March 20, 2007

Former U.S. Attorney Whitehouse Praises Legislation to Reverse Politicization of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices

Firings Harm Balance Between Main Justice, U.S. Attorneys, Rhode Island Senator Says

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who served as U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island from 1994-1998, voted today in support of legislation to close the loophole used by the Bush administration as part of its efforts to fire several U.S. Attorneys last year, a move widely criticized as having been motivated by partisan politics rather than genuine concerns over the job performance of the prosecutors involved.

“My experience firmly convinces me that the administration of justice in this country is well-served by a healthy tension between the practical experience of the U.S. Attorneys in the field and the policy direction of the Department of Justice in Washington,” Whitehouse said.

“When you have a Department of Justice that evaluates U.S. Attorneys on their loyalty to the President and the Attorney General, that is a very serious issue. I join the rest of my colleagues in seeking to get to the bottom of this and restore the independence and integrity of the U.S. Attorney corps and the Department of Justice.”

The Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007 (S. 214), which would undo the Bush administration’s efforts to allow the Attorney General to make interim appointments of U.S. Attorneys, bypassing the Senate confirmation process, passed the Senate today by a vote of 94-2. Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a cosponsor of the bill and took part in a press conference today with other members of the Judiciary Committee and concerned Senators to discuss next steps forward.

S. 214 would require that an interim appointment of a U.S. Attorney made by the Attorney General would expire after 120 days or when a successor is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, whichever comes first. If, after 120 days, no successor has been confirmed, the local district court would have the authority to appoint an interim U.S. Attorney until the vacancy is filled.


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