Justice Department Comings and Goings

by Deborah Pearlstein

The Times and others are reporting that current Acting Head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Department of Justice, David Barron, will be leaving his post this summer to head back to his professorship at Harvard Law School. (OLC rose to national prominence during the last administration as the home of John Yoo and colleagues, who crafted unsupported legal arguments to justify the use of torture against detainees.) Barron has been the de facto head of the office throughout the Obama Administration, his tenure a result of Congress’ failure to confirm the President’s nominee for permanent head, Dawn Johnsen. Barron’s announcement comes on the heels of rumors in recent weeks that Barron’s OLC colleague, Marty Lederman, had also been planning to depart OLC sometime in the coming year, to return to his post as professor at Georgetown Law School.

At one level, such departures should be no surprise, coming around (or at least near) the 2-years-in-service mark, a time when many political appointees find themselves up against academic leave deadlines, or are otherwise longing for a return to their pre-government families and lives. Fair enough. Nonetheless, the departure of either or both will be a real loss to the Administration. Barron and Lederman have been deeply engaged in the suite of detainee issues the Administration has been grappling with since transition. We can hope to welcome them back to the blogosphere one of these days. But their real-time efforts inside DOJ will undoubtedly be missed.


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