HRC Blog

HRC Supported Nominee for Office of Legal Counsel Withdrawals Name

On Friday, Dawn Johnsen, President Obama’s pick to lead the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) withdrew her nomination for the position.  Johnsen was nominated more than a year ago and was twice approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but never received a vote by the full Senate.  Because her nomination languished for more than a year, it became symbolic of the obstructionist environment in the current Senate.  This delay led Johnsen to withdrawal. In April 2009, the Human Rights Campaign, along with other civil rights organizations, joined a letter by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights that expressed strong support for the nomination of Johnsen.  Johnsen served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at OLC from 1993 to 1996 and was named Acting Assistant Attorney General from 1997 to 1998.  Following her years at OLC, she joined the faculty of the Indiana University School of Law—Bloomington, where she teaches and writes about constitutional law. OLC serves as legal adviser to the President and all federal agencies.  It became famous during the Bush Administration as the place where controversial memos on executive power, waterboarding of terrorism suspects and warrantless eavesdropping won support.  OLC decisions are binding on all executive agencies.  Thus, OLC decisions are particularly important because they determine what the president and all his agencies can and cannot legally do.  During the Reagan administration, Ted Olson, as head of OLC, determined that federal civil service law prohibits the federal government from denying employment or terminating an individual’s employment on the basis of their sexual orientation.  In the future, OLC decisions could address other issues that impact the LGBT community, such as the scope of the Defense of Marriage Act.

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