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Kelley at work for President

Katie Perry | Monday, September 5, 2005

A Notre Dame associate law professor has made the leap from Notre Dame Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue after landing a job in May as deputy White House counsel to President George W. Bush.

William Kelley, a University faculty member since 1995, specialized in administrative and constitutional law before being offered the highly ranked governmental job last spring. He follows the lead of fellow Notre Dame law professor Jimmy Gurulé, who also served under President Bush from 2001 to 2003.

Professor Rick Garnett, a colleague of Kelley’s at the Notre Dame law school, said the appointment was to be expected given Kelley’s legal expertise.

“Because of Professor Kelley’s experience, credentials and legal judgment, I don’t think any of us who know him were surprised when the Administration asked him to serve in this important position,” he said. “I know that Professor Kelley felt honored by the appointment and enthusiastic about the chance to contribute and to immerse himself in so many challenging legal problems.”

Kelley joins an army of Notre Dame professors and graduates who have gone on to hold powerful positions in Washington. Most notably, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – a 1975 graduate with a masters in international studies – left the University and went on to high-profile job in the nation’s capital. William McGurn, who graduated from the University in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, has since gone on to become President Bush’s chief speechwriter.

“A number of our faculty have served in important Executive Branch positions in recent years,” Garnett said. “Our faculty, and our students, should be proud that Professor Kelley was selected for a position that involves what is one of the most diverse and difficult portfolios of any legal job in government.”

Garnett said Kelley’s new role in the office of Counsel to the President requires him to advise the president on all legal matters and on the legal implication of all policy matters in which the White House has a stake or interest.

“Basically, the Counsel’s office has to advise the President about nearly everything,” Garnett said.

Kelley has the task of ensuring advice given to the President is “developed well and delivered effectively,” Garnett said. More specifically, the Counsel’s office handles matters of judicial nominations and presidential appointments, pardons and clemency, ethical questions, veto decisions and official-capacity lawsuits against the President.

The recent promotion is Kelley’s latest in an extensive history of occupational experience in Washington. In addition to serving as clerk for Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Kelley worked in the office of Kenneth Starr during the historic President Clinton impeachment trial of 1999. Kelley also served in the Department of Justice from 1991 to 1993, working as assistant to the solicitor general.

A.J. Bellia, a professor in the Notre Dame law school, called Kelley’s most recent appointment an “honor.”

“Professor Kelley is a shining example of how the relentless pursuit of competence and service combine to produce the best that the legal profession has to offer,” Bellia said.

A 1984 graduate of Marquette University, Kelley earned his degree in law from Harvard University in 1987 before joining the Law School faculty in 1995. This year, U.S. News & World Report ranked Notre Dame No. 24 on its annual list of top law programs nationwide.

“The appointment testifies to Professor Kelley’s brilliance and devotion to public service,” Bellia said. “It also reflects well upon our law school’s reputation for excellence and commitment to public service.”

Garnett hopes Kelley will return to Notre Dame and share his new privileged perspective with his colleagues.

“We at the law school are proud of Professor Kelley, and look forward to his return, so we can learn whether the real West Wing is like the one on NBC,” he said.