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On June 12, 2017, President Donald Trump made his first nominations of prospective United States Attorneys. The eight lawyers he nominated are:
A brief summary of the nominations procedure: Presidential nominations for United States Attorney (or judicial) positions in the federal court system’s 94 districts are typically made after both Senators from a nominee’s home state have returned the “blue slip” indicating approval of the nominee. The nominee will then be vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee before moving to the full Senate for confirmation.
Six of Trump’s eight nominees come from states with two Republican Senators – states where “blue slips” likely were easier to come by than states where one or both Senators are Democrats. Mr. Huber’s renomination in Utah is not out of the ordinary – former President Obama renominated a number of former President Bush’s United States Attorneys, including current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of Maryland, with the approval of those nominees’ home state Senators. Ohio’s Senators – one Democratic, one Republican – had previously announced their bipartisan support of Mr. Herdman, a former prosecutor in the Northern District office. But Ms. Liu does not have any “home state” senators in her capacity as the D.C. nominee – D.C. only has “shadow senators” who do not enjoy the typical Senatorial courtesies like the “blue slip” (or apparently even the use of the Senate elevators).
So what kind of conclusions can you draw about these nominees? The fact that all three Alabama districts were in this first group shows that former Alabama Senator/now Attorney General Jeff Sessions has most likely played a significant role in getting the nominations machinery started. But while it is a small sample size, there are a number of similarities between Trump’s nominees and those of former President Obama. Including the timing of the nominations – despite some negative media coverage about delays, the eight Trump nominations to this point line up fairly closely with Obama’s nine nominations prior to July 2009. Here are a few other areas of consistency that jump out –
There is one notable difference, though: While less than a third of the Obama nominees had prior state prosecutorial experience, five of the eight Trump nominees do. Trump also nominated two elected District Attorneys in this first wave; while three of the more than 100 Obama nominees had some prior experience as an elected or appointed District Attorney, none was serving as the District Attorney at the time of nomination. Court records show that cases involving violent crime are more often handled in state courts than in federal courts. Trump’s nomination of prosecutors who have front line experience where violent crime cases are typically addressed is in keeping with his recent executive order that the Department of Justice will emphasize efforts to combat violent crime.
The pace of these nominations moving forward is anyone’s guess, but if history is any indicator the second half of the year should be busy – around a third of the Obama nominees for these positions came during between July and December 2009.
If you have any questions regarding this alert, please contact Ripley Rand at 919.755.8125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ripley Rand advises and represents businesses and people dealing with governmental investigations, business disputes, regulatory matters, and corporate compliance issues. Before joining Womble Carlyle, Ripley Rand served as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, a North Carolina state court judge, and a North Carolina Assistant District Attorney.