Obama's Lawyered-Up Cabinet: An Update


Just when it looked like that no more lawyers would join the Obama cabinet, The New York Times is reporting that Santa Clara University Law School graduate Leon Panetta will be the nominee as CIA director.  The former Clinton administration budget director and chief-of-staff is not known for his experience in the spy business, but this may have helped him because he is untainted by any association with intelligence failures and questionable policies on detainee interrogation faced by more experienced candidates.

The decision of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to withdraw his nomination as commerce secretary has revived the possibility that Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm may be named to the post. A former US Attorney and state attorney general, Granholm is an 1987 graduate of the Harvard Law School.  The fact that the injection of TARP money into the U.S. auto industry has only punted the problem into the Obama administration's arms may make a Michigander a good fit for the head of the Commerce Department, since that agency will have to be a big part of any halfway permanent solution to Detroit's woes.

By the way, Panetta is not the first lawyer to head the CIA; four other attorneys preceded him--William E. Colby (Columbia Law School 1941), William J. Casey (St. John's 1937), William Webster (Washington University in St. Louis 1949), and R. James Woolsey, Jr. (Yale 1968). And the CIA's immediate predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), was created during WWII by Wall Street lawyer William "Wild Bill" Dovovan.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE:  Obama names Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan as the new Solicitor General. CNN has this announcement and that of some DOJ subcabinet picks here, including the naming of Dawn Johnsen as director of the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel.  This is particularly interesting because Johnson recently penned a major critique of the Bush OLC for the UCLA Law Review.