President Obama has nominated senior White House lawyer Avril Haines to be the State Department's legal adviser.
If confirmed, she'll be the first woman to serve as the department's top lawyer, charged with providing legal advice on U.S. foreign policy and international law. It's a tall order at a time when the country is grappling with North Korean aggression as well as the war in Afghanistan—which at 11 years is longest in U.S. history—but lawyers who know Haines say she is up for the job.
“Avril is brilliant, principled, tireless, and hugely knowledgeable about all the challenging issues that arise in this job,” said Harold Koh, who returned to Yale Law School in January after serving for more than three years as the department’s legal adviser. “Most important, she is deeply humane and committed to the rule of law; it is an inspired choice.”
Haines, who is currently deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel to the president for national security affairs at the White House, is a State Department veteran. She worked in the Office of the Legal Adviser from 2003 until 2006,then was detailed to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 2007 to 2008, where she served as deputy chief counsel for the majority.
Back at the State Department, she became assistant legal adviser for treaty affairs before moving to the White House Counsel’s office in 2010. She earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and clerked for Judge Danny Boggs on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit from 2002 to 2003.
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner Jamie Gorelick, who previously served as deputy attorney general at the Justice Department as well as general counsel of the Department of Defense, praised Haines as “a true professional, respected by everyone in the national security and foreign policy legal world. In an arena in which legal acumen must combine with superb judgment, she is a star.”