The Catholic University of America

Former CUA Law Dean is New U.S. Ambassador to Malta

Douglas W. Kmiec, who served as dean of Catholic University's Columbus School of Law from 2001-2003, was sworn in on Sept. 2, 2009, as the new United States Ambassador to Malta.

The oath of office was administered in the Treaty Room of the State Department by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an old friend and former Justice Department colleague of Kmiec's.

The invocation was delivered by the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of The Catholic University of America. The pledge of allegiance was led by actor Martin Sheen, a friend of Kmiec's and a fellow parishioner at Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church in California.

A number of CUA law faculty members were in attendance, including current Dean Veryl V. Miles.

Carol and Ambassador Douglas W. Kmiec, Dean Veryl Miles, Professor Marin Scordato.

Kmiec was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan administration. At the end of his second term, Reagan appointed Kmiec to lead the office, which advises the executive branch on the legality of a wide variety of policies.

A well known conservative Catholic scholar, Kmiec surprised many people-and alienated some-with his prominent endorsement of President Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. Since then, Kmiec has been a high-profile defender of the Obama administration, its personnel choices, and many of its policies.

Kmiec's academic career includes nearly 20 years on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame's law school. He later became the Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University School of Law, a position he returned to after his two-year tenure as dean of CUA law.

Despite the controversy in some Catholic circles over his appointment to the diplomatic post, Kmiec's spirits were high as he signed the papers that made it official. Referring to Martin Sheen's leading role in the hugely popular television series The West Wing, Kmiec elicited laughs with the observation that "President Bartlett's administration was a huge success. He managed to greatly expand services while never raising taxes."

Actor Martin Sheen (left) and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had ceremonial duties.

Ambassador Kmiec will take up residence in the Republic of Malta in mid-September. A member of the European Union, the small Catholic nation of 400,000 is an archipelago, a series of islands situated south of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea.