Trump Announces Sixth Wave of United States Attorney Nominations, Faces Questions About Lack of Women Nominees
On September 8, 2017, President Donald Trump made his sixth group of nominations of prospective United States Attorneys. This group – the largest yet, with nine nominees – brings the current number of Trump’s United States Attorney nominations to forty-two. (Overviews of the previous nominations can be found here, here, here, here and here) The nine lawyers Trump nominated last week are:
- John F. Bash, the Special Assistant and Associate Counsel to the President, to be the United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas
- Scott W. Brady, the head of litigation for Federated Investors, Inc., in Pittsburgh, to be the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
- Bobby L. Christine, a Columbia County, Georgia, Magistrate Judge and partner in the firm of Christine & Evans, in Evans, Georgia, to be the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia
- David Freed, the elected District Attorney in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, to be the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
- Andrew Lelling, currently the Senior Litigation Counsel for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, to be the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
- Stephen R. McAllister, the Solicitor General of Kansas and a law professor at the Kansas Law School, to be the United States Attorney for the District of Kansas
- Matthew G.T. Martin, Associate General Counsel for Duke Energy Corporation in Raleigh, North Carolina, to be the United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina
- R. Andrew Murray, the elected District Attorney for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, to be the United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina
- Michael B. Stuart, a member in the Charleston, West Virginia, office of Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC, to be the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia
This batch reflects many of the same general trends found in previous Trump United States Attorney nominations: lawyers with federal prosecutorial or other Department of Justice experience (Bash, Brady, and Lelling); elected District Attorneys or lawyers with state prosecutorial experience (Christine, Freed, and Murray); and lawyers who have experience working in big firms (Bash, Brady, Martin, and Stuart). Similar to Trump’s previous nominees, this group averages around twenty years of legal experience. That being said, there are some notable differences from earlier nominations. While most of Trump’s previous nominees have come from the small or medium United States Attorney’s Offices as DOJ categorizes them, this batch indicates a shift in focus toward the larger offices, as three of the nominees come from extra large (Western Texas and Massachusetts) or large (Western Pennsylvania) offices. This announcement also includes the first nomination from a state with two Democratic Senators (Massachusetts).
Almost all of the recent media coverage of Trump’s United States Attorney nominations, though, has been about the fact that there has only been one woman in Trump’s forty-two nominations to this point – Jessie Liu for the United States Attorney position in Washington, D.C. (Confession: I incorrectly predicted several weeks ago that we would be seeing more nominations of women moving forward.)
The first woman to serve the country as the United States Attorney was Annette Abbott Adams, who served by special appointment of President Woodrow Wilson as the United States Attorney in the Northern District of California from 1918-20. Adams was a trailblazer in numerous respects: she was one of the first women to serve as a school principal in California, one of the first women to be licensed by the California Bar, the first woman to serve as a federal prosecutor in the United States, the first woman to serve as an Assistant Attorney General in the United States Department of Justice, and the first female appellate judge in California.
After Adams’s service, a number of women served as the Acting United States Attorney upon a vacancy in an office, but the first nominations of women for these positions in modern times was when President Jimmy Carter nominated three women: Roxanne Conlin (Northern Iowa), Virginia McCarty (Southern Indiana), and Andrea Sheridan-Ordin (Central California). During that time, around ten percent of American lawyers were women. As the percentage of women lawyers has increased, so have the number of women United States Attorneys. Moving from the 1980s through the 1990s, the percentage of women lawyers in America rose from around ten percent to twenty-five percent; women United States Attorneys increased during this period from five (Reagan) to six (George W. Bush) to thirty (Clinton). As the percentage of women lawyers has increased to around thirty-six percent currently, the number of women United States Attorneys has remained relatively close to the level Clinton reached, with twenty-two (George W. Bush) and twenty-seven (Obama). The percentage of federal prosecutors who are women (around a third) closely mirrors the overall percentage of women lawyers as well.
At least one Senator has criticized the lack of women United States Attorney nominees, and some Senators have announced in recent weeks that they intend to withhold “blue slip” approval of certain Trump judicial nominees where they disagree with (or were otherwise not consulted about) the nominations. As Trump moves to nominate United States Attorneys in states with two Democratic Senators, there could be additional debate (or perhaps announcements that “blue slips” will not be forthcoming) if more women are not nominated.
Here are a few stray observations:
- When Southern Georgia’s Bobby Christine was a state prosecutor, he was able to convince a jury to convict a defendant in a murder case where the victim’s body was never found.
- Two nominees in this batch are former United States Supreme Court clerks: John Bash of Texas, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, and Stephen McAllister of Kansas, who clerked for Justices Clarence Thomas and Byron White. This apparently doubles the number of former Supreme Court clerks from President Obama’s United States Attorneys; Obama nominee Lee Bentley of Florida clerked for Justice Lewis Powell.
- In addition to clerking at the United States Supreme Court, John Bash of Texas and Stephen McAllister of Kansas have argued at the Court nineteen times between them (Bash ten and McAllister nine).
- McAllister also served as the Dean of the Kansas Law School from 2000 to 2005.
While Trump continues to push out the nominations, he has not made as much progress on the confirmation front – since three of Trump’s United States Attorney nominees (Justin Herdman of Northern Ohio, John Huber of Utah, and Jay Town of Northern Alabama) were confirmed in early August, his other nominations have languished on the Senate Executive Calendar. Twelve nominees currently await a vote by the full Senate, and many of these nominations have been on the Senate Executive Calendar for over a month with no movement. Now that the Senate’s fall recess is in the rear view mirror, though, you can expect more developments on both the nomination and the confirmation front.