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A Snapshot of Justice Dept. Nominee Dawn Johnsen: Office of Legal Counsel

Dawn Johnsen

Dawn Johnsen

By AllGov
Dawn E. Johnsen is an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s use of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)-a key part of the Department of Justice that she once led on an interim basis during the Clinton presidency and has been asked to lead again.

During her previous tenure at OLC, she advocated for increased executive power. In 2006, she joined with several other Clinton Justice Department officials in support of retaining the right of the president to use “signing statements” that allow him to bypass laws, claiming that the practice should be retained even if President Bush abused it.

Johnsen does not support the prosecution of CIA operatives and contract employees who committed torture. She does support investigating how it came to pass that the “OLC misinterpreted the law in a way that led to torture.”

Born August 14, 1961, and raised on Long Island, Johnsen graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale College in 1983, with a BA in economics and political science. She was accepted into Yale Law School, where she served as the article and book review editor of the Yale Law Journal. She received her JD in 1986, and proceeded to clerk for Judge Richard D. Cudahy on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. It was here that Johnsen met her future husband, fellow clerk John Hamilton.
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