January 15, 2009
Introducing Eric Holder for the Post of Attorney General before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Specter, I am pleased to introduce Eric Holder, a long-time resident of the District of Columbia, but my few words this morning have little in common with the predictable introductions by home state senators and others. I did not know Eric Holder until he competed for the post of United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. I came to know him in much the same way that you will know him after today's hearing. Because the District has the same federal officials as the states, but no senators, President Bill Clinton granted me the courtesy to recommend the U.S. Attorney, District Court judges and the U.S. Marshal. In the District's two centuries as the nation's capital, residents had had to live with the decisions of these important federal officials while having no way to effect their appointments. I was determined to vindicate the president's courtesy by the transparency and the competitiveness of the process and the excellence of the candidates recommended. I appointed a commission of distinguished lawyers and other private citizens, named as chair Pauline Schneider, a past president of the District of Columbia Bar Association, and charged the commission to search widely for candidates and to thoroughly investigate and interview them and to send me three candidates for each post. I then made my recommendations to the president for each post after doing my own due diligence and interviewing the three candidates. Some may think that Washington has more lawyers than people with good sense, but lawyers in this town are among the most able in the United States. The commission soon heard from some of the best of the lot.
Eric Holder's distinguished biography is before you. Without reiterating the many features of the academic and legal background that recommend his appointment, what particularly stood out for us were the uniformly excellent reports concerning his work in the Justice Department's first Public Integrity section, his nomination by President Ronald Reagan to the D.C. Superior Court, whose appointments, as Article I judges, are made by the president, and the high praise for his service there, the outstanding evaluations of his extensive and varied criminal and civil trial experience, and his unimpeachable character and collegiality, as reported by all who had worked with Eric Holder. Perhaps the best indication of Eric's excellence, however, is that in a very competitive pool of the best and the brightest, he rose to the top like cream in rich milk.
Besides demonstrating his own excellence, Eric carried an unusual burden, of which he was unaware. More than usual, the quality of the commission's recommendations for U.S. Attorney and for judges were of path-breaking importance. We knew that these appointments were without precedent in the city's history. Even small differences in quality mattered, if the point was not only to get the best candidates but to demonstrate that this city could do so.
Eric Holder created a new gold standard for the position. The Republican U.S. attorneys who followed him adopted his innovations, localizing the District part of his jurisdiction by, for example, placing assistant U.S. attorneys in communities while simultaneously carrying forward significant federal prosecutions. Eric wore two very different, high-profile hats at the same time with remarkable skill. He more than vindicated the challenge he was given and our confidence in him. Eric Holder may be the first person to work his way up from trial attorney in the Department of Justice to become the United States Attorney General. Imagine the effect his appointment will have on the demoralized Department of Justice staff. If experience at every level of the Department and a record of excelling in everything you have ever done matters to this committee, Eric Holder is unusually well qualified to become the Attorney General. I am pleased and proud to recommend him to you without reservation.