Updated at 10:28 a.m.
By Mike Scarcella and David Ingram
The U.S. Justice Department announced this morning that its No. 2 official, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, is leaving in February after 11 months on the job.
The decision is a personal one, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in an interview. “He worked really hard during the transition and worked hard during his year here, and he has a desire to get back to private life,” Holder said.
Ogden was a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr before the Senate confirmed him as deputy attorney general in March. His practice included appellate litigation, including working with former solicitor general Seth Waxman on high-profile cases before the U.S. Supreme Court — cases that prompted some opposition during Ogden’s confirmation process.
Holder said he and Ogden had been talking about Ogden’s plans “for a bit” but did not elaborate.
“These are difficult jobs. I was deputy attorney general and I know how physically demanding it can be,” Holder said. “I think that he thought he’d done a lot to get the department on the path that he wanted to have. He thinks it’s now time to get back. I’m going to miss him but I understand why he wants to do this.”
Ogden was not immediately available for comment, but he said in a statement that he has accomplished the objectives he set out a year ago. It was not announced whether Ogden would return to Wilmer.
Below is the official release from the Justice Department.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL DAVID OGDEN TO LEAVE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
WASHINGTON – Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden announced today that he will leave the Department on February 5, 2010 to return to private practice. Prior to joining the Department as Deputy Attorney General in March, Ogden chaired the Obama Administration’s transition team for the Department of Justice.
“David Ogden has been an invaluable leader for the Department of Justice and for this Administration,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “From leading the transition team that established early goals for the Department to spearheading major initiatives such as our effort to fight health care fraud, he has been an effective and diligent advocate for the American people. Through his work here, he has helped reinvigorate the Department’s traditional missions, restore its reputation for independence, and make the country safer and more secure. I am sorry to see him go, and I thank him for his service to the Department and to the nation.”
Prior to his confirmation, Deputy Attorney General Ogden was a partner at the law firm of WilmerHale, which he joined in 2001. He previously served in senior positions at the Department of Justice during the Clinton Administration.
Deputy Attorney General Ogden made the following statement:
“I took a leave from my practice of law thirteen months ago on Election Day to lead the Department of Justice transition for President Obama. My hope then was to identify the goals for a successful transition at a critical time for the Department, when its credibility was under attack and when its traditional law enforcement missions had suffered. During the transition, President-elect Obama and Attorney General-designate Holder asked me to serve as the Deputy Attorney General, which gave me the opportunity to complete the transition process and see the Department solidly on a path to achieving those goals. I accepted that challenge, with the intention of returning to my practice as soon as I felt the Department was firmly on that path.
“I believe the objectives established over a year ago have been accomplished. In order to afford the President and the Attorney General sufficient time to identify my successor and to ensure a smooth transition, I have agreed to continue to serve until February 5, 2010, when I will step down to return to private practice.
“The Department today is on the path we first set out over a year ago. First, we have reinvigorated the Department’s traditional law enforcement mission with new resources and new initiatives. I am proud of the work we have done in establishing a Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to fight financial crime, leading a Health Care Prevention Task Force that has already pursued major prosecutions, establishing a Border Working Group to combat Mexican cartels, and attacking international organized crime through increased intelligence sharing with our partners. We have implemented new policies to stem the terrible tide of violence against women and children in Indian Country, crafted budgets that will provide critical new funding for law enforcement, civil rights and our nation’s prison system, and we will soon make key recommendations for reforms of sentencing and corrections policy. I appreciate the Attorney General’s having asked me to lead these initiatives and am proud of the progress we have made.
“Second, we have taken significant steps to ensure that we vigorously protect our national security consistent with the rule of law, including working closely with the FBI and the Intelligence Community on major counter-terrorism investigations, working on closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and bringing perpetrators to justice in federal courts or military commissions, and developing a new policy for effective and lawful interrogations.
“Third, we have substantially restored the Department’s historically strong relationship with state, local, and tribal law enforcement through outreach and inclusion on the Department’s major initiatives including the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force and HEAT.
“And finally, we have put in place a terrific senior management team that under the Attorney General’s leadership will build on this foundation. Through our work in each of these areas, the goals I hoped to achieve when I accepted this position either have been or soon will be fulfilled. The Department is in good hands, and I feel I can now return to the private practice I have missed these thirteen months.
“It has been a singular privilege to work alongside the Department’s dedicated career professionals, whose commitment to the national interest and the cause of justice is an inspiration to me. I am very grateful to President Obama and Attorney General Holder for the opportunity to serve my country and the Department of Justice in this Administration, and I will continue to assist them in any way possible.”