September 30, 2021

Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Latest Slate of U.S. Attorney Nominations

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee today advanced the following nominations: Jessica D. Aber, to be United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Carla B. Freedman, to be United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York; William J. Ihlenfeld, II, to be United States Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia; Christopher R. Kavanaugh, to be United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia; Darcie N. McElwee, to be United States Attorney for the District of Maine; Breon S. Peace, to be United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Rachael S. Rollins, to be United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts; William S. Thompson, to be United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia; and Damian Williams, to be United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Ahead of the votes, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged his colleagues to specifically support the nomination of Rachael Rollins after the Republican minority requested a roll call vote on her nomination.  Durbin addressed the Committee’s precedents around U.S. Attorney nominees and spoke about Ms. Rollins, her record, and the support she enjoys in Massachusetts and elsewhere.  Based on a review of available Committee records, the Senate Judiciary Committee has only ever held a roll call vote on three U.S. Attorney nominees—once in 1993, once in 1982, and once in 1975.

Key Durbin quotes:

“That longstanding precedent—nearly 30 years since the last roll call vote—reflects a number of realities.  It reflects deference to the Administration in filling Executive Branch appointments.  It reflects respect for the role of home-state Senators in helping choose these chief law enforcement officers.  And it reflects an understanding of the vital role that U.S. Attorneys play in our justice system.”

“During the Trump Administration, Democrats respected that precedent—out of comity and courtesy and an enduring belief that there should be norms in every institution.  This Committee processed 85 U.S. Attorney nominees under President Trump.  All 85 received a voice vote—no recorded opposition.”

“Throughout her tenure as Suffolk County District Attorney, Ms. Rollins has worked closely with law enforcement—to keep neighborhoods safe, to rebuild trust between police and the community, and to pursue justice for crime victims.  And so, it’s little surprise that she enjoys the support of law enforcement leaders in her state—even those who don’t always agree with her.”

“The claim that Ms. Rollins has declined to prosecute drug crimes is false… Rollins’ policies have not led to a crime increase. According to a July 2021 Boston Globe article, violent crimes—including homicides, rapes, and robberies—were down 17 percent in 2021 relative to the previous year.”

“We are in a national conversation about prosecution—what works and what doesn’t work.  It went so far as this Committee passed a major change in sentencing when it came to certain crimes and it was signed into law by President Trump, the First Step Act.  It really raised the same question which she has raised—where should we draw the line in terms of prosecutorial discretion, in terms of judicial discretion?  And there are efforts underway to make sure we come up with some wisdom in that decision.  She has stepped up with good results, and I support her nomination.”

“Comity is a two-way street.  I hope my colleagues will rethink an approach that departs from a 30 year precedent and fails to recognize the support Ms. Rollins has and her unquestionable qualifications for this job.”

Video of Durbin’s statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s statement is available here for TV Stations. 

Rachael S. Rollins, nominated to be United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, was confirmed by a vote of 11-11.  Under the provisions of S. Res. 27, Leader Schumer may now file a discharge motion on Ms. Rollins’ nomination to place her on the executive calendar.

Jessica D. Aber, nominated to be United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Carla B. Freedman, nominated to be United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York; William J. Ihlenfeld, II, nominated to be United States Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia; Christopher R. Kavanaugh, nominated to be United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia; Darcie N. McElwee, nominated to be United States Attorney for the District of Maine; Breon S. Peace, nominated to be United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; William S. Thompson, nominated to be United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia; and Damian Williams, nominated to be United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; were all advanced out of Committee by voice vote en bloc.

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