Former federal prosecutor and tax-fraud expert Michel Nicrosi is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Alabama attorney general in the June 1 primary this year. The deadline for major party candidates to file was Thursday.
Nicrosi, who previously worked at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., prosecuting tax fraud and money laundering cases and then was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Mobile, announced her candidacy in November 2009 . In the primary, Nicrosi will face former state Ethics Commission Chairman James Anderson and former state Democratic Party Chairman Giles Perkins.
Republican hopefuls are incumbent Attorney General Troy King and party activist Luther Strange.
Posted in News | Comments Off
Rep. Artur Davis, Alabama’s senior congressional Democrat, has recommended a Montgomery lawyer for U.S. Attorney in the state’s Middle District, reports The Associated Press.
Davis, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said on Thursday he is backing George Beck Jr., 68, a white-collar defense lawyer at Capell & Howard and former state prosecutor. Earlier this month, we reported that Beck was the front-runner for the Middle District post, which is based in Montgomery.
Beck is the third lawyer Davis has recommended for the job. Over the summer, the White House eliminated defense lawyers Joe Van Heest of Montgomery and Michel Nicrosi of Mobile, who ran into opposition from the state’s Republican senators.
U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, a Bush appointee, continues to serve, nearly a year into the Obama administration. Alabama Democrats have accused her of bringing politically motivated cases, including the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D). Canary has said the criticism is without merit.
This report was corrected to reflect that the Middle District is based in Montgomery.
Posted in News | Comments Off
The White House is having trouble finding a replacement for controversial U.S. Attorney Leura Canary in Alabama’s Middle District, having considered and discarded three candidates over the last year, according to Alabama Democrats.
Both Republicans and Democrats have objected to different candidates, and the White House has been unwilling to cross the state’s powerful GOP senators, according to a Democrat who has spoken to administration officials about the matter. The result has been the continued service of Canary, a bête noire of Alabama Democrats for her prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D), while the administration now considers a fourth candidate.
Over the summer, the White House eliminated white-collar defense lawyer Joe Van Heest of Montgomery, even though he’d already been fully vetted, the Alabama Democrats said.
Van Heest met objections from Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee. Shelby had also helped thwart the original candidate for the job, Mobile-based lawyer Michel Nicrosi, the Democrats said. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also opposed Nicrosi.
Then, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Birmingham-based Northern District briefly emerged as a front-runner, only to be shot down by Alabama Democrats who said her past work on politically controversial prosecutions disqualified her.
Last month, Main Justice provided an accounting of U.S. Attorney nominations. The figures — President Barack Obama has nominated 42 U.S. Attorneys, and 31 have been confirmed — painted a picture of a process beset by political interference and a White House counsel’s office in flux. (The latter problem may be solved, with the arrival of White House counsel Bob Bauer, but only time will tell.)
Alabama’s Middle District provides an interesting case study: Republican and Democratic opposition, combined with a hands-off White House, has so gummed up the process, there have been four U.S. Attorney front-runners since the summer – but zero nominations.
Shelby’s objections to Van Heest, as we reported in July, appeared to be related to his efforts to promote the daughter of a political supporter for the job. Shelby pushed Anna Clark Morris for the prosecutor post, Alabama officials and lawyers told Main Justice over the summer. Morris, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Middle District, is the daughter of influential trial lawyer and Shelby supporter Larry Morris. Neither Shelby’s office nor Van Heest returned phone calls seeking comment.
Both Nicrosi and Van Heest enjoyed the support of Rep. Artur Davis, the state’s senior congressional Democrat, and they both reached the interview-at-the-Justice-Department stage of the process before the White House eliminated them. Nicrosi was the first choice of a selection committee formed Davis; Van Heest was the second. Click here and here for a more background on their candidacies.
After Van Heest, according to the Democrat with knowledge of the selection process, several individuals were approached about the job, including two state circuit judges, a former federal magistrate judge, and a former president of the Alabama state bar. All declined to throw in their hats — though it’s not clear why. (An indictment of the current process, perhaps?)
At one point, there was an effort to build some support around Montgomery-based lawyer Ed Parish Jr., the knowledgeable Democrat said. But Davis and others raised objections about Parish’s lack of criminal experience.
In the fall, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamarra Matthews Johnson, 35, of Alabama’s Northern District, emerged as the new front-runner. It’s not clear who recommended her for the post. The knowledgeable Democrat said she applied directly to the White House. Johnson declined to comment.
In any event Johnson, a former clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, wasn’t expected encounter opposition from Sessions and Shelby, the knowledgeable Democrat said.
But she could not overcome her work on corruption cases against Democrats, including the prosecution of Siegelman for alleged bid-rigging. The case, which was overseen by Birmingham-based U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, another villian of the Left, was eventually thrown out. (Siegelman was later indicted and convicted in the Montgomery-based Middle District, on Canary’s turf.)
Democrats have long-maintained the Siegelman cases were politically motivated.
Johnson also worked on the Justice Department’s case against Richard Scrushy, the former chief executive of HealthSouth, who was acquitted in 2005 of masterminding a $2.7 billion accounting fraud. But in 2006, Scrushy was convicted in the Middle District of paying $500,000 to Siegelman in return for a seat on the state hospital regulatory board.
Amid a groundswell of Democratic opposition – Johnson was referred to as a “rabid, right-wing Republican” in one anyonmous quote that gained purchase in the blogosphere, though she and her husband are Democratic donors – Davis approached the White House. The congressman warned that her nomination would generate a backlash, the knowledgeable Democrat said.
The White House, which thus far has been loath to mix it up with Republicans over U.S. Attorney nominations, tread at least as carefully with Democrats, and Johnson’s candidacy dissolved.
The new front-runner, the official said, is George Beck Jr., 68, a white-collar defense lawyer at Capell & Howard and former state prosecutor. Davis recently passed his named to the White House, the official said, but it appears his candidacy will be anything but tidy.
Even if he satisfies the state’s Republican senators, he’ll have to assuage Democrats. Like Johnson, he also was involved in the Siegelman case as a lawyer for government witness Nick Bailey, an ex-aide to the governor who was sentenced to 18 months in prison on bribery-related charges. Bailey, one of the government’s star witnesses, testified in three trials and submitted to more than 40 interviews with federal investigators.
Beck, others noted, also defended Guy Hunt, the first Republican governor of Alabama since Reconstruction, who was convicted of illegaly diverting and spending money raised for his 1987 inauguration.
Posted in News | 3 Comments »
Former federal prosecutor and tax-fraud expert Michel Nicrosi on Thursday will file papers with the Alabama Secretary of State to run for the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General, The Associated Press reports. She told The AP she wants the job because the office needs a prosecutor and not a politician.
Nicrosi had been mentioned earlier this year as a possible nominee for U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. She was the first choice of a selection committee formed by Democratic Rep. Artur Davis. But she didn’t have the support of Alabama Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby.
The White House instead has vetted Joseph P. Van Heest, a criminal defense attorney in Montgomery, for the job. Van Heest was Davis’s second choice. But his nomination has been held up for months over objections from Shelby, who reportedly supports the daughter of a friend and political support for the Middle District instead.
Check out our previous report here.
Nicrosi, who previously was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Mobile, where she is now in private practice, successfully defended a top aide to former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) against racketeering charges.
The only other Democrat to announce a Secretary of State candidacy is former state Democratic chairman Giles Perkins. Two other Democrats have been mentioned as possible candidates for the nomination: attorney James Anderson and Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall.
On the GOP side, current Attorney General Troy King plans to run for re-election. He will face Luther Strange, a Republican activist who also sought the post in 2006.
Posted in News | Comments Off
President Obama’s intended nominee for the Montgomery-based Middle District of Alabama is all vetted and ready to go. But you didn’t see white collar criminal defense lawyer Joe Van Heest on the list of new nominees released by the White House Friday.
The reason: Objections from Republican Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), two Democrats close to the nominating process recently told me.
As a result, controversial U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, whose office prosecuted former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on political corruption charges, will likely cling to office a bit longer while the Shelby spat gets sorted out.
Shelby’s office didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, declined to comment. Van Heest, who practices in Montgomery, did not respond to a request for comment.
As far as we can tell, Shelby’s goal isn’t to prolong the tenure of Canary, who hasn’t taken the hint and resigned yet. Canary, of course, is accused of helping send the popular Siegelman to prison on bogus charges so he couldn’t run for office again. Canary is married to GOP political operative Bill Canary, who was reportedly close to Karl Rove.
Rather, Shelby’s objections appear to be related to his campaign to promote the daughter of a political supporter for the job, Alabama Democrats say.
Shelby has backed Anna Clark Morris for the position, Alabama officials and lawyers have told me. Morris is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Middle District office and the daughter of influential trial lawyer Larry Morris, the Shelby supporter.
Morris, of Morris, Haynes & Hornsby in Birmingham, also has built good relations with both Democrats and Republicans. And Shelby, of course, is himself is a former Democrat and a trial lawyer.
A local Democratic patronage committee had recommended Anna Clark Morris for the job, but according to a high-ranking Democratic official with knowledge of the process, she hasn’t been vetted by the White House and won’t be nominated.
Another name floated for the position is Montgomery Presiding Circuit Court Judge Charles Price. Price is African American and would add diversity (Van Heest is white). But Price isn’t a contender, Democrats close to the process tell me, despite Price’s recent quotes in this piece in the Montgomery Independent suggesting he’s interested.
Van Heest was the second choice for the Middle District put forward by Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), who as the state’s senior congressional Democrat has been making recommendations to the White House. Davis’s first choice for the job was former federal prosecutor Michel Nicrosi, now in the corporate compliance and white collar defense section of Jones Walker in Mobile. But both Shelby and Alabama’s other Republican senator, Jeff Sessions, objected to Nicrosi, and the White House eliminated her from contention weeks ago. Read our previous report on Nicrosi here.
The odd thing about the Van Heest nomination is how defential the White House is apparently being to Shelby. We know the White House doesn’t want any controversy (ie: no senatorial “blue slips” filed against their nominees.) But in Van Heest, the administration has a guy who’s ready to go – and who would replace one of the bête noires of the Left. The George W. Bush White House would have just rolled any Democrats who tried to object to their nominees – and they didn’t have a 60-vote supermajority in 2001.