PUBLISHED:April 13, 2021

Schroeder tapped to lead Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel


President Joe Biden will nominate Professor Emeritus Christopher Schroeder, who previously worked in the Justice Department during the Clinton and Obama administrations, to serve as assistant attorney general.

Professor Christopher Schroeder Professor Christopher Schroeder

Christopher Schroeder, the Charles S. Murphy Professor Emeritus of Law and professor emeritus of public policy, will be President Joe Biden's nominee to be assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice, the White House announced Monday.

The OLC provides legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies, drafting legal opinions of the attorney general and providing 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. The nominee to lead the office must be confirmed by the Senate.

Schroeder, who led the Department of Justice agency review team for the Biden-Harris transition, has served as acting assistant attorney general for the office since since being named principal deputy assistant attorney general on Jan. 20. He 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.

“I loved all my time at the Office of Legal Counsel,” Schroeder told Duke Law Magazine in 2020. “It might well be, if you forced me to choose, the highlight of my professional career, working with all those wonderful people on hard problems and thinking that you were doing something that was of some consequence.”

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.

Douglas B. Maggs Professor Emeritus of Law Walter Dellinger, who recruited Schroeder to the OLC as his deputy when he became assistant attorney general in 1993, said last year that few people have held as many senior positions advising the federal government as his longtime Duke Law colleague.

“There is no one I have ever encountered who has better judgment than Chris Schroeder,” Dellinger said. “Just within the Department of Justice he’s the rare person who has headed both the Office of Legal Counsel and the Office of Legal Policy, demonstrating the respect that people have, both for his legal acumen and for his sense of wise policy. It is an extraordinary range, not to mention his academic success as a scholar and a teacher and his work in private law.”

A member of the Duke Law School faculty since 1979, Schroeder taught Property as well as courses on Congress, federal policymaking, environmental law, cybersecurity, among others, before retiring from teaching last year. In 1998, he 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.

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 Duke’s William Van Alstyne Professor of Law and Public Policy Studies Curtis Bradley.