Last night we wrote about some of the top-notch talent that will be filling senior legal positions in the Obama Administration. These are big names, and you probably also read about them in big publications, like the Legal Times or the Wall Street Journal.
ATL is willing to drill down deeper. We now bring you personnel news at more junior levels. If you graduated law school in the past 15 or even 10 years, you might actually know some of these people.
Our prior post focused on two of the most prestigious parts of the Department of Justice: the Solicitor General’s office, and the Office of Legal Counsel. We now turn our attention to two other top offices: the White House Counsel’s office, and the office of the Deputy Attorney General.
President Barack Obama has hit the ground running. Even before President Obama was done flubbing taking the oath of office, the revamped White House website was launched. You can check the WH website, including the new “Briefing Room” blog, for news of notable nominations and appointments.
A few more names have surfaced since then. Some of them pertain to the Office of Legal Counsel, the most prestigious DOJ component to work for other than the Solicitor General’s office (and arguably more powerful). We once dubbed OLC the Finishing School for the Elect:
If you don’t land a Supreme Court clerkship that immediately follows your feeder judge clerkship, cool your heels at the OLC, then reapply to the Court. Success is practically guaranteed!
As previously reported, with the Senate’s consent, the headmistress of the Finishing School will be Dawn Johnsen (pictured). Professor Johnsen teaches law at Indiana University – Bloomington and served at OLC during the Clinton Administration, as Acting Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Assistant Attorney General, so she is well-prepared for the job. When we spoke at IU almost two years ago, students we met were already speculating that Professor Johnsen — described as a “brilliant” scholar, even if not the clearest or most effective classroom teacher — might someday return to government.
Since President Obama is a former legal academic, it should come as no surprise that he’s recruiting so many law profs to join the upper echelons of his administration. The marquee names of Kagan, Sunstein, Johnsen, Barron and Lederman will also be joined by one of the brightest young stars of the legal firmament: Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal (pictured), of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld fame. As reported by the Legal Times (via the WSJ Law Blog), wunderkind Katyal has been tapped to serve as Elena Kagan’s right-hand man, principal deputy solicitor general.
For a comprehensive listing of the top legal eagles in the Obama Administration, see this handy round-up over at the BLT. As you can see, these are big, boldface names — gods and goddesses of our profession. Congratulations and good luck to all of them (not that they’ll need it).
We’ll have more hiring news — including items about less celestial beings, more junior lawyers, people you might actually know — in subsequent posts. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks.
Update: Add Harvard’s Einer Elhauge to the list of legal academics bound for the Obama Administration. Details via Brian Leiter.
Superstar litigatrix Kathryn Ruemmler, a litigation partner at Latham & Watkins and an Enron prosecutor before that, has been picked to serve as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Obama Justice Department. That title is a mouthful, but lawyers inside the Beltway know it’s a Big Deal.
The revolving door between the DOJ and Latham swings again. Ruemmler has traded places with another fierce female litigator: Alice Fisher, who rejoined the firm after heading up the Criminal Division.
As for Ruemmler, the government’s gain is Latham’s loss. Says one LW tipster: “She’s a really good lawyer, and a genuinely nice person. We’re very sorry to lose her.”
Kathy Ruemmler isn’t just a genial genius; she’s stylish, too. From the WSJ Law Blog, reporting on a day of the Ken Lay trial:
Speaking of footwear, the boldest fashion statement of the day — possibly rivaling O’Melveny paralegal Bill Evans’s goth getup for the gutsiest sartorial move of the week — came from the government’s Ruemmler. The deputy director of the Enron Task Force, who won convictions against four Merrill Lynch bankers in the 2004 Nigerian Barge case, paired a conservative gray suit with stunning 4-inch bright pink stiletto spikes.
Litigatrix indeed. Just because you work for the DOJ doesn’t mean you have to shop at DSW.
There’s a lot of diversity in Obama’s Department picks so far. Eric Holder, nominated to serve as Attorney General, is African-Amercan. Elena Kagan and Dawn Johnsen, nominated to serve as, respectively, Solicitor General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel, are women.
The full memo about Ruemmler’s move, after the jump.
The confirmation hearings for Eric Holder as attorney general just started.
We’ll try to keep an eye on it for you and update you with interesting news and notes. Especially when the Specter in the punch bowl speaks up.
So far Holder has said the word “independent” twice and now we’re going through the list of black people who were shot in the sixties.
Update (10:31): Let me paraphrase question 1:
LEAHY: Waterboarding mutherf***** do you believe in it?
HOLDER: Waterboarding is torture.
LEAHY: Gonzales! Are you named GONZALES?
HOLDER: Waterboarding is torture.
Update (10:56): Round 1 of Specter v. Holder involved both fighters feeling each other out. Lots of clenching, no haymakers:
SPECTER: Let me remind everybody who Marc Rich is and why he’s a terrible person.
(time passes, seasons change …)
Mr. Holder, did you know about this?
HOLDER: Nope. My bad.
Score the round 10-10.
Meanhwhile Sen. Herbet Kohl (who also owns the Milwaukee Bucks) wants to know if Holder can ball with Obama. As commenter #5 might point out “that question would never have been asked if Holder was white.”
Students who received a prestigious Bristow Fellowship with the Solicitor General’s Office will be informed today.
The Office of the Solicitor General confirmed with us this morning that the decisions have been made and successful applicants will be told today. If you applied, you might want to keep your phone lines open.
But if you are a student from Yale Law School, this year might not be your year. An inside source tells us that no student from Yale received a fellowship this year.
That’s rough. Students from Yale Law are getting shut down before Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan even takes over. But we shouldn’t expect Kagan to be unduly influenced by Harvard-Yale competition in her new role. Talent always rises.
Let us know which schools did well in securing a fellowship this year in the comments.
Last night, Attorney General Michael Mukasey collapsed while addressing the Federalist Society. Some feared the AG had suffered a stroke.
Today brings good news about his condition. This morning we reported (see the 10 AM update): “The AG is fine and will be released from the hospital later today. No word yet on what the diagnosis was. He will be taking a few days off.”
A few days off? Scratch that. He’s heading back into work, perhaps as you read this. Here’s the message he just sent to all Justice Department employees (via the BLT):
As you may have heard, I collapsed briefly last night at the conclusion of a speech. All tests at the hospital have come back with good results, and I feel fine. Accordingly, I plan to report to the Department this afternoon and to continue doing the work I swore to do last November and which it has been an honor to do with you ever since.
Thank you for your good wishes and your good work. It has been and remains an honor to serve with you.
We’re glad to hear that Attorney General Mukasey — widely respected among DOJ lawyers, especially compared to Alberto Gonzales, whose job performance even conservative lawyers won’t defend — is doing well and back on the job.
ATL correspondent Laurie Lin, on the scene at the annual dinner of the Federalist Society, reports that Attorney General Michael Mukasey “literally collapsed mid-sentence at the podium,” while delivering a speech at the Society’s National Lawyers Convention. It is not clear what AG Mukasey suffered, but a stroke is possible.
“Medical people are working on him now as he lies on the dais,” according to Lin. “Secret Service FBI says no one can get up. Entire hall is shocked and silent.”
Update (10:38 PM): “They appear to have an IV in. They have taken him out. Now people are praying…. Everyone is saying it looked like a stroke. People are very somber. Some people from the DOJ are visibly shaken.”
Update (10:47 PM): According to radio reports, Mukasey did not immediately regain consciousness after collapsing, and was taken to an area hospital. More from Politico over here.
Update (11:03 PM): According to a different source, Mukasey had regained consciousness by the time he was taken out of the room.
Update (11:06 PM): People are now being allowed to leave the room. From Laurie Lin: “The party ended abruptly, needless to say. The tone of the man [perhaps David McIntosh] who prayed after they took out the AG seemed pretty grim. He asked for prayers for Mukasey’s wife, who was there according to the program, and the Mukasey family.”
Newsweek is reporting that Covington & Burling partner Eric Holder will be picked as the new U.S. Attorney General:
Holder, who served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration, still has to undergo a formal “vetting” review by the Obama transition team before the selection is final and is publicly announced, said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified talking about the transition process. But in the discussions over the past few days, Obama offered Holder the job and he accepted, the source said. The announcement is not likely until after Obama announces his choices to lead the Treasury and State departments.
Holder would become the first African-American to head the Department of Justice.
Holder received his B.A. and J.D. from Columbia. Obama’s transition team is still debating Holder’s deputy:
One top candidate, favored by Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and other former Clinton White House officials, is Elena Kagan, dean of the Harvard Law School and a former lawyer in the White House counsel’s office under Clinton. Another top candidate, favored by other Obama advisors, is David Ogden, a former chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno, who is currently heading Obama’s Justice Department transition team. Kagan brings legal policy credentials; Ogden has more experience in the Justice Department trenches.
Will Holder depoliticize the DOJ? We hope that is near the top of his agenda.
New lawyers to lead the nation are sending in their résumés. Already, UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley has received a choice position as part of Obama’s transition advisory board. (I wonder if he’s accepting resumes from his students?)
Here’s an interesting choice for Edley and the rest of the transition team that will be picking the next Solicitor General. According to the Legal Times:
No woman has ever served as solicitor general, but a number have been mentioned as candidates for the job in an Obama administration. Stanford Law School professors Kathleen Sullivan and Pamela Karlan and Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan are possibilities, as well as Morrison & Foerster partner Beth Brinkmann and MetLife litigation counsel Teresa Wynn Roseborough.
They could also be considered to lead of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which produces legal opinions on complex matters for the attorney general and the president. Lawyers who have held both positions have gone on to become Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justices Stanley Reed and Thurgood Marshall were solicitors general. The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and current Justice Antonin Scalia once headed the Office of Legal Counsel. That experience could come in handy should one or more Supreme Court justices step down in the next four years.
Speculation has also centered on prominent African-American attorneys who may be ready to step forward:
Valerie Jarrett (Stanford, Michigan Law): Jarrett is a longtime Obama adviser, who’s now one of three people heading his transition team. She told the WSJ that blacks won’t be pigeonholed into “historically conventional” roles, such as secretary of housing and urban development or assistant attorney general for civil rights.
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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