Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The DOD's New General Counsel (and his two guiding principles)

And a welcome sight he is:

Within hours of being sworn in as the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense on Feb. 10, Jeh C. Johnson circulated a rare, if not unprecedented, e-mail to all 10,000 civilian and military lawyers working for the agency. "I wanted to send a message, and thought it would be significant if I sent it on my first day in office," said Mr. Johnson, 51, who, left a lucrative partner position at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to take the third public service job of his 27-year career. A witness to the 9/11 terror attacks, Mr. Johnson said he left his law practice because he was concerned about the safety of the country and his own family. But he said that an uncle's experience with racial prejudice during World War II also has taught him that a concern for safety must be leavened with a respect for the law.

As general counsel, Mr. Johnson supervises an office of 100 attorneys, which functions as the principal legal adviser to Defense Secretary Robert M.

Gates. In the e-mail<>bearing

his general introductory remarks to his new colleagues he vowed that he would be guided by two basic principles. First, he said that "our advice concerning the rule of law must remain consistent throughout changing and challenging times. Adherence to the rule of law permits us to occupy the moral high ground, and display the very best of American values." In that regard, he quoted Justice Sandra O'Connor's opinion in *Hamdi v.


542 U.S. 507 (2004), which reversed the denial of a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of a U.S. citizen being detained indefinitely as an "illegal enemy combatant" under procedures Mr. Johnson's predecessor as general counsel helped develop. In *Hamdi*, Justice O'Connor wrote: "It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our nation's commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad."

Second, Johnson pledged to foster "a collegial and collaborative working relationship between civilian and military lawyers," which would go "a long way toward timely, effective and quality legal services and legal advice."

Imagine (if you can) how many lives could have been saved over these past eight years if someone with principles like these had been in the position that Johnson is in now....

Best of luck to you Jeh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

maybe .. ummm.... Jeh Charles Johnson needs.. ummm... speech ... coaching ..