Yesterday, I attended a legal affairs briefing at the White House for a small group of associations in the legal field. Several senior White House and Department of Justice officials discussed the administration priorities for law related issues. It was exciting to be at the White House. No matter how many times I visit or in which administration, I always feel the sense of history.
Some points from our briefing of potential interest to the in-house legal community:
1. Our best foreign policy tool is the example we set at home. For example, our civil rights initiatives and “capacity for self-correction” are powerful tools for foreign policy.
2. The Domestic Policy Counsel seeks to implement the President’s priorities.
3. Equal pay for women has become a priority civil rights issue because the pay gap for women in the US is much larger than other countries.
4. They are seeking to increase funding for civil rights agencies so they have necessary resources for enforcement and dialog.
5. Because of his background, issues involving law and justice are of particular importance to the President.
6. The White House is focusing on judicial nominations because one of the most important legacies for any President is the people he leaves on the bench.
7. The Administration wishes to restore the Department of Justice to its “traditional” role in anti-trust, environment, civil rights and white-collar crime enforcement. The Civil Rights Division “is back in business” but they noted that the role of enforcement has changed and they will address voting rights, census and LGBT issues.
8. DOJ seeks to remove politics from hiring.
9. First Lady Michelle Obama also has great interest in these issues because of her background as a lawyer.
10. The Administration considers diversity to be especially important in judicial nominations. It also views diversity in a wider and deeper context than previous Administrations with both demographic and experiential diversity being important. The Administration seeks nominees with real world experience beyond government and academia, including specific references to in-house practice.
The briefing was an excellent opportunity for ACC and the other associations to hear from the administration. The officials indicated a strong desire to reach out to and receive feedback from the association legal community.