On July 21, 2017, President Donald Trump made his fourth group of nominations of prospective United States Attorneys. This brings the current number of Trump’s United States Attorney nominations to twenty-nine. The six lawyers Trump nominated last week are:
- Mark A. Klaassen, an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Wyoming, to be the United States Attorney for the District of Wyoming.
- J. Douglas Overbey, a partner in the Knoxville, Tennessee, law firm of Robertson Overbey, to be the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
- Byung Jin (“BJay”) Pak, a member in the Atlanta office of Chalmers Pak Burch & Adams, to be the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
- Ronald A. Parsons, Jr., a partner in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, law firm of Johnson Janklow Abdallah Reiter & Parsons, to be the United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota.
- Charles E. Peeler, a partner in the Albany, Georgia, office of Flynn Peeler & Phillips, to be the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
- Bryan Schroder, the current Acting United States Attorney for the District of Alaska, to be the United States Attorney for District of Alaska.
As foretold last week, more than half of this batch of nominations comes from small and medium United States Attorney’s Offices as DOJ categorizes them (Alaska, South Dakota, and Wyoming as predicted, plus Eastern Tennessee and Middle Georgia). In these offices, the addition of another lawyer can make a significant difference in how the office workload gets distributed. Like most of the previous nominees, all six of the nominees in this group hail from states with two Republican Senators where “blue slips” indicating approval of the nominations are likely to be easier to come by.
Trump’s nominations continue to trend with both his previous nominations and those of former President Obama’s.
- This batch of nominees averages around 23 years of legal experience, as does Trump’s United States Attorney nominees as a group and Obama’s United States Attorneys as a group.
- Two-thirds of this group of Trump nominees has prior prosecutorial experience (Klaassen, Pak, Schroder, and Parsons). To this point, almost 90% of Trump’s United States Attorney nominees have some sort of prosecutorial experience, close to the more than 80% of Obama United States Attorneys who had prior state or federal prosecutorial experience.
- That being said, only one of this group of six has state prosecutorial experience (Parsons). While at one time more than half of Trump’s nominees had state prosecutorial experience, the number is now much closer to one-third – which is around the percentage of Obama United States Attorneys who had state prosecutorial experience.
This batch of nominations is somewhat like a “greatest hits” compilation of all Trump’s previous United States Attorney nominations. In addition to the large percentage with prosecutorial experience, this batch of nominees also includes:
- An Acting United States Attorney already running the office (Schroder) – previous nominees Joshua Minkler (Southern Indiana) and John Huber (the Obama holdover in Utah) will stay in place as the United States Attorney in those districts if confirmed;
- A state legislator (Overbey; Pak is also a former legislator); Bart Davis is the Majority Leader in the Idaho Senate;
- Lawyers with big firm experience (Klaassen, Pak, Peeler) – seven of the previous nominees have experience working in larger law firms;
- And a counsel to a governmental agency (Klaassen) – Jessie Liu (DC) currently serves as the Deputy General Counsel to the Department of the Treasury.
Here are a few stray observations:
- Three of Trump’s United States Attorney nominees have been advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration by the full Senate: John E. Town (Northern Alabama); John W. Huber (Utah); and Justin E. Herdman (Northern Ohio).
- Georgia’s Pak is a Certified Public Accountant. There have not been many United States Attorneys who have also been CPAs – United States District Judge (and CPA) Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice of the Eastern District of Tennessee previously served as the United States Attorney in that district under President George W. Bush, but he appears to be the only other one of recent vintage.
- Alaska’s Schroder is currently prosecuting a case that could be coming soon to an episode of your favorite “true crime” TV show – Ryan Riley Meganack and his girlfriend, Ivy Rose Rodriguez, are charged with conspiracy and false distress related to a plot to fake Meganack’s death so that he could avoid prison time on an unrelated criminal conviction. The search for Meganack, who (as alleged) was camped out in the woods not far from his home while “dead,” lasted several days and cost the Coast Guard over $300,000. (Meganack is also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.)
Although Trump’s nominees to this point are similar in many ways (and have a lot of commonality as a group with Obama’s United States Attorneys), expect a change of some sort in these nominations soon, even if it is only the speed with which Trump is making these nominations (a speed quicker than that of Obama, who as of July 2009 had only made nineteen United States Attorney nominations compared with twenty-nine for Trump). Trump is running out of small and medium districts in states with two Republican Senators that need nominees – there are only eight left. These are districts in Arkansas (Western), Kentucky (Eastern), Louisiana (Middle and Western), Nebraska, North Carolina (Middle and Western), and Oklahoma (Western). From there, Trump is likely to move to nominees for large and extra large districts and/or for states with Democratic Senators, both of which can increase the degree of difficulty inherent in getting these nominations accomplished.