Impressive New Team Taking Shape For DOJ

January 21, 2009 7:36 a.m.

It’s good to see that the grownups are back in charge at the Justice Department.

Even before the Senate has voted on Eric Holder’s nomination to be Attorney General, the department is filling up with respected legal figures whose records suggest an intention to use DOJ as America’s law firm, not the president’s.

Neal Katyal, the Georgetown Law professor who successfully challenged the military trials in Guantanamo while representing Osama bin Laden’s driver, will be deputy solicitor general. He’ll join Elena Kagan, the dean of Harvard Law School, who has been nominated to be Solicitor General.

Meanwhile, Katyal’s Georgetown colleague Marty Lederman — known to the blogosphere from his writing at the legal blog Balkanization — will return to the Office of Legal Counsel as deputy assistant Attorney General. With his record of opposition to warrantless wiretapping and torture, Lederman figures to represent quite a change — for the better — from another recent OLC lawyer, torture-memo author John Yoo.

Lederman will work with Dawn Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor and vocal critic of Bush terror policies, who’s been nominated to head the OLC, as well as David Barron, who will serve as the principal deputy. Both Johnsen and Barron served at OLC during the Clinton administration.

Add to that the news that fired US Attorney David Iglesias will be prosecuting Guantanamo cases as a military prosecutor, and you get the impression that on issues of justice, many of the wrongs of the Bush years are in the process of being righted.

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