B. Todd Jones, nominated to be the top federal prosecutor for the District of Minnesota, is slated for an important advisory role to Attorney General Eric Holder, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
If confirmed, Jones will be appointed head of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC), which represents the views of U.S. Attorneys before Main Justice and helps craft Justice Department policy, the people said.
Jones has the experience and broad political support needed for the job. He served as Minnesota’s U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration and was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. He is expected to be swiftly confirmed by the full Senate, perhaps as early as next week.
More recently, Jones has been a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi in Minneapolis, specializing in complex business litigation and corporate criminal defense. Click here for his firm bio and here for a copy of his Senate questionnaire.
As the Justice Department has pushed ahead with its policy initiatives, it has maintained ties to the AGAC, which is currently composed of one career lawyer and 10 Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys. The Justice Department has stressed the importance of maintaining continuity among the U.S. attorneys offices, and that means giving Bush appointees a seat at the policy table until the administration replaces them.
The AGAC has convened twice since Election Day. (I reported on the December meeting here.) On May 19, the committee met with Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, and Assistant Attorneys General Lanny Breuer, David Kris, Tony West and Ron Weich. The attorney general did not make an appearance.
The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys also has held teleconferences with the AGAC and communicated with offices though other channels. Justice Department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said that “the members of the AGAC are being used in key policy positions.” They have been working with Holder and Ogden on “critical projects,” such as discovery and sentencing policies, Schwartz said.
The AGAC, at full strength, comprises 17 members whose terms last about three years. The terms are staggered, and new members are generally appointed each year. The committee meets regularly with the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. According to the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, the committee has two functions: ”It gives United States Attorneys a voice in Department policies and advises the Attorney General of the United States.”
Karin Immergut, the U.S. attorney in Oregon, is now AGAC chairwoman, though she is stepping down this month to accept an appointment as a state judge.
The other members include:
- U.S. Attorney David Nahmias of Atlanta’s Northern District
- U.S. Attorney Leura Canary of Middle District of Alabama
- U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Illinois’ Northern District
- U.S. Attorney Roger Heaton of Illinois’ Central District
- U.S. Attorney Thomas Moss of the District of Idaho
- U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein of the District of Maryland
- U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman of the District of Utah
- U.S. Attorney Donald Washington of Louisiana’s Western District
- U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley of the District of North Dakota
- Gretchen Witt, the civil chief in District of New Hampshire
A few names jump out. Canary, in particular, has drawn criticism for her role in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. As we reported here, Siegelman has filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that prosecutors failed to produce Brady material, tampered with witnesses and targeted him for political reasons. Fitzgerald, who is overseeing the prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), has been recommended for another term and could continue to serve on the AGAC. (He was appointed to the committee last year.)
Schwartz said the Justice Department would “continue to solicit the input and views of the United States Attorney’s Offices through every means available to us as new USAs transitions through the appointment process.”
The Obama administration has announced seven nominations, five of which, including Jones’s, have been reported out by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney nominee for the District of New Jersey, and Jenny Durkan, the nominee for the Western District of Washington state, are awaiting a committee vote. There are about 30 U.S. attorney candidates in the pipeline, according to one person familiar with the process, but it’s unlikely that they’ll reach the Judiciary panel before Congress returns in September.