Loretta Lynch Will Review Wire Act, But Unlikely to Change Interpretation

February 17th, 2015 | by Greg Shaun
 Loretta Lynch Wire Act questions

Loretta Lynch says she’ll take another look at the DOJ opinion that reinterpreted the Wire Act, but that it’s unlikely she would overrule that reading of the law. (Image: CNN)

Loretta Lynch answered a few questions about her online gambling opinions during her Senate confirmation hearing, with the nominee for US Attorney General saying that she was vaguely familiar with the Wire Act, but she didn’t have enough knowledge of it to give strong opinions on the topic.

That line of questioning once again came up in follow-up questions sent to Lynch following the hearings, prompting Lynch to say that while she’ll take a look at the law, opponents of the current interpretation shouldn’t hold their breath if they’re looking for online gambling to be banned again.

That take came from the written responses that Lynch submitted to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that answered questions they posed on a variety of legal topics.

President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general answered a number of questions from each member of the panel, including questions on Internet gambling that came from two senators: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California).

Review is Fine, But Changes Unlikely

Feinstein had just one question on the topic, but it was one that set the tone for most of Lynch’s answers. Saying that she was long concerned about online gambling, Feinstein asked Lynch if she would commit to getting Department of Justice lawyers to take another look at the 2011 reinterpretation of the Wire Act by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). That reinterpretation found that the Wire Act was only applicable to sports betting, opening the doors for states to regulate online poker and casino games.

Lynch responded by saying that she’d be happy to order a review of the Wire Act ruling, but that it was unlikely it would change anything.

“If confirmed as Attorney General, I will review the Office of Legal Counsel opinion,” wrote Lynch. “It is my understanding, however, that OLC opinions are rarely reconsidered. If confirmed, I will read the opinion and if it articulates a reasonable interpretation of the law, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you and other Members of Congress to address concerns about online gambling through legislation.”

Graham Asks Several Questions About Wire Act

That answer was virtually identical to one she gave when Graham, a prominent opponent of online gambling, asked her if she agreed with the OLC opinion. However, Graham, who is expected to reintroduce the Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA) to the Senate sometime this year, also asked additional questions concerning Lynch’s views on the topic of the Wire Act. For instance, he wanted to know whether the OLC opinion carried the force of law, as the lawyer who authored it acknowledged it was “just” an opinion.

“It is my understanding that OLC opinions customarily are treated as authoritative by executive agencies,” Lynch replied. “I am not aware of any statute or regulation that gives OLC opinions the force of law.”

Graham also asked if Lynch thought it was right for the OLC to make a major change to the Wire Act’s interpretation without consulting Congress or the public.

“It is my understanding that the Office strives to provide an objective assessment of the law using traditional tools of statutory interpretation,” Lynch said. “These tools would not include seeking the views of Congress, the public, law enforcement or state and local officials.”

While Lynch’s confirmation vote has been delayed, reportedly because of concerns from some Republicans, it is still likely that she will be approved by the Senate, as every Democratic senator is expected to vote in her favor and she will only need four GOP votes to be confirmed.

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