President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s office has withdrawn his name from consideration, KFDM News reported Thursday.
John B. Stevens, a judge in Jefferson County, Texas, told the news station that he took himself out of the running for the best interests of his family. The television station said Stevens notified the Justice Department and relevant members of Congress on Wednesday.
“What was in the best interests of me and my family 18 months ago has changed,” Stevens told the news station, which is located in Beaumont, Texas. “It has been a great honor to be nominated for U.S. Attorney and I’ve had enough time to think and prayerfully reflect, and even a greater honor is the people’s will. They’ve chosen me the Criminal District Court Judge and I want to continue to serve them and this county.”
Stevens said a number of people have asked him to remain on the court, a job he loves, and his decision to withdraw brought “peace to me and my family.”
He said the slow speed of the U.S. Attorney nomination and confirmation process gave him time to weigh his options. He was nominated Feb. 24, almost five months after he was recommended to the White House by Texas House Democrats and the state’s Republican senators.
“It seems like there ought to be a quicker method,” Stevens said. “It’s certainly given me time to pray and think. Maybe the good Lord was postponing things to give me time to reconsider what’s in the best interests of me and my family and this county.”
Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison have waged a bitter battle against the Texas House Democrats, who are led by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, over U.S. Attorney nominations for the state’s four federal districts.
Senators are typically afforded the privilege of recommending U.S. Attorney candidates to the White House. But if the senators are not in the same party as the president, the responsibility often falls on House members who are of the president’s party.
The Texas senators and Doggett submitted their own lists of U.S. Attorney candidates to the White House last year. Stevens and a Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney finalist were the only candidates on both lists.
Stevens is the only Texas U.S. Attorney candidate Obama has nominated thus far. He would have succeeded Rebecca Gregory, who resigned as U.S. Attorney last May.
He is the second Obama U.S. Attorney nominee to withdraw. Former Colorado U.S. Attorney nominee Stephanie Villafuerte, the deputy chief of staff to Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) for community outreach, withdrew her nomination after coming under fire by Republicans who questioned whether she asked employees of the Denver district attorney’s office to access a restricted government database in connection with the 2006 gubernatorial campaign. Villafuerte denied the allegation.
Doggett issued the following statement on the withdrawal:
“This is a real loss for our justice system. We have not had a more qualified individual for the job of U.S. Attorney than Judge John B. Stevens, whose name we first submitted to the White House on March 11, 2009. As with the recent decision of Sheriff Mitch Woods to withdraw his name for U.S. Marshal, I understand and respect the decision of these outstanding public officials. Each had to wait far too long for too little progress. I trust that Judge Stevens will continue his exceptional service in the local judiciary. Making timely appointments has simply not gotten adequate attention from this Administration. This loss should send a strong signal to the Administration to place a much higher priority on strengthening our justice system across the State of Texas and across America. This problem of unnecessary, lengthy delay in the appointment process is having negative consequences far beyond Jefferson County.”
This story has been corrected to reflect that Republicans questioned whether Villafuerte asked the Denver district attorney’s office to access a government database for political purposes, an allegation she has denied.