Another top official is leaving the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, just weeks after the acting head of the office, David Barron, announced he is returning to teach at Harvard Law School.
Marty Lederman, a deputy assistant attorney general who joined OLC in January 2009, will resume his teaching post at Georgetown University Law Center this fall. Lederman, who was on leave from Georgetown, said Tuesday evening he will teach a class on separation of powers.
The office, which provides legal advice to the president and executive agencies, has not had a Senate-approved leader since Jack Goldsmith, who was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2003. Obama's first pick, Dawn Johnsen, didn't gain traction in the Senate. Johnsen withdrew earlier this year.
Georgetown’s interim dean, Judith Areen, on Tuesday called Lederman a “respected and talented” member of the faculty and that the law school is “delighted” to have him return.
Lederman, part of the Obama transition team, said he and Barron did not plan to stay at OLC for more than two years. Lederman, who was an attorney advisor in OLC from 1994 to 2002, intends to remain with DOJ through August.
Lederman said he is confident the new acting head of OLC, Jonathan Cedarbaum, will do a “terrific” job. OLC, Lederman said, is fully staffed with about 20 line attorneys for the first time since the transition to the Obama administration.
Cedarbaum, a former litigation partner in the Washington office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, is the principal deputy assistant attorney general and will run the office until a permanent leader is nominated and confirmed. Another Wilmer litigation partner, Jeannie Rhee, also left the firm last year to join OLC as a deputy assistant attorney general.
At Wilmer, Cedarbaum was part of the team that represented six natives of Algeria, including Lakhdar Boumediene, who won a landmark ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. The ruling gave prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay naval facility a right to challenge detention in federal district court. Cedarbaum worked on the Supreme Court papers.
Earlier this year, Cedarbaum and others at DOJ who worked pro bono on detainee matters came under fire from conservatives who questioned the allegiance of department lawyers. Managing partners in Big Law defended the attorneys, as did Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. during a speech in March.
As top officials leave OLC, the Obama administration is mum on a permanent leader. Obama has not nominated an assistant attorney general to lead OLC since Johnsen withdrew in April amid criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Johnsen blamed lengthy delays.
Johnsen is a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law who had served in the Clinton administration Justice Department as acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel.