Dawn Johnsen

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Dawn Johnsen is a professor of law at Indiana University, whose faculty she joined the faculty in 1998. Her research interests include issues of separation of powers (especially presidential power) and civil liberties (especially reproductive rights).[1] She was nominated, by President Barack Obama, to serve as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel. As of February 2010, however, the U.S. Senate had not confirmed the nomination; the question had been asked if the President will fight for this and a number of other nominations. [2] She and the Administration withdrew the nomination on 9 April 2010. She cited Republican reactions to her criticisms of torture policies of the previous administration.[3]

Part of the controversy surrounding her nomination, in the present political client, is that she has been involved in reproductive rights from a "pro-choice" perspective. She served in the U.S. Department of Justice under President Bill Clinton (1993-1998), including as Acting Assistant Attorney General heading the Office of Legal Counsel where she provided constitutional and other legal advice to the Attorney General, the Counsel to the President, and the general counsels of the various executive branch agencies. From 1988-1993, she was the Legal Director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (now NARAL Pro-Choice America). She also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project and clerked for Judge Richard D. Cudahy of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Johnsen serves on the national board of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) and as co-chair of the ACS Issue Group on Separation of Powers and Federalism.


Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) agreed to change to a "for" position in January 2010. [4]


She is strongly opposed by Republicans and conservatives over her pro-choice views, which are consistent with that of the Administration. The Traditional Values Coalition calls her an "extremist", with specific objections that she is a "defender of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which will wipe out virtually all state laws dealing with abortion or parental consent/notification...Johnsen has been a longtime critic of President "[5]

Opposition in the House of Representatives, which has no authority over the confirmation, includes comment by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, who said "Johnsen is a radically pro-abortion nominee with a record that demonstrates a cruel bias and an insidious discrimination against babies” - a record he said disqualified her for the post.

In a second letter submitted to President Obama on his own behalf and that of 62 fellow Congressmen, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) who said the President broken is promise to find “common ground” on the issue of abortion. “She has condemned virtually every type of regulation of abortion conceived by a legislature, no matter how mild the regulation or how shocking the practice regulated, as unacceptable,” [6]