Administration Ignores Dems in Utah U.S. Attorney Vetting
By Channing Turner | July 11, 2011 2:10 pm

The Barack Obama administration will consider another Republican nomination for a U.S. Attorney position– the latest case of the Democratic administration deferring to Republican-recommended appointees.

The Obama administration is vetting David Barlow, currently the legal counsel to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), for potential appointment as U.S. Attorney for Utah, the Salt Lake Tribute reported.

On Friday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that he recommended Barlow to the White House.

“He’s a very highly qualified attorney and he knows Utah and that’s very important,” Hatch told the Tribune.

But some Democrats have a different take. Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, told the Tribune that Barlow’s nomination ignored the state’s many talented Democratic attorneys, some of whom he recommended to the White House himself.

And this isn’t the first time the White House has ignored its party’s suggestions for U.S. attorney nominees. President Barack Obama snubbed Texas Democrats last month by nominating Republican picks for all four U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Texas.

Those nominations included John Malcom Bales for the Eastern District of Texas, Kenneth Magidson for the Southern District of Texas, Robert Pitman for the Western District of Texas and Sarah Saldana for the Northern District of Texas – all endorsed by Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Home-state senators typically recommend candidates to the White House, unless both of the state’s senators are of different parties than the president – as in the case of Utah and Texas. In those cases, the administration usually looks to its party’s House members for recommendations, but Obama has bucked that trend with recent nominations.

In Utah, Obama has had particular trouble finding a permanent U.S. Attorney. The administration had previously considered – but apparently abandoned – Scott Burns, former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush, for the Utah U.S. Attorney position. Burns was also recommended by Hatch.

And prior to Burns, many expected former Utah Assistant U.S. Attorney David Schwendiman would fill the position. But Schwendiman announced in July 2010 that he was no longer under consideration and refused to say why. Instead, he returned to the office as senior litigation counsel.

The White House also never specified its reasons for abandoned Schwendiman’s potential nomination.

Should Barlow have better luck, he would replace interim U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen, who has served there since her former boss, Bush administration appointee Brett L. Tolman, stepped down in December 2009.

In January, Christensen announced several changes to office’s leadership, including the appointment of Barbara Bearnson to senior litigation counsel and acting first Assistant U.S. Attorney – essentially the office’s second-in-command.

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