Sunday, October 2, 2011

New U.S. Attorneys For Texas Confirmed

Texas; Ken Magidson as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas; Malcolm Bales as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas; and Robert Pitman as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas. All four previously have served as federal prosecutors in the state.

While U.S. attorney posts are some of the most important a president fills, partisan politics played a role in the delay in seating Texas' four most important federal law enforcement positions. Texas' Republican U.S. senators and the Texas House Democratic Congressional Delegation fought over which party should have the White House's ear when suggesting candidates for the posts. In some cases, the Republican senators and the Texas House delegation sent competing names to the president.

In an interview, Cornyn says he and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, "were trying to work constructively with the White House, and many members of the Texas House delegation were as perplexed as we were why the White House just did not move forward with a nomination — any nomination. But I am pleased with the result, even though I can't explain why it took so long to get there."

Hutchison and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, each did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

But the wait didn't frustrate Bales, acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District since November 2009. "I told somebody the other day I never expected to be U.S. attorney. To become acting U.S. attorney was amazing," says Bales, a federal prosecutor for 23 years. But those credentials don't always work in a nominee's favor, because the Hatch Act prevents partisan political activity by federal employees, Bales says. It's hard to get noticed "if you're a career prosecutor," he says. "I'm pleased that the senators believed in me."

Bales notes that he and his fellow Texas U.S. attorneys await Obama's signature on their commissions, a form that must be signed before they can be sworn in. That distinction makes a difference in the federal prosecutor community, he says: Nominated and confirmed U.S. attorneys have more influence because they advise the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney general on legal issues. "You're not a full-fledged part of the fraternity" as an acting U.S. attorney, he says. "And now I feel that I am."

Saldaña, who has served as an assistant U.S. attorney, says she is happy to be able to start the new job. "I'm ready to roll my sleeves up," she says. "I'm looking forward, not backward. It doesn't do me any good to say, 'Wow, it took a long time.' I'm just glad to be going forward."

Magidson also is ready to get to work. "I'm very excited and honored by the president's nomination and I look forward to serving the district," Magidson says. "I've been an AUSA in this district since April 1983 and it's an honor to be asked to take over the United States Attorney position."

Pitman, a U.S. magistrate judge in the Western District of Texas, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. He also previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Western District.

By John Council

Source: Texas Lawyer

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