Almost a year after his original nomination to the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, Christopher Schroeder’s confirmation is finally in sight.
Schroeder, Charles S. Murphy professor of law and public policy studies at Duke School of Law, was first nominated May 21, 2009 by President Barack Obama to head the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice.
After the U.S. Senate adjourned in December without acting on Schroeder’s nomination, Obama resubmitted his nomination in January. The nomination was passed on to the Senate floor by a 16-3 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 4. Last week, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., lifted his “blanket hold” on about 70 nominations, paving the way for a confirmation vote by the full Senate in the next few weeks.
“[The nomination] was a surprise in that I hadn’t anticipated doing anything in the administration,” Schroeder said, “But I am delighted to be thought of as someone to take over the Office of Legal Policy.”
Schroeder said he could be confirmed in as little as two weeks, but he left open the possibility that the process could take much longer or that he could not be confirmed at all, depending on what happens in the Senate.
“It’s largely a matter of what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.] is thinking, and I don’t know what he’s thinking,” Schroeder said. “I’m ready to go whenever the Senate confirms me.”
As assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy, Schroeder would serve as the primary policy advisor to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. He would also be responsible for advising and assisting the president and the attorney general in the selection and confirmation of federal judges.
Schroeder has previously served as acting assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice in former president Bill Clinton’s administration. He was also general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee when it was chaired by then-senator Joe Biden.
Sen. Ted Kaufman [D-Del.] was Biden’s chief of staff when he first met Schroeder in 1985. Schroeder and Kaufman are currently co-teaching a class for the Federal Policy Process program in the Duke School of Law’s Duke in D.C. program.
“His experience is perfect for the kind of position he’ll be taking,” Kaufman said. “He is very smart, has great integrity and principles and is a great manager. He personifies what the country is looking for in its top officials at the Justice Department.”
Paul Haagen, professor of law and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the law school, has been Schroeder’s colleague for 25 years.
“When a faculty member returns to Duke after having served in the government, it brings a richness of understanding of Washington back to Duke, and provides valuable insights into our work here at the law school,” he said.
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Frances Presma, assistant director of communications at Duke Law, wrote in an e-mail that Duke currently has two professors on leave to serve in the government. Arti Rai, the Elvin R. Latty professor of law, is presently serving as administrator for external affairs at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Stuart Benjamin, the Douglas B. Maggs chair in law, is currently the inaugural distinguished visiting scholar in residence at the Federal Communications Commission.
Schroeder said he does not have any idea how long he will be in the post if he is confirmed, but he anticipates coming back to teach at Duke after he steps down.
“What I most enjoy about my career is being mainly based in the University but being able to take time off to do government work,” he said. “It is really the combination of government and academic work which has made me so far very satisfied.”