New Nominee for Office of Legal Counsel

By Jack Goldsmith
Wednesday, December 22, 2010, 8:18 AM

During my 2003 confirmation hearings to be the head of DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, one Senator showed up to ask me one or two perfunctory questions.  This was a time when relatively few people knew what OLC did or why its work was important.  How times have changed.  Since I left OLC in the summer of 2004, no one has been confirmed to replace me.  Steven Bradbury was nominated by President Bush to serve as the head of the office, as was Dawn Johnsen by President Obama.  Both nominees failed to get through the Senate.  Today the Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration will nominate Virginia Seitz to head OLC.  I do not know Seitz.  She has a sterling resume but her lack of experience in national security will ruffle some feathers.  Those concerns should be assuaged by the announcement (also reported in the WSJ) that Caroline Krass – an outstanding career OLC lawyer with whom I worked closely, and who has as much experience with national security law as anyone I know – will be Seitz’s principal deputy.  Nonetheless, Seitz probably has a difficult road ahead, even in the Democrat-controlled Senate.  OLC confirmations are now as contested and scrutinized as top federal judgeships.  Searching scrutiny for such a consequential job is obviously appropriate.  But it is also very important to have a confirmed Assistant Attorney General running the office.  I thus hope Seitz gets a relatively quick hearing and a vote.