Sen. Jeff Sessions has chosen Brian Benczkowski, a former chief of staff to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, to lead the Republican staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sessions (R-Ala.) also announced three more top appointments or promotions today, drawing on lawyers who already work on the committee's staff or who did so previously. The changes mark a complete turnover in the leadership of the Republican staff, a week after Sessions replaced Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania as the committee's top GOP member.
The new leadership team will be responsible for leading the Republican response to President Barack Obama's choice for the Supreme Court, as well as to other nominees for the judiciary and the Justice Department. They will also work on a wide variety of legislation related to the courts, law enforcement, and other issues that fall within the committee's jurisdiction.
Benczkowski worked for Mukasey until January, when both left the Justice Department at the end of the Bush administration. He has also been deputy assistant attorney general in the department's Office of Legislative Affairs and chief of staff at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Benczkowski (Virginia, Washington University Law) is also a former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee.
Benczkowski succeeds Stephanie Middleton, a former chief counsel for litigation at health insurer Cigna who had worked for the Judiciary Committee since 2006.
William Smith will be chief counsel, succeeding Nick Rossi, a former FBI agent. Smith worked for Sessions from 2001 to 2006 as chief counsel for the judiciary subcommittee on oversight. He most recently was executive director of congressional relations at Americans for Limited Government. Smith (Alabama, Alabama Law) also worked as an associate at Starnes & Atchison in Birmingham, Ala.
Joe Matal, who has worked as a counsel to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on a judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, will be general counsel to the Republican staff. Matal (Stanford, Berkeley Law) previously was a policy director to Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).
Matt Miner will be deputy staff director, moving up from his position as chief counsel to Sessions on the judiciary subcommittee for oversight. Miner (Cincinnati, Michigan Law) also previously worked as a counsel to Specter and as an assistant U.S. attorney in Alabama.