We're getting a clearer picture of the new Justice Department’s top ranks, as Attorney General nominee Eric Holder Jr.’s confirmation hearings begin.
The leading candidate to head the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, who is Holder’s partner at Covington & Burling, was named by the The Washington Post last week. The BLT has learned of a few more frontrunners for top DOJ slots:
• Morrison & Foerster’s D. Anthony West is the leading pick to head the department’s Civil Division, according to two sources. West joined the firm in 2001, after stints as special assistant attorney general to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, an assistant U.S. attorney in San Francisco, and a special assistant to Deputy Attorneys General Philip Heymann and Jamie Gorelick in the Clinton administration.
West (Stanford Law), who met Barack Obama as a Kerry delegate in 2004, was a top official in Obama’s California campaign operation. At MoFo, his practice straddles corporate litigation, white-collar criminal defense, civil rights and civil liberties matters, securities litigation, and antitrust.
He was also part of a team of lawyers representing Mark Klein, the former AT&T employee who in 2007 went public with documents that he said showed how the National Security Agency tapped into the telecom’s network at a facility in San Francisco.
• Thomas Saenz, counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is the leading candidate to head the Civil Rights Division, the sources say. Before joining Villaraigosa’s administration, Saenz (Yale Law) was a top lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he handled cases over affirmative action, educational equity, employment discrimination, immigrants' rights, language rights, and day laborers' rights. (Click here for a brief bio from the Equal Justice Society.)
• Mayer Brown’s Mark Gitenstein is Obama’s leading choice to head the Office of Legal Policy, according to the sources. Before joining the firm in 1989, he served as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1989—while Vice President-elect Joe Biden was chairman—and minority chief counsel to the committee from 1981 to 1987.
Gitenstein (Georgetown Law), who sits on the advisory board for Obama's transition team, concentrates on government relations at Mayer.
• Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal, who successfully argued the landmark detainee rights case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld before the Supreme Court, is the top pick for principal deputy solicitor general, the office’s No. 2 spot, the sources say. From 1998 to 1999, Katyal (Yale Law) served as Holder’s national security adviser in the Justice Department.
The Hamdan ruling, which found that the Bush administration's military commissions for trying suspected terrorists violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions, was a stinging rebuke to the president's broad assertion of wartime power.