Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsNews

David Ogden, a high-ranking Justice Department official, quits after 10 months

The top deputy to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. says he will return to private law practice. Ogden says he had planned to leave once the department was on the right path.

December 03, 2009|By Josh Meyer

Reporting from Washington — Deputy Atty. Gen. David W. Ogden, the Justice Department's equivalent of a chief executive officer, announced this morning that he was stepping down after only 10 months on the job, to return to private law practice.

After his confirmation last March, Ogden was responsible for a broad portfolio that included managing the day-to-day operations of the sprawling department, including its criminal, national security and civil divisions.

Justice Department officials had no comment on why Ogden was leaving so soon, though Ogden said today he had always planned to leave as soon as the department was headed on the right path.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. praised his top deputy, describing Ogden as an invaluable leader for the Justice Department and the Obama administration at large.

"From leading the transition team that established early goals for the Department to spearheading major initiatives such as our effort to fight healthcare fraud, he has been an effective and diligent advocate for the American people," Holder said in a statement. "Through his work here, he has helped reinvigorate the department's traditional missions, restore its reputation for independence, and make the country safer and more secure."

Ogden, 56, is returning to the blue-chip WilmerHale law firm, which he joined in 2001 after serving with Holder in senior positions in the Clinton administration Justice Department.

Ogden's resignation announcement came on a day when one of his top initiatives was criticized by the independent investigative arm of Congress.

The Government Accountability Office said that red tape and other problems had blocked most of the U.S.-allocated funds for the Merida Initiative from being released. Merida was established by the Bush administration and Congress to help Mexico and its neighbors combat the transnational Mexican drug cartels and related problems such as corruption and drug addiction.

Congress appropriated $1.2 billion for Merida, but only $26 million had been spent by Sept. 30, the GAO said. Ogden was the Justice Department's point person on Merida, but there was no indication that problems within the initiative played a role in his departure.

In a statement, Ogden provided few details about why he was leaving. But he said his goal all along was to help restore credibility to the Justice Department at a time when it was "under attack and when its traditional law enforcement missions had suffered" during the Bush administration, which was sharply criticized for politicizing what is supposed to be an apolitical department.

"During the transition, President-elect Obama and Attorney General-designate Holder asked me to serve as the deputy attorney general, which gave me the opportunity to complete the transition process and see the department solidly on a path to achieving those goals. I accepted that challenge, with the intention of returning to my practice as soon as I felt the department was firmly on that path," Ogden said. "I believe the objectives established over a year ago have been accomplished."

Ogden said he would stay in office until Feb. 5 to give Obama and Holder enough time to identify a successor and ensure a smooth transition.

Ogden said the new administration had reinvigorated the Justice Department's traditional law enforcement mission with new resources and new initiatives. And he said he was particularly proud of helping establish and lead task forces on healthcare and financial fraud. A Border Working Group has helped combat Mexican cartels, he said, while another task force is focusing on attacking international organized crime through increased intelligence sharing with U.S. allies.

Ogden said he has helped put in place "a terrific senior management team that under the attorney general's leadership will build on this foundation," and that the Justice Department "is in good hands, and I feel I can now return to the private practice I have missed these 13 months."

josh.meyer@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|