Benjamin David, the district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties in North Carolina, on Wednesday announced that he is removing his name from consideration for nomination as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Wilmington television station WECT reports.
David was one of three people that Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) had recommended to President Obama. The other two people are Hampton Dellinger, a partner at the Chapel Hill law firm of Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, and Thomas Walker, a partner at the Charlotte law firm of Alston and Bird.
David cited his desire to remain in the DA’s office, among other personal and professional reasons, for his decision to withdraw from consideration, WECT reported. According to the television station, David said he plans to run for re-election as district attorney next year.
Obama has yet to name a nominee, which might be due in part to the fact that Hagan has said she wants the current Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney, George Holding, to stay in office until he can complete probes of two prominent Democrats: former Gov. Mike Easley and former Sen. John Edwards.
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U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding hasn’t made it easy for President Barack Obama to appoint a new top federal prosecutor in North Carolina’s Eastern District. The George W. Bush appointee is overseeing investigations of two prominent Democrats — former Gov. Mike Easley and John Edwards — and hasn’t shown any inclination he’ll step down.
The situation has caused Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) to take the contorted position that the White House should move ahead with a Democratic nominee and keep Holding on to finish the probes. The predictable result: No nomination has moved for the Eastern District.
With Hagan bending over backwards not to appear partisan, what about Holding? He appears less concerned with appearances. Last week, he attended the conservative Federalist Society meeting in Washington and expressed concern about the direction Obama is taking the judiciary, the National Law Journal reported.
Holding made his remarks during a question-and-answer period following a speech from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) last Thursday at the society’s National Lawyer Convention. He identified himself as a “prosecutor from North Carolina,” a C-Span video of event shows.
“I’m concerned about the changing makeup of the 4th Circuit,” said Holding, who has served as U.S. Attorney since September 2006.
President Barack Obama tapped James A. Wynn Jr. and Albert Diaz, both of North Carolina, and Barbara Milano Keenan of Virginia for judgeships in the 4th Circuit.
Sessions said he is concerned with 4th Circuit judge Andres David of Maryland, who was confirmed Nov. 9. But he said Republicans are reluctant to hold up judicial nominees.
“We’ve resisted filibusters of judges, thinking it’s not a good idea,” Sessions said.
Hagan recommended that Obama nominate one of three men: Benjamin David, district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties; Hampton Dellinger, a partner at the Chapel Hill law firm Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson; or Thomas Walker, a partner at Charlotte law firm Alston and Bird, for the post. David on Wednesday said he has removed his name from consideration.
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Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) told President Obama this week she wants Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney George E. B. Holding to have some role in the North Carolina Eastern District that would allow him to continue overseeing ongoing probes of prominent Democrats.
Holding has served as U.S. Attorney since 2006. He is supervising two high profile investigations of former Gov. Mike Easley and John Edwards, the two-time former Democratic presidential candidate from North Carolina.
The U.S. Attorney is probing Easley on the free use of cars and flights on jets owned by the former governor’s political supporters. Edwards is being investigated on whether he improperly steered money from his campaign or related non-profits to Rielle Hunter, the video-maker with whom he had an affair and a child.
Hagan recommended that Holding remain as U.S. Attorney until the two probes are over. But said she would also support another U.S. Attorney in the office if Holding could still oversee the investigations. The North Carolina senator said she also supported Benjamin David, district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties; Hampton Dellinger, a partner at Chapel Hill law firm Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson; and Thomas Walker, a partner at Charlotte law firm Alston and Bird.
She said in her letter to Obama:
“As I have previously discussed with the Office of the White House Counsel, it is my belief that the current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, George Holding, should be allowed to complete the ongoing investigations of public officials in the state. During my conversations with the Office of the White House Counsel, there was an interest expressed by the Counsel’s office to potentially appoint a separate individual to begin handling other matters not related to these investigations.”
Justice Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said there can only be one U.S. Attorney in office at a time. But she said there can be a U.S. Attorney and an acting U.S. Attorney when there is a U.S. Attorney recusal.
U.S. Attorneys often recuse themselves from cases to avoid a potential conflict of interest. If an Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney were put in place and the Bush-appointed Holding became an acting U.S. Attorney in charge of the probes, Republicans would be hard pressed to find Democratic improriety in the investigations — Hagan’s apparent goal.
Conservatives could have some doubts about Dellinger if he were confirmed as the next U.S. Attorney. Dellinger was special counsel and deputy attorney general for then-Attorney General Easley.
The full biographies of the Eastern District candidates from Hagen are here:
-Benjamin David currently serves as the district attorney for New Hanover and Pender counties, leading 45 public servants that prosecute over 75,000 cases a year. A graduate of Wake Forest Law, David worked as an associate at Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP prior to election as the Assistant District Attorney in Wilmington in 1999.
-Hampton Dellinger is currently a partner at the law firm of Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson. Dellinger has experience working with local, state, and federal law enforcement and public officials from his rolse as Special Counsel to North Carolina’s attorney general, deputy attorney general and as former Gov. Mike Easley’s chief legal counsel.
-Thomas Walker has been a partner at Alson and Bird, LLP concentrating on complex federal and state government investigations and white-collar defense since 2003. Prior to joining the firm, Walker served as a special counsel to North Carolina Attorney General Ray Cooper from 2001 to 2003. He was also an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District for seven years.