PUBLISHED:August 04, 2023

Schroeder retires from leading Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel

Christopher Schroeder Professor Emeritus Christopher Schroeder

Christopher Schroeder, the Charles S. Murphy Professor Emeritus of Law and professor emeritus of public policy, retired July 9 as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the U.S. Department of Justice.

“It has been a great honor to serve the president, his administration, and the American public,” Schroeder said. “I am grateful to Duke Law School for the flexibility it has given me over the years to serve in various capacities in the federal government, and for the Horvitz Program in Constitutional & Public Law, which has done so much during my association with Duke to highlight the importance of government service and the rule of law.”

Schroeder, a member of the Duke Law School faculty since 1979, had held the position since the beginning of President Joe Biden’s administration. The OLC advises the Justice Department, the White House, and the executive branch on matters concerning presidential authority, executive privilege, and separation of powers, among a wide range of other issues, which put Schroeder in the center of some of the most important issues arising during Biden’s presidency.

At a farewell ceremony, Attorney General Merrick Garland presented Schroeder with the Edmund J. Randolph Award, the department’s highest honor, “in recognition of [his] outstanding service to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Nation.” 

Biden appointed Schroeder on October 29, 2021, following his confirmation by the Senate. He had led the office as acting assistant attorney general since being named principal deputy assistant attorney general on Jan. 20.

The OLC drafts legal opinions of the attorney general and provides its own written opinions and other advice in response to requests from the counsel to the president, the various agencies of the executive branch, and other components of the Department of Justice. The OLC is also responsible for reviewing and commenting on the constitutionality of pending legislation and for approving the form and legality of executive orders and substantive proclamations issued by the president.

Schroeder, who led the Department of Justice agency review team for the Biden-Harris transition in 2020, previously worked in the OLC during the Clinton administration, serving as deputy assistant attorney general from 1993 to 1996 and acting assistant attorney general in 1996.

Schroeder also served as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy during the Obama administration, from 2010 to 2013. In that capacity, he supervised the evaluation of the president’s nominees to the federal judiciary and provided policy advice to the attorney general and the White House on a variety of law enforcement and national security issues. His earlier government service included posts as chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary (chaired by then-Sen. Biden) and in the U.S. Department of Justice.

At Duke Law, Schroeder taught Property as well as courses on Congress, federal policymaking, environmental law, cybersecurity, among others. He retired from teaching in 2020.

In 1998, Schroeder established the Program in Public Law to promote an understanding of public institutions, of the Constitutional framework in which they function, and of the principles and laws that apply to the work of public officials. In 2022, Rick Horvitz ’78, a longtime supporter, and his wife Erica Hartman-Horvitz made a gift to permanently endow the program and rename it the Richard A. Horvitz Program in Constitutional & Public Law.

Schroeder is a scholar of constitutional law, Congress, and the scope of executive power, as well as of environmental law. His books include Keeping Faith with the Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2010), which he wrote with Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School and Goodwin Liu, now an associate justice of the California Supreme Court, and Presidential Power Stories (Foundation Press, 2009), a collection Schroeder edited with University of Chicago Law School Professor Curtis Bradley, a former Duke Law colleague.


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