Justice News

Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden at His Installation Ceremony
United States
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Mr. Attorney General, for the kind words and even more for the opportunity to work with you – and my good friend, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli – at the United States Department of Justice. It is a singular thrill to be part of what you are doing here.

I want to thank President Obama for his confidence in me; Senator Leahy and his terrific staff, and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for their support and guidance; Judge Garland, our esteemed and former colleague here at the Department, for agreeing to swear me in and for everything he does and has done throughout his distinguished career to serve the cause of justice.

I want to thank all of those new Department officials who, like me, have agreed to sign up as returning or first time public servants in Eric Holder’s Justice Department. And I want to thank all of the career professionals (many of you old friends) who have been here to greet us and who have continued to sacrifice, labor and take real personal risks to serve the public interest in the many ways only this Department can serve the public interest. It is truly a privilege to be part of this Department again and part of this extraordinary team.

I also need to thank my family, many of whom are here today for their love and support.

In particular, I want to thank my mother, Elaine Ogden, for her love and her example of selfless service and understated but unwavering commitment to principle, come what may.

I want to thank my uncle, Bill Condrell, for his support and guidance throughout my life.

And my dad, Hod Ogden, who died 11 years ago but is with me every day.

My children, Jonathan, Elaine, and Natalie, are here. Each of them makes me proud every day -- one of them wakes me up every night. Thanks, guys, for all of that.

And last I want to thank Anne Harkavy – my wife, my partner, my friend, my adviser – for putting up with this new schedule and pace of life and for making it all possible, and for making my life so full and good.

And thank you all for being here – colleagues and friends past, present and future. I can’t mention you by name, but so many of you have helped me along the way, at times distant and in recent days and months. Thanks for all of that.

In a very real way, this is a homecoming, not just for me, but for the Attorney General and Associate Attorney General, as well. I doubt there’s another federal agency whose top three officials are returning employees. I think that says something about the Department of Justice. It is a place that’s hard to leave and that draws you back.

And though, as I am learning, my new job entails giving a lot of speeches, my experience here the last go-round taught me that I need to spend a lot of time listening. Every day, in this Department I am reminded that it is filled with extraordinarily capable and experienced professionals who know a whole lot more than I do about the tasks entrusted to them. Which is a very good thing, believe me, and very comforting. I am told that I ask a lot of questions, and – fair warning – I am afraid that characteristic is unlikely to change much. I do so because I know the people of the Department have the answers or the wherewithal to find them, no matter how challenging the task may be.

And so I approach my own role with the humble understanding that the Attorney General, Tom and I inherit a wonderful team, and in a real way, through that team and the department’s core functions, we also inherit the law itself. In everything this department does it must adhere to the rule of law. Its very mission is to enforce the rule of law. Committing to and investing in the basic values of our legal system—and to the rule of law —is the true top priority of the Department.

The President and the Attorney General have spoken eloquently about the centrality of the rule of law to their visions of government. That means that as we try to fulfill our missions in areas such as protecting the national security, the public safety, the competitiveness of the economy, the environment, and civil rights, we need to be prepared to say, "No—that way won’t work," and to find a way that will.

I am the proud son of a career federal civil servant. My dad served in eight very different administrations—from President Truman to President Reagan. And he taught me this: You go into public service not to serve a political party, not even to serve a president, but to serve the public. This means being willing to take a personal risk to do what is right, even when what’s right and what’s easy diverge.

Now in a real sense, meeting that challenge is always a lawyer’s job. Every lawyer's duty is to represent his or her client's interests without regard to personal views or personal advantage. Here, of course, the client is the United States – and so its interests are defined by the law itself. By upholding the rule of law we safeguard our client’s most fundamental interest.

In representing our client, the Department’s charge is quite sweeping: We must fight crime, protect civil rights, protect the public fisc, protect the environment, protect competitive markets, and, above all, protect the national security for all Americans. To do all that has been entrusted to us, it is critical that the Department be both highly effective and highly efficient. We must effectively focus our resources where they are most needed; eliminate redundancies where they exist; be thorough, but not wasteful; and, at all times, make the best use of our most precious resource: our exceptionally capable career professionals. And we must do all of this, always, in a manner consistent with the Constitution, federal laws, ethical requirements, and with due respect for the key roles of Congress and the courts.

As the Attorney General has said again and again, effectiveness and the rule of law are entirely compatible.

Together, they constitute the one mission of the Department, namely, to get it done right.

To get it done right. This mission is as challenging as it is vital. There have been difficult choices to make; there will be many more ahead. We cannot be effective if we do not act within the bounds of the law, and this is nowhere more true than in the area of protecting the national security. When we protect the American people in a manner consistent with our Constitution, our laws, and our treaty obligations, we are more powerful, more credible, and more able. And, in the course of protecting the security of our nation, we also honor and protect who we are as a nation.

As we look ahead, the Department must also fulfill its traditional missions. In the area of criminal law, for example, we are taking a hard look at critical issues related to sentencing and corrections policy. We are committed to ensuring that our sentencing and corrections systems promote public safety, provide just punishment, avoid unwarranted disparities, and reduce recidivism by making sure that ex-offenders can successfully re-join society. So the Attorney General has asked me to bring together a team from across the department to propose changes in this vital area.

We’re also examining from top to bottom our practices with regard to criminal and civil discovery. A team of senior prosecutors and Department officials -- under the direction of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Karin Immergut, Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of US Attorneys -- are reviewing discovery practices in criminal matters and will recommend any necessary improvements. In concert, we have established another working group under the direction of the Associate Attorney General to look at our civil discovery practices and capabilities to ensure our litigators have the training and resources necessary to deal with the current demands in the electronic era.

It is not hard to find other urgent priorities within our traditional missions. In this current economic climate, the Department must be vigilant against financial fraud and health care fraud. We are working on an aggressive effort targeting white collar prosecutions and investigations—whether it’s public corruption, health care fraud, financial fraud, or mortgage fraud.

We also need a renewed effort to target international organized crime. International criminal enterprises have expanded in presence, sophistication, and significance in recent years, and they pose major threats. As one example, the Department has worked with the Departments of State and Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive response to the rise of violence by warring Mexican drug cartels and the effects of that violence on the United States, particularly along our Southwest Border.

And we are committed to restoring the Department’s historic role in protecting civil rights in the workplace, our educational system, and the voting booth. The President’s 2010 budget will restore critical funding for the Division that was lost as a result of prior budget cuts.

As you know, these are only a few of our urgent and challenging tasks. But this is an exciting time as well as a challenging one, and under the leadership of this President and this Attorney General, we are up for the job together. I have outlined some of our priorities, and I could go on. And so I want to end where I began, by telling you that we need to hear from you. We will listen in our meetings and work to create decision making processes that incorporate key input from those with expertise to bring to bear. If we inadvertently leave you out, please use the suggestion box the Attorney General has placed on our internal Department homepage. Every entry will be read and responded to.

Our goal is to get the job done right, and to do so we must be one seamless Department of Justice.

I am honored and very happy to be back here working with you again.

Thank you.