No. 2 Justice Dept. official leaving for law firm

AP News
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Posted: Dec 03, 2009 5:37 PM

The No. 2 official at the Justice Department announced Thursday he is leaving the job after less than a year. A person familiar with the decision said he was asked to leave by Attorney General Eric Holder.

David Ogden, a prominent Washington lawyer, is headed back to his former firm, WilmerHale.

As Holder's top deputy, Ogden oversaw a crackdown on Mexican drug cartels and coordinated various law enforcement agencies that work under the Justice Department.

Ogden plans to continue in the position until Feb. 5, and no successor has been named for the position, which is a presidential appointment that must be confirmed by Congress.

Holder has gathered a number of strong personalities with impressive legal resumes for senior positions at the department, and in Ogden's case, it seems not to have been a good fit.

A person familiar with Ogden's departure, who wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Holder asked Ogden to leave because of differences in management styles.

Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration who works at WilmerHale and knows many of the lawyers now running the Justice Department, said Ogden made important contributions, beginning with his work on the Obama transition team.

"I think the decision reflects differences between Eric and David on what the deputy should do, and that happens," said Gorelick. "It's clear they had different views on what the deputy's office should do, and Eric should have a deputy who does it the way he wants it."

In a statement, Ogden said he was leaving because he had helped put the Justice Department on the right path for the Obama administration, starting with his work on Obama's transition team.

It is unusual but not unprecedented for such a high-level position to empty within the first year of a new administration.

At the beginning of the Clinton administration, then-deputy attorney general Phil Heymann left after less than a year. Heymann and then-attorney general Janet Reno differed over how their offices should interact in managing the department.