Posts Tagged ‘Middle District of Alabama’
Monday, May 16th, 2011

George Beck Jr. (Capell & Howard)

George Beck, the Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney nominee, handled the successful 1977 prosecution of Bob Chambliss for his participation in the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. The racially motivated attack killed four black girls and blinded another black girl.

The church was a meeting place for leaders of the civil rights movement and the bombing was considered one of the major crimes of the civil rights era.

Beck, a former Alabama deputy attorney general, reopened the case in the early 1970s, at the request of then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley (D). “Birmingham police either could not or would not solve this heinous act,” Beck said.

Beck (Auburn University, University of Alabama Law School) was nominated on March 31 to replace U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who has led the Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2001. She is one of five U.S. Attorneys still in office who were confirmed by the Senate and appointed by President George W. Bush.

The White House had considered Michel Nicrosi, who lost a bid for Alabama attorney general in 2010, and defense attorney Joe Van Heest for the U.S. Attorney post in Montgomery.  Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who supported another candidate, contributed to the slow pace of the process.

His vitals:

  • Born in Enterprise, Ala., in 1941.
  • Has been a shareholder at the law firm of Capell & Howard PC in Montgomery, Ala., since 2004.
  • Has been a managing member of 21st Sentry LLC in Wetumpka, Ala., since 2006.
  • Has served as the president of Chosen Oils Inc. in Wetumpka since 2000.
  • Was president and sole shareholder at the law firm of George L. Beck PC in Montgomery from 1986 to 2003.
  • Was a partner at the law firm of Baxley, Beck, Dillard & Dauphin in Montgomery from 1982 to 1986.
  • Was a sole practitioner from 1979 to 1982.
  • Served as Alabama deputy attorney general from 1971 to 1979.
  • Was an associate at the law firm of St. John & St. John LLC in Cullman, Ala., from 1966 to 1971.
  • Was a law clerk at the law firm of Clement, Hubbard & Waldrop in Tuscaloosa, Ala., from 1964 to 1966.
  • Served stints in the Alabama Army National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve and the Judge Advocate General Corps from 1966 to 2001, rising to colonel.
  • Has been an Alabama Democratic Party member “since birth.”
  • Has tried about 850 cases, serving as sole counsel in 10 cases, serving as sole counsel for 450, chief counsel for 150, associate counsel for 150 and sole counsel for 100 administrative matters.

Read his full Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire here.

On his Senate Judiciary financial disclosure, Beck reported assets valued at $9 million, including almost $2.8 million in cash on hand and in banks, and $409,500 in liabilities mostly from mortgages, for a net worth of $8.6 million.

On his Office of Government Ethics financial disclosure, he reported making about $270,000 as a shareholder at Capell & Howard since January 2010.

This story has been updated.

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Thursday, March 31st, 2011

President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated a replacement for one of the few remaining U.S. Attorneys appointed by President George W. Bush.

George Beck Jr. (Capell & Howard)

Obama tapped George Beck to replace U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who has led the Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2001. She is one of five U.S. Attorneys still in office who were confirmed by the Senate and appointed by Bush.

Canary irked several Democrats in Alabama for what they considered a politically motivated prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D).

At one time, the White House considered Michel Nicrosi, who lost in a 2010 bid for Alabama attorney general, and defense attorney Joe Van Heest for the Montgomery-based U.S. Attorney post. Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby (R), who backed another candidate, contributed to the slow pace of the process.

Beck is currently a shareholder at the law firm of Capell & Howard P.C. in Montgomery. He previously was a sole practitioner from 1986 to 2003.

The nominee also was a partner at the law firm of Baxley, Beck, Dillard & Dauphin from 1979 to 1982 after serving eight years as deputy attorney general for the state of Alabama.

From 1966 to 1971, he was an associate at the law firm of St. John & St. John LLC.

Beck received his undergraduate degree from Auburn University in 1963 and graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1966.

The Senate has confirmed 76 of Obama’s U.S. Attorneys thus far. Including Beck, there are five U.S. Attorney nominees waiting for consideration by the Senate. There are 93 U.S. Attorney posts across the nation.

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Top Justice Department officials this week announced two major public corruption cases impacting federal jurisdictions controlled by U.S. Attorneys heldover from the George W. Bush administration. But only one of the U.S. Attorneys attended a news conference in Washington for the big unveiling of the investigation.

Puerto Rico U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez and Attorney General Eric Holder. (photo by Andrew Ramonas / Main Justice)

U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, who has led the Puerto Rico U.S. Attorney’s office since 2006, appeared beside Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday at Justice Department headquarters as he announced the arrests of more than 100 individuals in Puerto Rico, as part of the largest law enforcement corruption probe in FBI history.

But earlier in the week, Leura Canary, who has been the Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney since 2001, was not on hand for a news conference at DOJ headquarters when Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division announced the arrests of 11 individuals in Alabama – including four state lawmakers – in a major investigation involving vote-buying and electronic bingo. Her office was mostly recused from the investigation.

Rodríguez-Vélez, whose U.S. Attorney nomination was never confirmed by the Senate, and Canary, who was appointed by Bush in 2001, are among about 10 U.S. Attorneys who have been in office since the previous administration. Canary prosecuted former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on a public corruption charge that many Democrats said was politically motivated. The U.S. Supreme Court in June sent Siegelman’s case back to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for review after the high court limited the use of the honest services statute under which Siegelman was convicted.

Leura Canary (DOJ)

President Barack Obama has not nominated replacements for Rodríguez-Vélez and Canary. Holder on Wednesday declined to comment about a possible successor to Rodríguez-Vélez.

“All I’m here to announce is the results of a great investigation and the wonderful work that has been done by the great U.S. Attorney,” Holder said.

This story has been updated.

Monday, October 4th, 2010

One of the few remaining U.S. Attorneys who was appointed by President George W. Bush and remains on the job was missing from a Justice Department headquarters news conference on Monday announcing a major public corruption prosecution in her district.

Leura Canary (DOJ)

Leura Canary, who has led Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2001, did not join her Justice Department colleagues in Washington as they announced that they had charged 11 individuals in Alabama, including the owner of the state’s largest casino and four state lawmakers, as part of a public corruption probe involving a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that would legalize electronic bingo. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division, FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the Criminal Investigative Division and FBI Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Fuhrman of the Mobile, Ala., Division spoke at the news conference.

Breuer said Assistant U.S. Attorneys Louis V. Franklin and Steve P. Feaga from the Middle District of Alabama are assisting in the prosecution. But the Assistant Attorney General said the U.S. Attorney’s office is otherwise recused from the case. He declined to comment on the reason for the recusal.

“Two of her lawyers have worked on our team, but all the direction has come from here, the Criminal Division,” Breuer said.

Canary’s office led the successful and controversial corruption prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D). She recused herself from that case and Franklin oversaw the prosecution.

News conferences at DOJ headquarters often include U.S. Attorneys when announcements there involve significant cases in the prosecutors’ districts. Breuer said her appointment by Bush “isn’t relevant” to DOJ decisions made about the case.

Canary is one of eight Bush U.S. Attorneys who are still in office. President Barack Obama has yet to nominate her replacement.

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Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

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. (Capell & Howard

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.

Leura Canary (gov)

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.

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Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

A lawyer once considered for Middle District of Alabama U.S. Attorney was sworn in as a county public defender on Monday, the Tuscaloosa News reported.

Joe Van Heest (via Facebook)

Joseph Van Heest, who now leads the Tuscaloosa County, Ala., public defender’s office, was one of two candidates recommended in January 2009 for the U.S. Attorney post in Montgomery, Ala. But his candidacy was scuttled by the White House last summer after facing opposition from Alabama Republican Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, who is ranking member on the Senate committee that considers U.S. Attorney nominees.

Rep. Artur Davis, Alabama’s senior congressional Democrat, then recommended George Beck Jr., a white-collar defense lawyer in Montgomery at Capell & Howard P.C., for the U.S. Attorney nomination in January. He would succeed Leura Canary, who is among the handful of presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys from the George W. Bush administration still in office.

Van Heest, a former assistant federal defender for the Middle District of Alabama, received the unanimous approval of the committee that hired him for county public defender.

“I have found criminal defense work more satisfying than other types of law. It is often an opportunity to help someone badly in need of help when nobody else is willing to do so,” Van Heest told the Tuscaloosa News. “When the awesome power of the state or federal government is brought down upon an individual with little or no resources, the system is not balanced. A strong, dedicated and talented public defender’s office is necessary to marshal available resources to reduce that imbalance.”

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Monday, April 5th, 2010

Michel Nicrosi (courtesy Trinity Episcopal Church)

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.

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Just as some Justice Department offices in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast finally are back in business after an earlier one-two punch of winter storms had laid them low earlier in the week, another storm that is bringing several inches of snow to the South closed U.S. Attorney’s offices in five districts today.

According to DOJ spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz, the shuttered offices are the:

  • Southern District of Mississippi.
  • Southern District of Alabama (Mobile office).
  • Middle District of Alabama.
  • Western District of Louisiana (Shreveport office).
  • Eastern District of Texas (Plano, Sherman and Texarkana offices).

The branch offices for Northern District of Texas in Dallas and Fort Worth opened late today. The Eastern District of Texas’s branch offices in Tyler and Lufkin also had late openings today.

Many employees at shuttered offices are still able to work remotely, using communications technology such as BlackBerries, cell phones and laptop computers, DOJ officials have said.

Most of this week, many U.S. Attorney’s offices across the East Coast were closed because of two crippling blizzards that dumped more than a foot of snow. DOJ headquarters in Washington also had limited operations.

Today, all of the U.S. Attorney’s offices that were closed this week have been reopened and the DOJ operations in Washington are back to normal, according to DOJ officials.

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

For the first time in this administration, Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys nominated by President Barack Obama outnumber Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys nominated by former President George W. Bush.

As of the end of November, more than 10 months into Obama’s presidency, the score was 24 Obama U.S. Attorneys to 21 Bush U.S. Attorneys, according to a review of Justice Department and congressional records. And of the 48 acting and interim U.S. Attorneys, just seven were appointed during the Bush administration.

Stephanie Villafuerte (gov)

Stephanie Villafuerte (gov)

The figures represent a watershed for the Obama administration, which has made halting progress filling the nation’s 93 U.S. Attorneys positions amid political resistance and a crowded legislative agenda.

On Monday, the U.S. Attorney nominee for Colorado, Stephanie Villafuerte, pulled her name from consideration, offering a public view of one of several nomination battles unfolding in districts across the country. Villafuerte, the first Obama U.S. Attorney nominee to withdraw, faced questions from Republicans over whether she accessed a restricted federal database for political purposes.

Meanwhile, in Mississippi’s Northern District, Oxford-based criminal defense lawyer Christi McCoy’s candidacy has foundered. People in Mississippi legal circles said Republicans raised questions about her affiliation with a private investigator under investigation for allegedly padding his bills and submitting false claims. (McCoy, like many other defense lawyers in Mississippi, used the P.I. in her practice.)

McCoy was recommended for the U.S. Attorney post by Mississippi Reps. Bennie Thompson and Travis Childers, both Democrats.

Leura Canary (gov)

Leura Canary (gov)

And in Alabama, Montgomery criminal defense lawyer Joe Van Heest appears to be out of the running for Middle District U.S. Attorney after objections from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), one person familiar with the situation said. Van Heest, who was recommended by Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), had been fully vetted by the White House months ago. But the administration never went forward with a nomination.

As a result, a controversial Bush-holder U.S. Attorney, Leura Canary, remains in charge of the Montgomery-based office. Democrats have criticized Canary for prosecuting former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on public corruption charges. The Justice Department opposes Siegelman’s Supreme Court appeal of his 2006 conviction.

The White House has shown little appetite for these and other feuds, preferring to reservoir political capital for legislative goals such as health-care reform.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Obama administration is treading cautiously in nominating U.S. Attorneys, in part because of lingering sensitivities to politicization in the Justice Department. In an October interview with National Public Radio, Holder said he hoped the offices would be filled by the first part of 2010, but that appears unlikely, with fewer than one-third of the U.S. Attorneys confirmed heading into the New Year.

Eric Holder (Photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice)

Eric Holder (Photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice)

One administration official said Holder is frustrated with the pace of the nominations, which thus far has been set by the White House. And several Justice officials are now privately questioning the wisdom of leaving Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys in place until their successors are confirmed, a tack Obama took to preserve continuity and avoid political pitfalls after the scandal over prosecutor firings.

More than twice as many Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys were in place by this time in the first year of the previous two administrations. In the Bush administration, the Senate had confirmed 58 U.S. Attorneys by the end of November 2001, congressional records show. President Bill Clinton, by comparison, had moved 57 U.S. Attorneys through the confirmation process by the end of November 1993.

Nominations, too, have been slow in coming, reinforcing the notion that the top rather than the bottom of the process is knotted. Obama has sent 34 U.S. Attorney nominations to the Senate to date. Bush had nominated more than 60 U.S. Attorneys and Clinton more than 70 U.S. Attorneys by this time in their first terms.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the figures, referring a reporter to Holder’s previous statements on U.S. Attorney nominations.

To read our previous most recent accounting of U.S. Attorney nominees, click here. And to view our interactive U.S. Attorney chart, click here.

Below are lists of Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys.

Nominated by Obama:

  • Timothy Heaphy (Western District of Virginia)
  • Karen Loeffler (District of Alaska)
  • Brendan Johnson (District of South Dakota)
  • Paul Fishman (District of New Jersey)
  • Kenyen Brown (Southern District of Alabama)
  • Stephanie Rose (Northern District of Iowa)
  • Nick Klinefeldt (Southern District of Iowa)
  • Benjamin Wagner (Eastern District of California)
  • Ed Tarver (Southern District of Georgia)
  • Carmen Ortiz (District of Massachusetts)
  • Joyce Vance (Northern District of Alabama)
  • B. Todd Jones (District of Minnesota)
  • John Kacavas (District of New Hampshire)
  • Preet Bharara (Southern District of New York)
  • Tristram Coffin (District of Vermont)
  • Dennis Burke (District of Arizona)
  • Daniel Bogden (District of Nevada)
  • Steve Dettelbach (Northern District of Ohio)
  • Carter Stewart (Southern District of Ohio)
  • Peter Neronha (District of Rhode Island)
  • Neil MacBride (Eastern District of Virginia)
  • Florence Nakakuni (District of Hawaii)
  • Deborah Gilg (District of Nebraska)
  • Jenny Durkan (Western District of Washington)

Nominated by Bush:

  • Leura Canary (Middle District of Alabama)
  • Joseph Russoniello (Northern District of California)
  • A. Brian Albritton (Middle District of Florida)
  • Leonardo Rapadas (Guam & Northern Mariana Islands)
  • Thomas Moss (District of Idaho)
  • Patrick Fitzgerald (Northern District of Illinois)
  • Jim Letten (Eastern District of Louisiana)
  • David Dugas (Middle District of Louisiana)
  • Donald Washington (Western District of Louisiana)
  • Rod Rosenstein (District of Maryland)
  • Jim Greenlee (Northern District of Mississippi)
  • William Mercer (District of Montana)
  • George E.B. Holding (Eastern District of North Carolina)
  • Anna Mills S. Wagner (Middle District of North Carolina)
  • Sheldon Sperling (District of Oklahoma)
  • William Walter Wilkins III (District of South Carolina)
  • James Dedrick (Eastern District of Tennessee)
  • Edward Meachan Yardbrough (Middle District of Tennessee)
  • Brett Tolman (District of Utah)
  • James McDevit (Eastern District of Washington)
  • Kelly Rankin (District of Wyoming)

And here’s a list of Obama nominees who have not been confirmed:

  • Christopher Crofts (District of Wyoming)
  • Thomas Walker (Eastern District of North Carolina)
  • James Santelle (Eastern District of Wisconsin)
  • Barbara McQuade (Eastern District of Michigan)
  • Mary Elizabeth Phillips (Western District of Missouri)
  • Sanford Coats (Western District of Oklahoma)
  • Michael Cotter (District of Montana)
  • Richard Callahan (Eastern District of Missouri)
  • Michael Moore (Middle District of Georgia)
Thursday, November 19th, 2009
Michel Nicrosi (courtesy Trinity Episcopal Church)

Michel Nicrosi (courtesy Trinity Episcopal Church)

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.