- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009


Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen, President Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, is so radical that more than three-fifths of her home state’s Senate publicly urged the U.S. Senate to defeat her nomination. There is good reason for this opposition.

Thirty-one of 50 Indiana state senators sent a letter Monday to the state’s two U.S. senators, Republican Richard G. Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh, stating that Ms. Johnsen’s “extremely radical” pro-abortion views and her “harsh, sensationalizing rhetoric” make her unfit for appointment. The Office of Legal Counsel is the chief legal and constitutional analyst for the Justice Department and for all executive branch agencies.

Among Ms. Johnsen’s outlandish writings on abortion is one elocution, a Supreme Court brief she wrote in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, claiming that restrictions on the practice “reduce pregnant women to no more than fetal containers.” In the same brief, she claimed that to “curtail” a woman’s “abortion choice [is] disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment.” She also argued that government should remove tax-exempt status from the Catholic Church and other denominations because of their pro-life advocacy.

Ms. Johnsen’s political advocacy shows a profound disregard for the courts’ proper role. In another brief, for U.S. Catholic Conference v. Abortion Rights Mobilization, she wrote that pro-choice activists should “focus on the courts as the vehicle of desired change.” In other words, she sees the courts as making up just another political, policymaking branch of government, not as bodies restrained by the Constitution or existing laws. These statements all are pulled from formal papers and briefs submitted to the Supreme Court.

Liberal senators often have opposed pro-life judicial nominees because the politicians didn’t trust them to uphold existing law if it was at odds with the nominees’ personal views on abortion. They did this even in several cases in which the nominees had records of enforcing abortion laws that conflicted with their own pro-life beliefs. One such case was former Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr., now a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Ms. Johnsen is the flip side of the coin. She is guilty - in favor of abortion - of what the senators merely accused Mr. Pryor and others of doing against abortion: of asking judges to impose their own policy preferences against the dictates of existing constitutional law. Someone with such contemptuous views of the Constitution should not be the Obama administration’s chief constitutional interpreter.

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