The ‘sea change’ at Justice

THE ‘SEA CHANGE’ AT JUSTICE…. When it comes to delivering “change,” and reversing the humiliating practices of the previous administration, perhaps no part of the executive branch is getting the kind of overhaul we’re seeing at the Justice Department.

“I can’t imagine a more challenging time to come in as attorney general,” said Walter Dellinger, a legal scholar who was an acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration. “The number of legal issues left behind to be resolved is really staggering.”

In the Justice Department, there is considerable restiveness as employees await new direction. The civil rights division, which had been reshaped in a conservative direction under President George W. Bush, is ripe for sharp change, administration officials said.

“Many of us cannot wait for the changes,” said one career lawyer in the division, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the atmosphere. […]

The shift is expected to be more stark than that of a transition from one party to another. It may resemble the start of the Reagan administration, with its promise of wide philosophical change to be put into effect by a cadre of enthusiastic outsiders and academics, whose views on how to run the department have simmered after years of watching from the outside.

It’s about time. The NYT report noted the areas where Obama administration policy will break with the Bush status quo at the Justice Department, and it’s quite a list — from creating a new detention policy for terrorism suspects to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the so-called state secrets doctrine.

An Obama administration lawyer said, “This will be a sea change of what went on before.”

What’s more, there’s just the right team to do it. While some areas of the Obama cabinet are more encouraging than others, the new Justice Department leaders — A.G., Deputy A.G., OLC, Solicitor General, Justice’s national security division — couldn’t represent a more thorough and encouraging break from the Bush era.

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