Posts Tagged ‘Southern District of Texas’
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Although jockeying over candidates by the state’s congressional delegation has complicated matters, Obama administration officials say the president still intends to make nominations for the four U.S. Attorney positions in Texas.

Responding to concerns raised by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), White House spokesman Reid Cherlin told Main Justice that the administration remains committed to filling the four slots. “This is a priority for us and we hope to nominate candidates soon,” Cherlin said.

With less than two years in his term remaining, President Barack Obama has yet to appoint Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys  for the state, leaving the top federal prosecuting jobs in one of the most populous states with temporary appointees. He made one U.S. Attorney nomination for Texas so far, but John B. Stevens Jr. last year withdrew his name from consideration for the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Texas after the Senate Judiciary Committee stalled on his confirmation.

Cornyn told reporters this month that he hasn’t heard anything definitive about U.S. Attorney nominations for his state. The senator said filling the U.S. Attorney posts isn’t a priority for the Obama administration.

However, a newspaper reported that some progress is being made. The Justice Department has started to vet candidates to fill the four U.S. Attorney jobs, The Dallas Morning News reported this week. But the list of candidates is still broad, according to the newspaper.

The nomination process in Texas has been messy. Traditionally, home-state senators recommend candidates to the White House — unless both of the state’s senators are of different parties than the president. That is the case in Texas, where Cornyn and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison are Republicans. In such cases, the president often relies on House members who are members of his political party.

In 2009, the state’s senators sent Obama one list and the Texas House Democrats sent him another. Since then, the senators and the House Democrats, led by Rep. Lloyd Doggett have battled over who gets to recommend candidates to the White House, providing Obama with only a couple of bipartisan options for the U.S. Attorney posts.

Stevens and Michael McCrum were the only candidates on both the Republican and Democratic lists released to the public and sent to the president in 2009. But McCrum, who was recommended for Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney, withdrew his name from consideration, saying he no longer could wait for the president to send his nomination to the Senate.

In addition to Stevens, the Texas senators suggested the current leader of the Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office, John Malcom Bales, as a candidate for a permanent appointment to that office, which is based in Beaumont. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Pitman got the senators’ endorsement too, joining McCrum on their list of candidates for the Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is based in San Antonio.

The senators also recommended that Obama nominate Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson to lead the Houston-based Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana to take the reins of Dallas-based Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Doggett’s publicly released list in 2009 did not include any candidates for the Northern and Southern districts. But the congressman said last year that he recommended U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeff Kaplan for Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney.

Cornyn has been vocal about his support for Saldana, telling The Dallas Morning News last year that he would “go to the mat” for her. Saldana has faced opposition from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) over concerns about the Assistant U.S. Attorney’s successful public corruption prosecution of former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill (D) and former state Rep. Terri Hodge (D), according to The Dallas Morning News.

Of the 93 U.S. Attorney posts across the country, 17 remain in office because a replacement has not yet been nominated by Obama or confirmed by the Senate.  The president made four U.S. Attorney nominations so far this year. But the Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to consider the nominations.

President George W. Bush had Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney appointees in place at the four Texas U.S. Attorney’s offices by April 2002, a little more than a year after he took office. His job no doubt was made easier by his having served as the state’s governor, making him familiar with the political landscape.

President Bill Clinton had two Senate-confirmed Texas U.S. Attorney appointees in place less than a year after he became president. But the Eastern District of Texas did not get a Senate-confirmed leader appointed by Clinton until fall 1994, and the Western District of Texas didn’t receive one until November 1997, nearly four years after he took office.

The Texas U.S. Attorney posts have not been held by Senate-confirmed appointees since at least April 2009.

Johnny Sutton, whom Bush appointed in 2001, stepped down as Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney in April 2009. John E. Murphy has led the office since then.

Rebecca A. Gregory, whom Bush appointed in 2007, resigned as Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney in April 2009. Bales has headed the office since her departure.

Richard Roper, whom Bush appointed in 2004, stepped down as Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney in December 2008. James T. Jacks has led the office since then.

Don DeGabrielle, whom Bush appointed in 2006, resigned as Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney in November 2008. Jose Angel Moreno has headed the office since February 2010.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Marina Garcia Marmolejo (Reid Davis LLP)

President Barack Obama nominated on Wednesday night a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Marina Garcia Marmolejo served in the Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office from 1999 to 2007 before entering the private sector. She is currently a partner at the law firm of Reid Davis LLP in Austin, Texas.

Read more about her here.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Tim Johnson (DOJ)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Moreno will become the interim U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas after current U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson leaves at the end of this week, The Houston Chronicle reports.

Johnson has led the Houston-based office since the resignation of Don DeGabrielle in November 2008. He had been DeGabrielle’s First Assistant since 2006. Earlier this week, federal judges in the district voted to make Moreno the district’s interim U.S. Attorney.

Last month Johnson said he would join the Houston firm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell after his resignation became effective on Feb. 13.

President Obama has yet to nominate a permanent U.S. Attorney for the district. Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison have recommended Southern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson for the post. Magidson heads the organized crime drug enforcement task force for the Southwest region. Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who chairs the Texas House Democratic delegation, is also making U.S. Attorney recommendations, but has yet to announce his candidate.

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas will resign next month to enter private practice in the Houston area, The Associated Press reported today.

Tim Johnson (DOJ)

Court-appointed U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson will join Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell at its Houston law offices after his resignation becomes effective on Feb. 13, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Legal Trade blog.

Johnson has led the Houston-based U.S. Attorney’s office since the resignation of Don DeGabrielle in November 2008. He had been DeGabrielle’s First Assistant since 2006.

“The past almost four years have been the most rewarding of my life,” Johnson said in a news release. “It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside [the office's staffers].”

President Barack Obama has yet to announce his nominee to lead the Southern District office.

Republican Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison have recommended Southern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson for the post. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who chairs the Texas delegation of House Democrats, is also making U.S. Attorney recommendations, but has yet to announce his candidate.

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Forbes magazine last week released its list of the top 10 CEOs who “showed enough greed, hubris and chutzpah” to give confessed Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff “a run for his (stolen) money.”

We’ve added some information that Forbes left off its list — the top federal prosecutors who get to go after these alleged financial fraudsters, even though some of the investigations began before their time.

Preet Bharara in his first major news conference Nov. 5.  The Manhattan U.S. Attorney announced the arrests of 14 people in an alleged insider trading ring around hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam. (Getty Images)

Preet Bharara in his first major news conference Nov. 5. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney announced the arrests of 14 people in an alleged insider trading ring around hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam. (Getty Images)

Winning a conviction in a high-profile financial case adds a notch to a U.S. Attorney’s belt. A prosecutor might even get to step out at a news conference or two, as Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara did on Nov. 5 when announcing insider trading arrests related to the Galleon hedge fund run by billionaire Raj Rajaratnam.

To be sure, not everyone on the Forbes list is accused of an actual crime. With that caveat, we present Forbes’s “Biggest CEO Outrages of 2009″ list:

1. Lloyd Blankfein. The chairman and CEO made $73 million in 2007 and $25 million in 2008, as the economy entered a deep recession. Although his salary is not a legal offense, Forbes deemed it practically criminal.

2. John Thain. The former CEO of Merrill Lynch approved $3.62 billion in bonuses for his executives last December as the company was being taken over by Bank of America and reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $15.3 billion.

3. Raj Rajaratnam. The founder of the hedge fund Galleon Group was charged with insider trading which allegedly helped him earn more than $33 million in illicit profits. He is being prosecuted in Manhattan by Bharara’s office.

4. Byrraju Ramalinga Raju. The founder of the Indian outsourcing company Satyam Computer Services in January confessed to overstating the company’s profits and fabricating its cash balance of more than $1 billion. He hasn’t been charged.

5. Thomas Petters. The former CEO and chairman of Petters Group Worldwide was charged with orchestrating a $3.5 billion pyramid scheme fraud. He is being prosecuted by the office of Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones.

6. Edward M. Liddy. The former CEO of American International Group (AIG) faced criticism this year for high salaries and bonuses in addition to expensive retreats the company funded after receiving a considerable sum as part of the bank bailout of 2008.

7. Danny Pang. The founder of Private Equity Management Group was accused of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded his investors of hundreds of millions of dollars. Pangdied of an apparent suicide in September at age 42. Had he lived, he would have been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, currently headed by acting U.S. Attorney George S. Cardona.

8. R. Allen Stanford. The Texas financier allegedly sold $7 billion worth of certificates of deposit through his Stanford International Bank and misappropriated most of the money. He is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, currently headed by interim U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson. UPDATE: Stanford also is being prosecuted by the fraud section of DOJ’s criminal division.

9. David Rubin. The head of CDR Financial Products was indicted in October on charges of conspiracy and fraud related to rigging auctions to help determine which banks would assist governments in raising money. He will be prosecuted by Bharara’s office in Manhattan.

10. Robert Moran. The CEO of Moran Yacht & Ship pleaded guilty to tax fraud to avoid indictment. He also promised to pay back taxes and penalties and cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service. He was prosecuted by the office of  R. Alexander Acosta, then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Friday, October 9th, 2009

Texas’s Republican senators and the state’s House Democrats have submitted separate lists of U.S. Attorney recommendations to the White House, setting the scene for a partisan shootout.

John Cornyn (gov)

John Cornyn (gov)

We reported yesterday that Sen. John Cornyn is threatening to block anyone but Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana for the U.S. Attorney post in North Texas. And the Texas House Democrats, led by delegation chairman Rep. Lloyd Doggett, don’t want Saldana. So that’s one showdown.

Then today, we got our hands on this news release issued by Cornyn and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison that appears to raise the stakes. The Republican senators, not willing to be cut out of the nomination process just because a Democrat now holds the White House, have submitted a complete list of candidates for all four of the state’s U.S. Attorney offices.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Cornyn reaffirmed his intention to block any U.S. Attorney nominee that did not go through his Republican screening committee. ”It’s the president’s prerogative to nominate anybody he wants,” Cornyn said. “But it’s the prerogative of the Senate to decide whether those individuals will be confirmed.”

Here is the list of the GOP recommended candidates, from the Cornyn-Hutchison news release:

Eastern District:

-John B. Stevens Jr. (Recommended by Texas senators and Doggett): He is a judge in the Jefferson County Criminal District Court in Texas.

-John Malcolm Bales (Recommended by Texas senators): He is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

Northern District:

-Sarah Saldana (Recommended by Texas senators): The Assistant U.S. Attorney heads the fraud and public corruption division in the Dallas-based Northern District.

Southern District of Texas:

-Kenneth Magidson (Recommended by Texas senators): The Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Houston-based office heads the organized crime drug enforcement task force for the Southwest region.

Western District of Texas:

-Michael McCrum (Recommended by Texas senators and Doggett): He is a San Antonio-based lawyer at the Thompson & Knight law firm, where he focuses on white collar criminal defense. Read more about him here.

-Robert Pitman (Recommended by Texas senators): He is a U.S. magistrate judge in the Western District of Texas.

In two instances, the candidates picked by the senators were also acceptable to Democrats — and they now appear on their way toward nomination. As we reported Wednesday, they are McCrum in San Antonio and Stevens for the Beaumont-based Eastern district. Doggett issued this news release Wednesday formally recommending McCrum and Stevens.

Doggett said in the news release that he reached agreement with the White House before making those two recommendations on behalf of the Texas Democrats. The negotiation included ”tense consultations” between Doggett and the senators, The Austin American-Statesman reported yesterday. The Obama White House has been reluctant to put names forward that Republican senators don’t support.

It would appear that Doggett has had to retreat somewhat from his tough talk earlier in the year. In an interview with Main Justice in June, he insisted the Democratic delegation would have the final say on recommendations to the White House. But Travis County Attorney David Escamilla, in Doggett’s Austin home base, was the congressman’s first choice for the Western District, the Austin American-Statesman reported. But Escamilla didn’t have the support of the Republican senators and was eliminated.

Texas Democrats support Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore and Dallas civil lawyer Roger Williams for the Northern District. But in the face of apparent opposition from the GOP senators, the Democrats have made no formal announcement.

“We thought Sarah Saldana was the best candidate and that’s why we sent her name to the White House,” Cornyn told reporters yesterday about his Northern District choice. “My hope is that the White House will choose her and make that appointment.”

It’s unclear why the House Democrats snubbed Saldana, whom the Morning News describes as “a candidate with strong Democratic credentials.” She played a key role in a Dallas City Hall corruption trial that some Democrats cast as politically motivated, but Johnson said her involvement was not a factor.

Doggett said in a statement to The Dallas Morning News that the Texas Democratic delegation “never sought confrontation with our senators.”

“I understand they were more comfortable with an inside Republican process, but elections matter,” he said. “Insisting that one and only one person whom they select can be appointed to one of these positions would be a clear abuse of authority.”

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

A controversial screening committee set up by Texas’s two Republican senators has interviewed every person on the White House’s list of U.S. Attorney candidates for Texas, the chairman of the panel said Thursday.

Dan Hedges

But the screening panel, convened by GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, also interviewed candidates who were not forwarded by President Obama, said Dan Hedges, a partner at Porter & Hedges LLP in Houston. That means there is still potential for conflict if the senators ultimately back candidates who don’t have the imprimatur of the Texas House Democrats.

The Republican senators and Texas Democrats led by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, an Austin liberal, have been squabbling for months over who gets to make recommendations to the White House. Cornyn, a conservative, has threatened to block candidates not approved by his and Hutchison’s screening panel. Read our previous reports here and here and here.

Still, Hedges’s description of the screening process punctures some of the air from the drama. For example, the senators’ committee doesn’t appear to have gone rouge - it interviewed all the White House candidates. Surely some from that list will win the Republican senators’ approval? So the whole exercise could end up being a lot of chest-beating on both sides.

What’s not known yet is how the GOP-led screening committee ranked the candidates - or if the senators picked any finalists who were not on the White House lists. Finalists for the Beaumont-based Eastern District and the Dallas-based Northern District were slated to be in Washington today to meet with Cornyn and Hutchison, we previously reported.

KFDM News in Beaumont reported that Criminal District Judge John Stevens of Beaumont “was approached” about taking the Eastern District U.S. Attorney job. The former U.S. Attorney for the district, Rebecca Gregory, resigned in May. The office is current led by interim U.S. Attorney John Malcolm Bales.

The Dallas Morning News reported names of potential candidates for the Northern District here. The Austin-American Statesman identified candidates for the San Antonio-based Western District here.

The White House sent four names for the Northern District — and the screening committee interviewed two additional candidates not on the president’s list, Hedges said. Likewise, the White House sent only one name for the Eastern District, but the screening panel ranked two candidates, Hedges said.

The White House list contained “three or four” names for the Western District in San Antonio and three for the Houston-based Southern District, Hedges said.

He added that interviews for the Dallas-based Northern District of Texas and the Beaumont-based Eastern District of Texas were completed about three weeks ago, followed by interviews for the Southern and Western districts.

Hedges, a Republican, was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas from 1981-1985. He, Dan Webb, and Rudy Giuliani co-founded the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force — which is holding a big conference in Washington this week, affording more than one potential U.S. Attorney candidate a chance to meet with his or her home-state congressional leaders, who are here in Washington because Congress is in session.

UPDATE

Hutchison said in an interview with Main Justice that she and Cornyn held interviews this week with candidates from the Republican-backed screening committee. The Texas senator declined to comment on who they interviewed and the number of candidates they met on Capitol Hill. She said they will continue to hold interviews next week for candidates who weren’t able to come to D.C. this week.

“There isn’t any need to say who we interviewed at this point,” Hutchison said.

Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.