April 30, 2010

Asleep at the wheel

Over a year into the Obama presidency and 40 U.S. Attorneys’ positions still lack presidentially confirmed prosecutors and remain staffed by interim attorneys. Texas holds the dubious distinction of having the largest number of unconfirmed slots of any state, with all four positions currently staffed by temps. This bad situation likely wont be rectified any time soon, since the Texas GOP Senators stand firmly at odds with the state’s Democratic House delegation.

This stand-off has now suffered its first casualty. State District Judge John B. Stevens of Beaumont, the only Obama nominee in Texas, has withdrawn his name from consideration, citing the toll the stand-off was taking on him and his family. Score one for the forces of recalcitrance.

Although ably staffed by capable interim prosecutors, the lack of confirmed attorneys tends to leave Texas under-represented in D.C. on issues relating to law and justice. The work goes on based upon historic initiatives, with crimes investigated and cases prosecuted, but the lack of a confirmed nominee tends to take Texas out of the loop in setting new initiatives, meaning crime trends originating in Texas could go unnoticed on the federal level.

There is a massive national agenda that the Democrats in Congress and the President have been pursuing that remains untapped and unimplemented” in Texas, says Chuck Herring, a Austin-based lawyer who has followed the nomination process closely, “Because without an appointed leader who has some sense of authority, as opposed to being simply a placeholder, you aren't going to have someone who is willing to be aggressive and exercise policy command decisions to transform this sort of stuck-in-the-mud, inertial approach into the issues of the day and the nation.”

The Texas Democratic delegation is laying the blame for this problem directly at the Administration’s feet. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D- Austin), the leader of the delegation, said that Stevens' withdrawal was "a real loss for our justice system," and that the White House has not paid enough attention to making timely appointments.

The current Administration, it seems, is more focused on the brass ring and not concerned enough about the nuts and bolts. This may prove to be an obstacle to future initiatives, as local support will ebb if local issues remain unaddressed.

As a former politician of some note once stated, “All politics is local.”



One Fly said...

This system is so broken even before the baggers came on scene plus the ramping up of all the obstructionists in congress. It's not going to change.