Dawn Johnsen Resource Center


Dawn Johnsen, nominated to head the Office of Legal Counsel

Before his inauguration, President Barack Obama announced that he would nominate respected Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel in his administration. Johnsen had previously served as acting head of OLC under the Clinton Administration, and won praise from across the ideological spectrum. Since the President's announcement, Johnsen has been subject to unprecedented delays and obstruction by GOP Senators, and has been denied an up or down vote in the Senate.

Editorials and Op-eds Support Johnsen's Confirmation:


National Law Journal - Time for Senate to confirm Dawn Johnsen [Senators Patrick Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse] - February 15, 2009

We believe Johnsen has demonstrated her resolve in national security matters, her seriousness, and her commitment to the rule of law and should be confirmed. Senators who disagree can vote against her nomination, and make clear their reasons. But it is time for the obstruction to end and for the Senate to have an up-or-down vote on Dawn Johnsen's nomination.

New York Times - An Unreasonable Delay - February 4, 2010

"Majority Leader Harry Reid should do what it takes to get the full Senate to vote promptly and to get her confirmed. A year is far too long for such an important position to go unfilled."

Los Angeles Times - The Senate Should Confirm Dawn Johnsen - January 28, 2010

"[W]hether rooted in nostalgia for Bush terrorism policies or antipathy to her abortion-rights stance, the obstruction of this nomination is and always has been unjustified. The committee should promptly send it to the floor."

Washington Post - A Senate Vote for Courtesy - December 23, 2009

"Ms. Johnsen is highly qualified and should be confirmed. At the very least, senators should have the decency to give her an up-or-down vote."

Washington Post - Nominations Roadblock - August 5, 2009

"Ms. Johnsen is highly qualified for the OLC post: She served for several years as a top assistant in the office during the Clinton administration and has earned the respect of top OLC lawyers who worked for Republican and Democratic presidents. She should be confirmed, but her nomination has been held hostage mainly by Republicans who are using her strong pro-choice views as political fodder."

New York Times - Call It Obstruction - June 27, 2009

"Mr. Reid - with President Obama's help - should be similarly aggressive in nailing down Republican votes for other delayed nominations. Dawn Johnsen, an impressive nominee for assistant attorney general, has been on hold since mid-March. She has aroused Republican ire for her opposition to torture and her repudiation of extreme views of presidential power."

St. Petersburg Times - Don't Put Off Vote On Legal Counsel - May 15, 2009

"It is precisely Johnsen's determination to end the secrecy of the office that makes her such a strong choice for the job. And in these extraordinary times, the president needs his advisers."

Take Action!

Sign the petition to tell the Senate: confirm Dawn Johnsen as head of the Office of Legal Counsel here.


Los Angeles Times - Defending Dawn Johnsen - May 11, 2009

"Republican criticism of Obama's pick to head the Office of Legal Counsel is hypocritical and shouldn't be allowed to derail her confirmation."

Washington Post - Confirm Dawn Johnsen - April 30, 2009

"Ms. Johnsen is undoubtedly qualified for the position, and she should be confirmed."

The Wall Street Journal -- Presidential Picks Deserve a Vote [Walter Dellinger] - April 20, 2009

"Whether Republicans or Democrats are in office, the loyal opposition should not frustrate a president's ability to execute the powers of his office by denying an up-or-down vote to executive-branch nominees."

New York Times - A Legal Advisor Worthy of the Job - March 26, 2009

Ms. Johnsen is superbly qualified and has fought for just the sort of change the office needs. The Senate should confirm her without further delay.


PFAW Releases


Dawn Johnsen Approved by Judiciary Committee - March 3, 2010

Senate Republicans Continue Obstruction of Crucial Obama Nominees - January 28, 2010

Obama Renominates Dawn Johnsen for OLC - January 21, 2010

President Obama to Renominate Dawn Johnsen and Other 2009 Nominees - January 7, 2010

The Pressure Is Building - Confirm Dawn Johnsen Now - October 8, 2009

Kathleen Turner Phone Calls Support Confirmation of Dawn Johnsen - April 17, 2009

Kagan Confirmed as SG, Johnsen Moves to Senate Floor - March 19, 2009


Memos and Reports


PFAW Memo on GOP Obstruction of Executive Branch Nominees - October 23, 2009

Despite the fact that Democrats hold a substantial majority in the chamber, Republican senators are blocking President Obama's Executive Branch nominees at a rate never before seen, according to a review of records by People For the American Way.

PFAW Memo on GOP's Unprecedented Abuse of the Filibuster - December 23, 2009

"A review of cloture attempts in past sessions of Congress reveals that Republican senators have gone to record lengths to use Senate rules with the goal of slowing down the work of Congress, often when they have no expectation of stopping legislation or even winning concessions."

Selected Statements from Republican Senators on the Constitutionality of Filibustering Nominees and the Deference Owed to the President's Nominees [pdf] - Constitutional Accountability Center

Under President Bush, Senate Republicans made strong statements condemning obstruction of judicial and executive branch nominees. The Constitutional Accountability Center has collected some of their comments.

Broad Based Support for Dawn Johnsen

Anyone who has listened to GOP Senators labeling Dawn Johnsen—President Obama’s choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel—as a “controversial” nominee could be excused for assuming that her support has been limited to the liberal extreme of the legal community. But the facts tell a different story. In truth, Johnsen has received support from across the ideological spectrum.


Letters from Organizations Supporting Johnsen's Confirmation


Letter from Women's Health and Reproductive Rights Organizations Supporting the Nomination of Dawn Johnsen

Letter to Sen. Harry Reid from Progressive Leaders on the Delay in Confirming Dawn Johnsen

Alliance For Justice’s Letter from Law Professors in Support of Dawn Johnsen


Other Resources


Former Heads of OLC Walter Dellinger and Douglas Kmiec Support Johnsen - April 27, 2009

Last year, Walter Dellinger, head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Bill Clinton, and Douglas Kmiec, head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Ronald Reagan, spoke out in favor of Johnsen

Restore Justice Telebriefing with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse - April 22, 2009

"Senator Whitehouse: [The Office of Legal Counsel is] an office that needs to be restored to its former independence, its former integrity, its former intellectual grandeur. And Dawn is the right person to do it. She served before in that office, she comes with high - highest really - accolades for her performance and at the time the informal office motto, half in jest, was, “well, Dawn Johnsen is always right.” And the OLC chief at the time, Walter Dellinger, who went on to be Solicitor General of the United States has publicly said that if confirmed, she will be the best OLC chief in history, better than even he was."

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