Obama taps adjunct for special counsel

President Barack Obama nominated a GW Law School professor last month to lead the Office of Special Counsel for his administration.

Carolyn Lerner – an adjunct professor working at GW since the spring of 2007 – must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before her five-year term as special counsel can begin. The OSC is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency that helps protect government whistle-blowers.

“GW Law is delighted the White House has recommended Professorial Lecturer in Law Carolyn Lerner to head the Office of Special Counsel,” GW Law School Interim Dean Gregory Maggs said. “In addition to honoring professor Lerner’s accomplishments in employment and civil rights law, her nomination also demonstrates the strength of GW Law’s adjunct faculty.”

If confirmed, Lerner will be faced with the task of restoring credibility to the OSC, which ran aground under the leadership of Scott Bloch during the George W. Bush administration.

“[Bloch] personified everything the office was created to fight,” said Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, an organization that supports the rights of whistle-blowers.

In October 2008, Bloch resigned under pressure from White House officials, about five months after the FBI raided his home and government office during an obstruction of justice probe. The probe was part of an inquiry into whether he had files deleted from his computer during an investigation of discrimination claims from his employees. The special counsel position has been vacant since Bloch’s resignation. Joe Newman, spokesman for the Project on Government Oversight, said whistle-blowers have had no one to turn to in the federal government for the past two years.

“Whistle-blowers need a strong advocate, someone to look out for their interests and to make sure that they are not retaliated against for bringing corruption to light,” Newman said in an e-mail.

With Lerner’s nomination, some in the whistle-blower rights community are confident that credibility will be restored to the Office of Special Counsel.

“Ms. Lerner is an outstanding selection who has been widely praised within the whistle-blower rights community,” Devine said. “Her appointment signals the president’s commitment for the Office of Special Counsel to regain credibility with government whistle-blowers.”

Lerner directed all inquiries to the White House press office.

“Carolyn Lerner is someone who understands the human elements of complex and demanding workforces. She’s not only an experienced lawyer but a committed and active community member as well, and the president is confident that she’ll be an exceptional special counsel,” White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said in an e-mail.

University spokeswoman Courtney Bowe said Lerner won’t be teaching this spring, but “would like to return to teaching after her appointment.”

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