Spotlight on H.E. Cummins, Eastern Arkansas

HE Cummins
Original Publication Date

It isn't new news that US Attorney H.E. "Bud" Cummins (Eastern District of Arkansas) "resigned" abruptly in December 2006.  And it isn't new news that former aide to Karl Rove, J. Timothy Griffin was picked by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to be Cummins' replacement.

And it certainly isn't new news that Arkansas Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln (both Democrats) have been critical of the circumvention of the process that normally has the Senate provide its advice and consent regarding the appointment of US Attorneys.

Spotlight on Carol Lam, Southern California

Carol Lam
Original Publication Date

On January 16th, 2007 Carol Lam, US Attorney for California's Southern District, announced she would step down from her post, and her last day will be February 15th, 2007.

According to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Lam was targeted for dismissal because of "performance-related" issues after the Justice Department received complaints from members of Congress about her handling of immigration enforcement cases, said Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty.

However, there is another side to the dismissal. From the same Union-Tribune article:

The critics have speculated that Lam is being removed to cripple an investigation into corruption in Congress. Lam's office prosecuted former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and that case has led to investigations of other lawmakers.

Spotlight on David Iglesias, New Mexico

David Iglesias
Original Publication Date

Ironically, of the seven US Attorneys purged by Alberto Gonzales last December, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, who has received little attention in the press, is perhaps the most famous of the group...but most people just don't know it.

While a Navy JAG officer in 1986 he was the defense counsel in a Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, court-martial of two men accused of assaulting a fellow Marine. Iglesias, and his defense in that case, later became the inspiration for the movie, "A Few Good Men."

Nominated for the position of US Attorney by George W. Bush in August of 2001 and approved by the US Senate in October, Iglesias became the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. attorney since the Nixon administration.  

He announced his "forced resignation" on December 19, 2006.

The Alberto Gonzales Appointments: How the Process Has Changed and Why this is so Important

Court House
Original Publication Date

The news over the past few weeks regarding Alberto Gonzales and the resignations and replacements of US Attorneys has generated much attention. The reasons are certainly numerous: the timing of Scooter Libby's trial, the ties that the replacements have to the Bush administration, the questions surrounding the abrupt nature of the resignations and the inevitable comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre back in 1973.

Until recently (as with many actions regarding political and governmental appointments), there was a general process that was followed when a candidate is suggested, nominated, appointed and confirmed as a U.S. Attorney. Both the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch are involved in this process.


There are 93 US Attorneys (including Puerto Rico and Guam), with each Attorney representing a "district." Obviously, some states have more than one district while some states have only one district. The following basic information is from the US Department of Justice's web site (emphasis added):

United States Attorneys are appointed by, and serve at the discretion of, the President of the United States, with advice and consent of the United States Senate.

The Gonzales Seven - Part I

Gonzales Seven
Original Publication Date

What do U.S. Attorneys Lam, Ryan, Bogden, Iglesias, Cummins, Charlton, and McKay have in common?

The short answer: They may have been encouraged to resign by the United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

It is no news by now that over the past few months (and gaining speed since the November elections returned the House, the Senate and many state governments to Democratic control) Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department has been moving stealthily to force at least 7 U.S. Attorneys out of their appointed positions.

Gonzales himself acknowledges that (since the reauthorization of the Patriot Act (in March 2006) which allows for these interim "recess appointments") 11 U.S. Attorneys have resigned. With only 93 U.S. Attorneys, this represents a full 11.8% turnover in less than 9 months.

The last time this many US Attorneys have been forced out in one fell swoop was back in, well, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein quoted Peter Nunez: "This is like nothing I have ever seen in my 35-plus years." Nunez, who served as the San Diego U.S. Attorney from 1982 to 1988, has also stated: "I've heard nothing but complaints over the last six years about how many things the Justice Department is demanding relating to bureaucracy and red tape."

Notably, in these seven cases there appears to be no allegations of wrong doing.

So who are the seven and who replaces them?