The Wall Street Journal reports that in January, President Obama will nominate DC’s Virginia Seitz to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. OLC hasn’t had a confirmed head since July 2004.
NPR reported back on August 4 that Seitz, who is a respected appellate litigator at Sidley Austin, was the front-runner for that post. And her name had been making the rounds locally for a couple months before that, making this a very long-running trial balloon indeed.
The Journal reports that “[s]everal conservatives contacted Tuesday . . . warned her nomination could run into trouble if Republicans object to her shortage of national-security experience.” National security law has certainly been an increasingly important part of OLC’s docket since 9/11. But while Jack Goldsmith had experience in national security law before coming to OLC, Jay Bybee (who was confirmed in October 2001) did not. (Of course, some critics would say that Bybee’s lack of preexisting experience in the area played a role in the Office’s issuance of national security opinions that have been controversial.) Before 9/11, OLC heads frequently had no significant pre-existing experience in that area.
The Journal reports that the Obama Administration will name Caroline Krass as the Principal Deputy in the Office. That may help to blunt the criticism that Ms. Seitz lacks national security experience: Caroline (who was a classmate of mine in law school) has extensive experience in national security law, and during my tenure at OLC, she was one of the foremost OLC experts in the area. And she’s worked in national security while in her current position in the White House.