The Senate voted 65-28 today to confirm David Ogden as deputy attorney general, pushing aside criticism of his clients in private practice as senators inch toward filling the top ranks of the Justice Department.
Ogden, 55, will be the No. 2 official at the department, and he’ll be responsible for its day-to-day operations. He has been a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr since 2001. During the Clinton administration, he held positions including deputy general counsel for the Defense Department, chief of staff to then-Attorney General Janet Reno, and assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
A vote on the nomination of Thomas Perrelli to be associate attorney general, the department’s No. 3 position, is expected about 4 p.m. He is the managing partner of Jenner & Block’s D.C. office.
Senators debated the Ogden nomination for about six hours Wednesday and today, though they spent part of that time veering into unrelated discussions about spending and the economy.
Though confirmation was never in serious doubt, Republicans delayed a vote by several days when they initially declined to agree to guidelines for a floor debate. The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Ogden (below) on a 14-5 vote two weeks ago.
Criticism of Ogden has focused on his work in obscenity-related First Amendment cases, in which his clients included librarians, booksellers, Playboy magazine, and PHE Inc., which sells explicit materials. Most of those cases took place two decades ago when he worked alongside Bruce Ennis, a former ACLU national legal director. His clients at Wilmer were more likely to be major corporations, including Shell Oil Co. and pharmaceutical manufacturers, though he has also filed briefs in controversial Supreme Court cases involving the death penalty and state sodomy laws.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the criticisms of Ogden — including that he would not strictly enforce child pornography laws — are unfounded. “It’s an appalling statement,” he said. “The major organizations that are concerned about the welfare of our children in this country support David Ogden.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also defended Ogden, noting that he was advocating on behalf of clients and not expressing his personal views. Leahy added that Ogden had worked for a “mainstream men’s magazine.”
The Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), dismissed suggestions that the Senate was dragging its feet on Justice Department nominations. “We are voting on Mr. Ogden’s nomination faster than on any of President Bush’s nominees,” Specter said.
Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi