Eric Holder Jr. and David Ogden, two men who have split their time since the mid-1990s between Main Justice and Big Law, are drawing on that experience to recruit their top assistants.
They're preparing to surround themselves with lawyers from Covington & Burling and from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr -- their respective firms for the last eight years -- as well as from the ranks of the Clinton-era Department of Justice.
Justice officials say that Holder, whose nomination to be attorney general is scheduled for a Senate vote Monday, has chosen Kevin Ohlson as his chief of staff. Ohlson, who is currently the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, served as Holder's chief of staff when he was deputy attorney general.
Stuart Delery is Ogden's pick for chief of staff if Ogden is confirmed as deputy attorney general, according to the Justice Department. A Wilmer alum, Delery specializes in securities litigation. He represented the special investigative committees convened by the boards at both Enron and Worldcom. He was also on the team of Wilmer lawyers that represented the University of Michigan in the high-profile Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the consideration of race as a factor in admissions.
Despite the appointments, the transition is moving slower than Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) hoped for in December, when he said he wanted the Senate to vote on most Justice Department nominees shortly after President Barack Obama's inauguration. Republicans pushed for more time to examine Holder's record and ask him questions in writing, and all senators have been occupied with the economic stimulus proposal.
Holder cleared his biggest obstacle to confirmation last week when the Judiciary Committee gave the Covington partner a 17-2 vote of confidence. Ogden, a partner at Wilmer, is scheduled to go before the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 5. Hearings have not been scheduled for other nominees, such as Dawn Johnsen, who would lead the Office of Legal Counsel, or Solicitor General-designate Elena Kagan.
Liberal activists say they expect Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor who was acting OLC director in 1997-98, to draw the most opposition, in part because of her work for NARAL Pro-Choice America. She has also been a prominent critic of the Bush administration's national security policies, including the OLC's authorization of waterboarding under then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo. For that, The Wall Street Journal's editorial board called her "President Gulliver's Lawyer."
For Ogden's nomination, Republicans haven't given any public hints about their strategy. They say a lot will depend on what comes out of the large volumes of documents involved, including his recent casework and records of his time as head of the Civil Division from 1999 to 2001.
Among the Justice Department appointees who have already moved into Main Justice is Amy Jeffress, who has been detailed from the National Security Division in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. She'll serve as Holder's counselor on national security matters. Margaret Richardson, former director of California Women for Obama, was hired as counselor to the attorney general for executive branch relations. She had previously been the director of the Clean Slate Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center, based in Berkeley, Calif.
Covington partners James Garland and John Bies are also following Holder into the front office as counselors, though it's less clear what lays in store for them. Covington made Bies and Garland partner in October in the firm's litigation and white-collar practice. Former Covington associate Aaron Lewis has also joined as counsel.
Ogden's potential stable is filling up as quickly. His top deputy would be Kathryn Ruemmler, who left Latham & Watkins in January for the Justice Department. She was deputy director of the Enron task force and served as an associate White House counsel during the Clinton administration. As principal associate deputy attorney general, Ruemmler is the highest-ranking Obama appointee currently inside Justice.
Lisa Monaco, chief of staff to FBI Director Robert Mueller III, has been appointed associate deputy attorney general. Monaco, who also served on the Enron task force, will handle the national security portfolio in the DAG's office. She's working alongside Associate Deputy Attorney General Neil MacBride, who until recently was vice president for anti-piracy and general counsel of the Business Software Alliance. Before joining the BSA, MacBride was staff director and chief counsel to then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2001 to 2005. MacBride also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District's office for four years.
Former Wilmer counsel Eric Columbus and associates Daphna Renan and Chad Golder have taken up residence in the DAG's office, Columbus as senior counsel, Renan and Golder as counsel. And Ed Siskel, a prosecutor on detail from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois, is serving as senior counsel.
WINDING ROAD TO JUSTICE
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, said at a news conference last week that he was beginning to meet privately with those who require confirmation. "Some of them have a fairly extensive paper trail. I think it is very important on those appointments that we have an adequate amount of time," Specter said.
The Judiciary Committee released Ogden's Senate questionnaire last week. A native of the District, he started college at Grinnell in Iowa in 1971 before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, and he spent a year in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University studying English literature before leaving for Harvard Law School in 1978. He taught English as a second language in Bogota, Colombia, and he worked as a research assistant to Harvard President Derek Bok.
After two years of clerking, including one with Justice Harry Blackmun, Ogden worked as an associate and, later, as a partner at what was then Ennis, Friedman, Bersoff & Ewing in Washington. The firm dissolved in 1988, and three of its four D.C. partners, including Ogden, went to Jenner & Block. Bruce Ennis, veteran Supreme Court advocate and former national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, went, too.
In a contrast to Holder and Kagan, Ogden, 55, has extensive appellate experience. His name appears on 80 briefs filed with the Supreme Court on cases that reached the merits, and on 163 petitions for certiorari. On behalf of the American Psychological Association and others, he filed an amicus curiae brief in Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, arguing unsuccessfully against state anti-sodomy laws, and in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 decision that overturned Bowers.
A civil libertarian streak has run through much of Ogden's work in private practice; he's represented Playboy Enterprises in First Amendment litigation and librarians' associations that opposed congressionally mandated Internet filtering software. He's also advocated pro bono for at least three death-row inmates. But he's also performed corporate work on behalf of Shell Oil, Fannie Mae and the pharmaceutical industry. He represented the American Legacy Foundation, a public health nonprofit created under the 1998 settlement between the states and major tobacco companies, in litigation with Lorillard Tobacco, which argued that the foundation's advertising violated the settlement.
He reported to the Senate household assets of $3.9 million, including a $1.5 million house in Arlington, Va., and stock and mutual fund holdings of $1.2 million.
In the questionnaire, Ogden also describes a mishap that caused the brief suspension of his Virginia Bar license. In 1994, when he was deputy general counsel at the Defense Department, he wrote that he barely had time to fulfill his continuing legal education credits, and the bar did not receive the required form until after the deadline. "I immediately paid the penalty and was reinstated as a routine matter," Ogden wrote.
Todd Hinnen, a former chief counsel to Biden and a national security specialist, is helping to shepherd the Ogden nomination through the Senate.