Kenneth Polite wins Senate Judiciary Committee approval for U.S. attorney post

By Bruce Alpert, | Times-Picayune
September 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM, updated September 12, 2013 at 12:02 PMClick here for the original article


WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday (Sept. 12) approved by voice vote Kenneth Polites nomination for U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The vote, the only one of six Obama administration nominees allowed by committee Republicans, means that his nomination goes to the full Senate, where he is almost certain to win confirmation. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the panels top Republicans, announced at the beginning of the committee meeting that he would seek a one-week delay in consideration of five judicial nominees, but was ready to “voice vote” Polite.

A few seconds later, the committee approved Polite, with no audible “no” votes.

President Barack Obama nominated Polite, a New Orleans attorney and former New York City assistant U.S. attorney, on June 27 after Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., recommended him for the post.

“I am honored to receive the Senate Judiciary Committees approval to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana,” Polite said in a statement. “Once again, I wish to express my gratitude for President Obamas nomination and Sen. Landrieus recommendation for this important position. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate I will serve without reservation.”

Landrieu called for a swift Senate vote on his nomination.

“With the backing of our local community, the President and now the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Polites qualifications are without question. I call on my colleagues to confirm Mr. Polite without delay so he can get to work for the people of the Eastern District,” Landrieu said.

The position became open after the retirement of longtime U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Letten moved out of the job after it was revealed two of his senior prosecutors had posted critical comments under assumed names on the website about targets of office probes.

Dana Boente, a veteran federal prosecutor who served as the first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia since 2007, is currently the interim New Orleans U.S. Attorney.

In discussions with congressional members, Polite has said he will put a high priority on helping New Orleans deal with its violent crime problems, while continuing the offices anti-corruption work, according to congressional staffers.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., signed a blue slip, indicating he wont block the nomination from going forward. But he offered mixed views when Obama announced his nomination.

“Ken is a bright young guy, and I wish him all the best in this very challenging time for that office,” Vitter said in a statement. “I remained concerned that that office really needs a more seasoned leader and supervisor to immediately stabilize it after its scandals, and that Kens focus on street crime will unintentionally take focus away from battling political corruption. I hope his service proves otherwise.”

Landrieu heralded Polite as a New Orleans success story, noting that he was born at Charity Hospital and raised initially in two of the citys housing developments before moving to the Lower 9th Ward.

“With Mr. Polites outstanding legal experience, impressive academic record and strong dedication to our region, it is no surprise that the president has nominated him to be the next U.S. attorney for Louisianas Eastern District,” Landrieu said. “During the interview process, Mr. Polite stood out from an impressive list of candidates, showing the determination and experience we need to protect the people of the Eastern District from crime and corruption.”

Senate Republicans routinely hold up judicial nominees in committee, and sometimes on the floor, as well. Not so much with U.S. attorney nominees.

The main reason: Judicial nominees are confirmed for life. Lead prosecutors can be replaced, and most often are, by the next president

Polite, 37, currently works as a lawyer at Liskow and Lewis. He spent more than three years as a federal prosecutor in New York City, focused, he said, on organized crime and public corruption. Polite was born in New Orleans and graduated as valedictorian from De La Salle High School, where he attended on an academic scholarship, before attending Harvard University. His law degree is from Georgetown University Law Center.


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