President Barack Obama is unlikely to appoint a U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Alabama before 2011, according to an individual in the Democratic Party with knowledge of the process.
George Beck Jr., a white-collar criminal defense lawyer, has been under consideration for about a year to succeed U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, one of a handful of George W. Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys who remain in office. Canary has stayed in place as the Montgomery, Ala.,-based U.S. Attorney for nearly 10 years despite opposition from state Democrats concerning her ties to the successful and controversial corruption prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D).
“It’s obvious there is some resistance to George Beck’s nomination,” the individual told Main Justice on Friday.
But no one interviewed by Main Justice could agree on an explanation for the holdup.
Former U.S. Attorney Redding Pitt, who served in the Middle District of Alabama during the Bill Clinton administration, said the delay could be the result of “administrivia,” which he defined as a backlog of paperwork.
Beck submitted materials necessary for his nomination and appeared to undergo at least some of the requisite FBI background check in the last several months. But there is no indication that White House is on the verge of nominating him.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Birmingham lawyer G. Douglas Jones, who served as the Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney during the Clinton administration.
News reports surfaced in January that Rep. Artur Davis, the senior House Democrat in Alabama, had recommended that Obama nominate Beck for the post after Davis’s previous two choices were eliminated.
According to the Democrat interviewed by Main Justice, the White House officially contacted Beck in fall 2009 after eliminating from consideration defense lawyers Joe Van Heest and Michel Nicrosi, who were opposed by Alabama’s Republican senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.
Senators traditionally make recommendations for presidential appointees since the Senate votes on nominees. But the duty will often fall on House members who are in the same party as the president when both of the state’s senators are not in the president’s party.
Shelby and Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate committee that considers U.S. Attorney nominees, have not indicated any opposition to Beck’s nomination. A representative of Shelby did not respond to requests for comment from Main Justice. A spokesman for Sessions did not have an immediate comment.
But some Alabamans have opposed Beck’s nomination because of his work on the case against Siegelman, which some Democrats claim was a politically motivated prosecution. Canary, whose office handled the successful prosecution, recused herself from the case in the early stages of the investigation. She is married to GOP political operative Bill Canary.
Beck, a partner at Capell & Howard P.C. in Montgomery, Ala., represented star government witness Nick Bailey, a former Siegelman aide who was sentenced to 18 months in prison on bribery-related charges.
Individuals interviewed by Main Justice said they were not aware of any other candidates who are still in the running.
Davis, a former Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney, had discussions with the Justice Department this summer about the possibility of putting his own name forward for the nomination, according to the individual interviewed by Main Justice. The congressman lost in the June Democratic primary for Alabama governor and said he would not seek reelection to the House.
But the White House Counsel’s Office expressed reservations about the prospect, apparently concerned with the appearance that the Obama administration saved the post for Davis in case he lost his gubernatorial bid, the individual said.
Meanwhile, as the Senate prepares to return in the coming weeks to a busy three months, Canary will celebrate 20 years at the DOJ, according to Pitt. He speculated that the Obama administration might have stalled the nomination of Canary’s successor as a courtesy to her.
But the individual said that explanation seemed far-fetched.
“It strikes me as not likely,” the Democrat said.
A spokeswoman for Canary did not have an immediate comment about how long the U.S. Attorney intends to hold on to her post.