- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 26, 2009


I write in response to your editorial urging Republican senators to filibuster the nomination of Dawn E. Johnsen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice (“Filibuster a radical,” Editorial, Wednesday). To encourage a filibuster of her nomination is poor counsel, indeed. Ms. Johnsen, as a professor of law at the University of Indiana, is eminently qualified.

The editorial’s call to filibuster Ms. Johnsen’s nomination is based on her work to uphold Roe v. Wade. However, she has been targeted primarily for her criticism of the office, which under the George W. Bush administration approved the illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens and the torture of U.S. detainees. The Bush administration itself eventually repudiated the office’s stance on executive authority vis-a-vis the federal criminal torture statute. Republicans and Democrats alike have supported Ms. Johnsen’s legal reasoning and commitment to the rule of law.

Regarding Roe v. Wade, there is no question that Ms. Johnsen has worked to prevent its being overturned. Her support of the Supreme Court’s decision, which even its critics describe as settled law, should not disqualify her for the position to which she has been nominated, much less be grounds for a filibuster. Her support of Roe - notwithstanding the editorial’s characterization to the contrary - was not radical.

The editorial focuses on one footnote in a 1989 amicus brief, which addressed the soundness of the basic right guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. In that case, Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the government was urging the high court to overturn Roe v. Wade. The brief was responsible and mainstream. It was endorsed by 77 organizations, including the National Women’s Law Center, and signed by 11 attorneys, including me.

It’s time to stop the inflammatory charges and ideological agendas and let Ms. Johnsen begin the long-overdue task of righting the course at the Office of Legal Counsel.



The National Women’s Law Center


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