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January 6, 2011 6:05 PM

Obama Reaches into Am Law Ranks for New Round of Appointments

Posted by Brian Baxter

After suffering his first defeat on federal judicial appointments by not renominating U.S. district court judge Robert Chatigny to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, President Barack Obama has reached into the Am Law 200 ranks to fill a series of new federal government positions.

Obama, himself a former summer associate at Sidley Austin, has tapped one of the firm's top appellate litigation partners, Virginia Seitz, to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), according to The Blog of Legal Times, a sibling publication.

Seitz's appointment comes eight months after Obama's previous nominee, Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen, withdrew her nomination after the Senate delayed a vote on her appointment for more than a year. The BLT reports that the OLC has been a flashpoint for partisan politics, particularly on issues relating to national security.

Seitz is an accomplished appellate litigator, having once authored an amicus brief on behalf of retired military officers in support of affirmative action in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger before the U.S. Supreme Court, The BLT reports. (Click here for a 2007 profile of Seitz by sibling publication The National Law Journal.)

According to The BLT, the OLC has not had a Senate-confirmed head since current Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith left in 2004. Congressional Democrats fought subsequent nominees by the Bush administration, and Republicans have returned the favor.

On Thursday, Obama officially tapped former Mayer Brown partner and Clinton administration Commerce Secretary William Daley to replace Rahm Emanuel as his new chief of staff. Emanuel stepped down from the post late last year to focus on a campaign to replace Daley's older brother, Richard, as mayor of Chicago.

Daley has served as a vice president at JPMorgan Chase since 2004, when the bank paid $58 billion to acquire Chicago-based Bank One. According to Forbes, Daley current holds the title of head of corporate responsibility and chairman of the Midwest region at JPMorgan, while also serving on the boards of Abbott Laboratories and Boeing. (Click here for a 2005 profile of Daley by Chicago magazine that recalls his time as a partner at Mayer Brown in the early 1990s.)

Another Am Law 100 alum, former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom litigation partner Christina Tchen, has been named to serve as First Lady Michelle Obama's chief of staff, according to the White House.

One of Obama's top fund-raisers during the 2008 presidential campaign, Tchen joined the administration after the election to run the Office of Public Engagement. She will now replace another lawyer, Susan Sher, a longtime Chicago public servant who served as Richard Daley's lead city attorney.

Obama also nominated Terence Flynn, a former labor and employment counsel at Crowell & Moring, to fill an open spot on the National Labor Relations Board. Flynn currently serves as chief counsel to the board's lone Republican, Brian Hayes. (The NLRB is an independent agency of the federal government that oversees unions, mediates disputes, and investigates unfair labor practices.)

Flynn, a Republican, was named to fill the seat previously held by Republican Peter Schaumber, whose term expired in August. Bloomberg reports that three Democrats currently serve on the five-member board, whose majority is historically composed of members of the sitting president's political party. The board's three Democrats--chairman Wilma Liebman and Craig Becker and Mark Pearce--have promised to broaden union rights, Bloomberg reports.

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