand on principle or speak out in public.” Her willingness to speak out, she added, “has not hurt me professionally. Just the opposite.”

Johnsen recounted, for example, the opportunity she had three years out of law school to co-write an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1989 case, Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, in which the justices upheld abortion rights. At the time, Johnsen was legal director for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Republicans last year seized on a footnote from that brief, accusing Johnsen of equating pregnancy with slavery. But she noted Thursday that the brief was quoted in The New York Times at the time of the case and was published in full in two law reviews, and that the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of her side. “Whatever you think about that footnote, it was a damn good brief,” Johnsen said.

“Do you think for one moment that I wish I had sat that fight out, due to caution and calculation? Not a chance, not for a moment, not on your life,” she added. “One should not live one’s life deciding whether and how to write such briefs based on calculated judgments about possible future political payoffs.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 18, 2010 09:35 AM
Posted to General Law Related