This weekend two prominent conservatives added their voices to the calls to confirm Dawn Johnsen and Harold Koh. Douglas Kmiec and Kenneth Starr have come out in unequivocal support for Johnsen and Koh respectively.
Kmiec has long been a leading conservative legal scholar; he currently holds the Caruso Family Chair at Pepperdine University School of Law. He also held the same job to which Dawn Johnsen has been nominated: assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. He served that office under both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. So, as a former head of the OLC, he certainly understands the background and qualifications needed to handle the job. As he said in his endorsement of Johnsen in today's Legal Times, he recognizes that she is eminently qualified to take the helm at the OLC:
Dawn Johnsen's nomination to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel is caught up in an unjustified effort to hand President Barack Obama his first major loss. Some Senate Republicans seek to filibuster Johnsen into effective defeat. This would be a mistake... Her history demonstrates that Johnsen can and will separate law from politics and discharge the OLC's unique duty to assess the constitutionality and legality of executive initiative and legislative proposal. Even if the president did not also deserve the Senate's deference on the choice of his executive team, Dawn Johnsen merits confirmation.
In another surprising move, the Yale Daily News reports today that "in a speech at Yale Law School on Thursday, conservative icon Kenneth Starr announced his support for Koh [to be legal advisor to the State Department] before an audience of about 95 students and professors.
Starr, in addition to his most famous turn as an independent prosecutor, served as solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush and is currently dean of Pepperdine School of Law; his support of Koh is yet more evidence that Koh is extremely qualified and any attempts to stymie his nomination are little more than rank partisanship. As Akhil Amar, a professor at Yale University who attended Starr's speech, noted:
Amar said Starr's endorsement of Koh was also important given the past history between the two. When Koh challenged the right of the administration of George H.W. Bush... to detain Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Bay in the early 1990s, Starr -- then U.S. solicitor general -- argued on behalf of the administration. But Starr's respect for Koh never wavered, said Amar, who sat on a panel with Starr at Pepperdine in late March.
Starr and Kmiec were able to put politics aside and recognize how extraordinarily qualified both Koh and Johnsen are for the posts to which they are nominated. It is time for Senate Republicans to do the same. When Congress reconvenes next week the Senate should move to confirm these two exceptional individuals without delay.