Sunday, December 28, 2008

US Attorney Wanted

Well, we know that someone will replace Johnny Sutton. Will it be one of these folks?

My bet is on Juanita C. Hernandez, for political reasons, although I believe either Michael Bernard or Mike McCrum would do fine jobs.

Time will tell.

Six aim to fill prosecutor's post for area
By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News

Six people want to be the top federal prosecutor in the San Antonio-headquartered Western District of Texas.

The candidates for the office of U.S. attorney are Juanita C. Hernández, a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission; San Antonio defense lawyer Mike McCrum, a former federal prosecutor; San Antonio City Attorney Michael Bernard; Travis County Attorney David Escamilla; Austin lawyer Scott Hendler; and Robert Pittman, a U.S. magistrate judge in Austin.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, confirmed that all except Pittman had contacted his office with interest in the post after submitting resumes to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, chairman of the Democratic congressional delegation from Texas. Doggett has encouraged all candidates to visit with the delegation.

President-elect Barack Obama will select one of the candidates to submit to the Senate for confirmation after he is sworn in.
“We have two Republican senators, and any applicant will need to make their intentions known to the senators because it is ultimately the senators that make the appointment,” Gonzalez said. “However, it is a Democratic administration. (Obama), we believe, will consult with the Democratic representatives from Texas.”

The position has been held for more than seven years by Johnny Sutton. Appointed by President George W. Bush, Sutton has overseen the office from Austin and is expected to step down after Obama is inaugurated.

The U.S. attorney oversees more than 100 criminal and civil lawyers in offices in San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Del Rio, El Paso, Midland, Alpine and Pecos. The jurisdiction covers 68 counties, encompasses an area of 93,000 square miles and has the country's longest border with Mexico, 660 miles.

Hernández, a native of South Texas who got her law degree from Harvard six years before Obama did, said by phone from Washington that she had no comment on her candidacy. She worked briefly as an assistant U.S. attorney in El Paso and in the open records section under then-Texas Attorney General Dan Morales, documents show.
She also had an appointed post as counsel to the assistant U.S. attorney general in former President Bill Clinton's administration in 1996.

Escamilla became Travis County's chief legal adviser in November, after nine years as first assistant county attorney. He acknowledged his interest in being U.S. attorney, but declined to talk about it further.

McCrum, currently a defense lawyer with Thompson & Knight LLP, acknowledged he is seeking the job and touted his experience. He was an assistant U.S. attorney for 11 years. Eight of those were in supervisory roles, including as head of the major crimes unit from 1996 to 2000.
McCrum also touted his Hispanic heritage. He graduated from South San Antonio High School, and his mother and stepfather are Mexican immigrants. He is fluent in Spanish, and he said that background would aid him in his experience with cross-border issues.

“I have the most experience to handle this job,” he said. “It's not just being a former (assistant U.S. attorney), it's my dealings with Mexican government, with (the Justice Department) in Washington and other agencies. I have experience in the different areas that are going to be required of the U.S. attorney. Most of all, I have a passion for this work. For over 20 years, I've invested my life in federal criminal law.”

McCrum has the backing of the national League of United Latin American Citizens and local activists. U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, also has endorsed McCrum, according to letters circulated among Texas' congressional delegation. Rodriguez could not be reached for comment.

Pittman, Bernard and Hendler could not be reached for comment.

Pittman, a federal magistrate judge since 2003, also served 13 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Austin and briefly as interim U.S. attorney before Sutton was appointed in 2001.
Bernard was first assistant Bexar County district attorney under Republican Susan Reed before being named San Antonio city attorney in 2005. He also was active with the American Civil Liberties Union, serving as president of the local chapter at one point.

Hendler specializes in civil and commercial litigation, and he is a big contributor to Democrats, donating $36,000 in 2008, according to
Gonzalez said the U.S. attorney's office is on the back burner while more timely appointments are being considered by the Obama administration.