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Advisory group defends US prosecutor selection process


“The process was not the problem.”

Former federal judge Nancy Gertner defends the process that selected Rachael Rollins for the job of US attorney. Yoon Byun/The Boston Globe

Following revelations that former US attorney Rachael Rollins tried to ‘sabotage’ the Suffolk County prosecutor’s election last year, the Boston Globe The editorial board questioned the “customary” process that resulted in Rollins’ nomination.

But in an interview on Boston Public Radio on Monday, the chairman of the advisory board that recommended Rollins defended the process, saying it was anything but business as usual and a marked improvement over the way in which American lawyers had been selected in the past.

Why Biden should change the selection process

In an opinion piece last week, the boston globe The drafting committee recommended that President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland deviate from the norm of U.S. senators from a state recommending a new U.S. attorney and choosing one themselves, removing senators from the process.

The goal would be to restore public confidence in federal law enforcement by alienating local politicians from the selection process, the council wrote. This would be significant following a scandal in which a local politician tried to influence a local election.

“While there is no reason to believe that the two senators who recommended Rollins knew or approved of his later efforts to elect their ally, the political ties are all far too close for comfort,” the board wrote.

The board recommended that Biden and Garland choose a new U.S. attorney who is “above ethical reproach, has no ideological leanings, and owes his selection to no local political figure.”

“A politicized justice system, in which prosecutors make investigative or charging decisions based on politics, is not a justice system at all,” the council wrote.

Why the process that selected Rollins wasn’t ‘usual’

But in her interview with GBH on Monday, former federal judge Nancy Gertner, who chaired the advisory committee of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey that recommended Rollins and three other candidates, took issue with the World Board assumptions about the process.

Gertner argued that not only was the process that Warren and Markey created to select Rollins not “usual” at all, but also that the senators were far enough removed from the selection process.

“Elizabeth Warren, from the time she became a senator almost eight years ago, made it clear that she did not want the usual practice,” she said.

Warren established a bipartisan advisory committee to vet candidates for U.S. attorney, and many people on the committee had no prior ties to Warren or Markey, Gertner said. The committee recommended four potential candidates, and those four individuals were then all independently vetted by the White House and the FBI.

Rollins emerged victorious as a result of this process.

“The process was not the problem. The old usual method of screening American attorneys was “Who did you know?” Gertner said.

The process was more “thorough” than normal

Additionally, Gertner said, Warren, Markey and Biden have deviated from the traditional process by pulling nominees from “more diverse sources of judges.” This required the verification process to be even more rigorous than normal, she said.

“When you go to the usual suspects of the U.S. Attorney – firm lawyers, ex-attorneys – you end up with people with whom there would be no ethical issues, no temperament issues, because you have them. seen in big law firms or in the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” she said.

Instead, the committee interviewed people for whom English was not a first language, who had previously struggled to pass the bar exam, who didn’t have the money to attend the best law schools nationwide or who worked on social justice issues rather than for big business, Gertner said.

“The process was much more thorough because you’re not dealing with the usual suspects. And that’s a good thing,” she said. “You were dealing with people who were going to bring something new to the bench.”

Ultimately, Gertner said, she stands by the committee’s decision to recommend Rollins as one of four nominees based on the information they had at the time.


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