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David Ogden in 2000 (AP/Photo by Linda Spillers, file)

Clears hurdle

Politics | Despite opposition from conservative groups, David Ogden, Obama's controversial pick for the No. 2 slot at the Justice Department, moves toward Senate confirmation

WASHINGTON-President Obama's controversial deputy attorney general nominee, David Ogden, cleared his first hurdle Thursday, getting the endorsement of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 14-5 vote. This sends Ogden's nomination for the No. 2 position at the Justice Department to the full Senate, where a vote has not been scheduled.

Ogden has come under fire by conservative groups for arguing on behalf of clients who defended abortion and pornography in cases focused on First Amendment litigation.

At Thursday's committee meeting, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said an "impressive number"-totaling more than 11,000-of opposing phone calls, emails, and letters had poured in opposing Ogden's nomination.

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But Specter supported the nominee, saying there should be a distinction between what a lawyer personally believes and what he does when representing a client. He added that numerous justice department officials from the Bush administration have supported Ogden.

However, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he could not back Ogden.

"The pattern here is so consistent and the record is so long that it does give me pause," Hatch said. "The pornography industry is excited about Mr. Ogden's nomination, apparently not making a distinction between their views and his."

Every Democrat on the committee voted for Ogden's nomination, while Hatch and Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) opposed him.

Democratic Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, in supporting Ogden, said he represented his clients straightforwardly and honestly. He added that Republicans who could not separate the lawyer from the client were using the same tactic they once criticized Democrats of employing during the confirmation process for some of President Bush's judicial appointees.

In a brief Ogden filed on behalf of the American Psychological Association in 1992, during the abortion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, he wrote: "Abortion rarely causes or exacerbates psychological or emotional problems. When women do experience regret, depression, or guilt, such feelings are mild and diminish rapidly without adversely affecting general functioning. The few women who do experience negative psychological responses after abortion appear to be those with preexisting emotional problems."

Ogden also filed a brief against the Children's Internet Protection Act, which requires public libraries to shelter minors from obscenity and pornography. Ogden objected to the congressional mandate that public libraries censor constitutionally protected material.

During his confirmation hearing in early February, Ogden said he was representing his clients' views at the time and that he believes children should be protected from material that is obscene to them.

"I think that's a different standard than what is obscene as to adults," he said. "I think it's appropriate for parents to want to have protections with respect to those materials."

Ogden added that if confirmed he would "aggressively enforce the laws."

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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