An important byproduct of the social justice protests of the past several years was the election of several progressive local prosecutors in cities around the country. From San Francisco to New Orleans to Boston and many other cities, progressive prosecutors have been hailed for implementing reform-minded criminal justice policies and held out as scapegoats for rising crime.
But one thing that’s been largely ignored, USA Today points out, is that the ranks of federal prosecutors have gotten more diverse under the Biden Administration. Forty eight percent of 43 US attorneys nominated by Biden are Black, the reporting says, compared with the Trump administration which had white men as 85 percent of federal prosecutorial nominees.
Why is this a big deal? First, jurisdiction. In plain language, U.S. attorneys are The Feds; their jobs are to prosecute federal cases such as terrorism, public corruption and major drug trafficking, working off investigations conducted with the alphabet boy agencies like the FBI or ATF.
Second is tenure: unlike local prosecutors, who because they are elected are always worrying they can be swept out of office if crime rises and public sentiment changes, federal prosecutors are not under that pressure because they are nominated and confirmed in the U.S. Senate, just like federal judges. If they make it through, they serve at the pleasure of the sitting president.
Technically that means if a president of a different party is elected, they can replace prosecutors with different law enforcement philosophies but that doesn’t always happen; U.S. attorneys often survive changes in administration.
From USA Today
Beyond their roles as chief federal prosecutors in their districts, the U.S. attorney ranks are also important because they provide a pipeline of candidates for key executive posts across the government, Eisen said.
Eric Holder, a former U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, was confirmed as the first African American to serve as attorney general. Holder was succeeded by Loretta Lynch, a former U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, as the first Black woman to hold the office.
It’s an important development to watch as Biden’s nomination of the first Black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States.