Obama nominates Kenneth Polite to be top New Orleans federal prosecutor
By Bruce Alpert, NOLA.com | Times-Picayune on June 27, 2013 at 11:30 AM, updated June 27, 2013 at 11:52 AM
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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated New Orleans attorney Kenneth Polite to become the top federal prosecutor in New Orleans.
Polite was recommended by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in February, two months 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 NOLA.com website about targets of office probes. The misconduct disclosures brought an abrupt end to an expensive and lengthy bribery probe involving the operators of the River Birch Landfill.
“Kenneth Polites legal career has been distinguished and impressive,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident that, as a U.S. attorney, he will be relentless in his pursuit of justice and serve the people of Louisiana with distinction.”
The speed of the Senate confirmation process may well be determined, at least in part, by whether Sen. David Vitter, R-La., backs the nomination. Vitter is expected to sign the blue slip, allowing the Judiciary Committee to proceed with a confirmation hearing. But he expressed concern about Polites experience.
“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.”
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.
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.”
Landrieu said Polite is the kind of leader “our region needs to continue to thrive, grow and lead the nation in entrepreneurship.”
“Mr. Polite has the strong backing of our local community, and I will be pushing for his swift confirmation by the Senate so he can get to work for the people of the Eastern District,” Landrieu said.
The Liskow and Lewis website describes Polite as a shareholder in the firm and says he practices a wide range of law, including business litigation, appellate work, and white-collar criminal defense.
Polite worked in the New York U.S. Attorneys Office and has served on the Louisiana State Civil Service Commission, appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.