Dear Mr. President:

There has been an extraordinary amount of recent chatter on potential judicial nominees, a few US Attorney positions, and final staffing decisions for the Department of Justice.

A lot.

Scuttlebutt is announcements are brewing for early April, but no one knows who and when just yet. Someone wants things to look busy even if they aren’t quite yet. And others want to seem in the loop and in the know with the Beltway Village, whether or not they really are.

Nevertheless, the Legal Times had an intriguing little write-up regarding DC trial spots. And they are pushing Eleanor Holmes Norton as a power-broker:

Norton put together a 17-member panel, a mix of lawyers and community leaders that recommended all nine of the judges Clinton ultimately appointed to the U.S. District Court in the District….

The commission dissolved during the Bush years, when the White House relied on its own network within the D.C. legal community to find its judicial picks….An internal committee that included White House and Justice lawyers vetted potential nominees….

Whereas Norton overwhelmingly favored public servants for judgeships, the presence of Holder and Craig could mean a push for more nominees from the private bar. Craig has already carried over a wealth of Big Law talent into the counsel’s office. On the other hand, Holder himself served as a Superior Court judge before becoming D.C.’s U.S. attorney, and spent most of his career in government.

Holder also owes Norton for suggesting him for his first job with DOJ, so that’s dangling out there, too. You could do worse: Eleanor cares about public service being done with integrity and justice.

Here’s the thing: you’ve surrounded yourself with a lot of ambitious folks with big egos and powerful friends. Most presidents do, so it’s not a shocker.

But I rarely trust people who run on ambition for sport.

Having connections and power doesn’t necessarily translate to knowing the best lawyers for the jobs that need doing. The federal bench takes an enormous amount of integrity and commitment to justice, to the rule of law and any number of intangible factors which translate into the whole of a lifetime appointment.

And that can only really be known by folks who work — really work — around you every day.

Here’s some unsolicited advice from one lawyer to another, sir: speak with opposing counsel, with trial judges, with law enforcement officers and/or former clients who have had to live with the aftermath of the legal work when the individual casework has moved on. Find out what they did and how they did it, not just who they know or what political advantage can be gained. We’ll all be better off if you do.

Learn the "don’t just pick a crony" lesson from Harriet Miers. That never works out.

The nation’s legal system was pushed to the brink the last few years. Please put integrity at the top of the wish list, with real world knowledge of the law and the ins and outs of the system.

Those of us who have been fighting for a more perfect union the last few years are ready to go to the mat with you for better legal nominees. Please make certain you find some.

The GOP are going to be asses either way, so pick the best people for the jobs and fight it out. You are scaring the bejeebers out of the WSJ, so you are already doing something right. Thank you.

(YouTube — Scene from the West Wing.)

Dear Mr. President: 

There has been an extraordinary amount of recent chatter on potential judicial nominees, a few USAtty positions and final staffing decisions for DOJ.

A lot. 

Scuttlebutt is announcements are brewing for early April, but no one knows who and when just yet.  Someone wants things to look busy even if they aren’t quite yet. And others want to seem in the loop and the know with the Beltway Village, whether they really are.

Nevertheless, the Legal Times had an intriguing little write-up regarding DC trial spots. And they are pushing Eleanor Holmes Norton as a power-broker:

Norton put together a 17-member panel, a mix of lawyers and community leaders that recommended all nine of the judges Clinton ultimately appointed to the U.S. District Court in the District…. 

The commission dissolved during the Bush years, when the White House relied on its own network within the D.C. legal community to find its judicial picks….An internal committee that included White House and Justice lawyers vetted potential nominees….

Whereas Norton overwhelmingly favored public servants for judgeships, the presence of Holder and Craig could mean a push for more nominees from the private bar. Craig has already carried over a wealth of Big Law talent into the counsel’s office. On the other hand, Holder himself served as a Superior Court judge before becoming D.C.’s U.S. attorney, and spent most of his career in government.

Holder also owes Norton for suggesting him for his first job with DOJ, so that’s dangling out there, too.  You could do worse:  Eleanor cares about public service being done with integrity and justice.

Here’s the thing: you’ve surrounded yourself with a lot of ambitious folks with big egos and powerful friends. Most presidents do, so it’s not a shocker.  

But I rarely trust people who run on ambition for sport.

(more…)

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com