President Obama has made his choice for the next U.S. attorney to represent Western Washington. Jenny Durkan, a longtime Seattle lawyer and well-known friend of Gov. Christine Gregoire, still has to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, but the chances of that look pretty good.
“Durkan is an experienced courtroom lawyer who earlier in her career specialized in defending people accused of white-collar crime. She is a scion of a prominent Washington Democratic family and a party activist with her own political ambitions.”
Durkan’s own Web site says she is “known for successful criminal and civil litigation, and for her continued civic leadership. Ms. Durkan is not just respected for obtaining favorable verdicts and multi-million dollar settlements, but also for her ability to resolve sensitive cases discreetly.”
While the spoils system is long gone, presidents are still able to reward their partisan counterparts with powerful posts. I can’t speak to other federal districts, but here in Western Washington, it has gone along party lines for at least these past two commanders-in-chief. President George W. Bush tapped two Republicans in John McKay and Jeffrey Sullivan; and Obama has asked a Democrat.
Of course, there was high drama in terms of McKay’s post. And as it turns out, that was political too.
To me, the irony of all of this is while the appointment appears political, the office of federal prosecutor tends to be of non-partisan decision making.
The U.S. Attorney of Western Washington, like their fellow federal prosecutors around the country, commands much authority. They can pull citizens out of local courts and try them in federal courts, where sentences can be vastly higher. Federal courts tend to be, in my view, the “set-an-example-to-the-public” court. Here’s a good example.