Linda Spillers  /  AP
Deputy attorney general-nominee David Ogden says child pornography is abhorent, but critics say he has "repeatedly represented the pornography industry and its interests."
updated 3/12/2009 4:28:32 PM ET 2009-03-12T20:28:32

The Senate filled the No. 2 and 3 positions at the Justice Department on Thursday, pushing aside objections from conservative Republicans who questioned the nominees' positions on pornography and the right to die.

David Ogden was confirmed 65-28 for the second-ranking position of deputy attorney general, and Thomas Perelli was approved 72-20 for the third-ranking slot of associate attorney general. Attorney General Eric Holder had expressed concerns that he was operating the Justice Department without his top deputies.

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., joined 27 Republicans to oppose Ogden, while all the opposition to Perelli came from Republicans.

Nearly all the debate on the nominees focused on Ogden, who represented defendants in pornography cases.

"I felt it was a scurrilous attack on him," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Leahy and other supporters argued that Ogden's legal representation did not reflect his personal views, and they pointed out that Ogden has argued forcefully for protecting children from sexual abuse.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said he opposed Perelli because he represented Terri Schiavo's husband, who fought to take his severely brain damaged wife off life support. The case of Schiavo, who died, was a major issue for conservatives who argued she should be kept alive even in a vegetative state.

An autopsy showed she had irreversible brain damage.

Brownback said the case, in which Perelli provided free legal representation, raised issues about "whether we protect life in a diminished qualitative state."

The debate on Ogden spanned two days, the bulk of it on Wednesday.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Ogden "is more than just a lawyer who has had a few unsavory clients. He has devoted a substantial part of his career, case after case, for 20 years, in defense of pornography."

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Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said he was "alarmed" by a nominee for the No. 2 job at the department "who has repeatedly represented the pornography industry and its interests."

During his committee hearing last month, Ogden sought to reassure senators that he would prosecute child pornographers aggressively. He urged the lawmakers not to judge him by arguments he made on behalf of clients.

"Child pornography is abhorrent," Ogden said. Later, he said, "Issues of children and families have always been of great importance to me."

While a lawyer in private practice, Ogden argued on behalf of Playboy and librarians fighting congressionally mandated Internet filtering software.

Leahy said "special interests on the far right have distorted Mr. Ogden's record by focusing only on a narrow sliver of his diverse practice as a litigator that spans more than three decades."

Leahy said that during previous service in the Justice Department, Ogden "aggressively defended" the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act and the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996.

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