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Biden Picks Lawyers Tasked With Undoing Trump Ethics Legacy (1)

Jan. 11, 2021, 2:00 PM; Updated: Jan. 11, 2021, 4:49 PM

President-elect Joe Biden named more than 20 lawyers to his White House counsel’s office, where they will help the new president revise ethics standards and put his imprint on the federal bench.

The attorneys draw on expertise in civil rights, health, and environmental law, all topics that Biden has also said will be focal points in his administration. They offer a broad array of firm, in-house, and government experience, including in President Barack Obama’s Justice Department and firms such as WilmerHale LLP, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

The group includes Paige Herwig, who was counsel to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former House Committee on Oversight and Reform lawyer Janet Kim, and Lauren Moore, who was Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s lawyer on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The attorneys will work under Dana Remus, a former White House ethics lawyer who specialized in legal ethics at the University of North Carolina before being named Biden’s White House counsel.

“This qualified and crisis-tested legal team will ensure that this administration is accountable and always operates in service of the American people,” Biden said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg Law.

The bulk of ethics requirements guiding the U.S. government can be traced back to the Watergate scandal. As a candidate for president, Biden called for new ethics laws responding to practices of the Trump presidency, such as an expansion of lobbying disclosure requirements and restrictions on public officials’ ability to transfer assets into trusts controlled by family members.

The counsel’s office, often charged with vetting and recommending judicial nominees, will also be on the front lines if the Biden administration hopes to eventually counter the ideological shift on the federal bench cemented by Trump and Senate Republicans. Trump has made more than 230 lifetime judicial appointments in four years, including three Supreme Court justices.

With Herwig, the Biden White House how has at least four staffers with a connection to Facebook Inc. Jessica Hertz, who previously worked on the social network’s regulatory team, will serve as staff secretary and Louisa Terrell, who directed public policy for Facebook, will head legislative affairs. Biden coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients left Facebook’s board earlier this year.

Ethics

Several of the incoming lawyers bring credentials in the area of government integrity and investigations.

Two of the attorneys, Larry Schwartztol and Caroline McKay, worked at an organization founded by former Obama administration lawyers aimed at limiting exploitation of presidential power under Trump.

Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo, who will be associate counsel, served as ethics counsel in the same office toward the end of the Obama administration. She currently works for Democrats on the House committee with oversight over the government’s coronavirus response.

A few of the attorneys, such as Herwig, Moore, and Tona Boyd, will bring experience working on judicial nominations on Capitol Hill. Boyd worked for Senate Judiciary Committee member Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Herwig worked for the committee’s former ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Moore once practiced at WilmerHale, as did other Biden White House counsel picks Maury Riggan and Michael Posada. They’ll join two partners from the firm who were named deputies in the counsel’s office in December, and WilmerHale partner Alejandro Mayorkas is Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The staff list also includes those with expertise to execute on Biden’s pledge to combat climate change.

Megan Ceronsky, who will serve as associate counsel, served in the Obama administration as it shifted from pushing broad climate change legislation on Capitol Hill to climate action the executive branch could take on its own, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The CPP, Obama’s signature domestic climate policy, set a target of cutting power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Those carbon limits were stayed by the Supreme Court in 2016 and later significantly weakened by the Trump administration, though they could be strengthened once again by the Biden administration.

(Adds information about Megan Ceronsky in final two paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Courtney Rozen in Washington at crozen@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com

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