[Orin Kerr, January 30, 2009 at 2:09pm] Trackbacks
Commentary on Obama White House Counsel's Staff:
A friend and former Bush Administration lawyer writes in with some interesting thoughts on the initial staffing of the Obama White House Counsel's Office:
The lawyers are all very accomplished, with pedigrees from elite universities and distinguished clerkships (Breyer and Stevens seem to be the biggest feeder judges). By my count, there are 4 Deputy White House Counsels, 1 Special Counsel, 14 Associate Counsels and 4 Deputy Associate counsels. The total numbers aren't particularly out of line with past offices except for the George W. Bush White House Counsel's Office at the start, which had a total of only ten lawyers - one counsel, one deputy and eight associates. Bush's Counsel's office was quite different, and much larger, at the end of his term, once investigations started.
Two things stand out about the new Counsel's Office staff. First, there are way more deputies than in the past, and the resumes of the deputies suggest that they will play a major role in policy development, possibly at the expense of the DOJ's OLC and other agencies. On the other hand, the Obama Administration has expanded the policy capacity of the White House staff in general (adding new policy czars in a number of areas), so perhaps the added number of legal deputies is simply necessary to address the internal White House needs of the new czars. Second and more puzzling, the new Counsel's Office will include a non-lawyer research director position -- staffed by a former campaign opposition research specialist. Hopefully journalists will press to find out why this position has been created. It could simply be a mechanism for rapid response on judicial nominations, but it could also signal a desire to run political opposition activity out of the legal shop, which would be very unfortunate.