Jan 7, 2010 5:28 PM by Associated Press

Senator Vitter Blocks Nominee For Baton Rouge Court

WASHINGTON - A federal judgeship in Baton Rouge remains unfilled because U.S. Sen. David Vitter hasn't given his support to the nominee.

The nomination of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Jackson to become U.S. district judge in the Baton Rouge division of the U.S. Middle District of Louisiana is tied up in a two-year battle between Republican Vitter and his Democratic colleague, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Before supporting any of the nominees recommended by Landrieu, Vitter wants assurances that U.S. Attorney Jim Letten in the Eastern District, based in New Orleans, is reappointed. Letten, who served under the administration of President George W. Bush, remains in his post.

Vitter is blocking the nomination of Jackson and a U.S. marshal nominee in New Orleans until Letten's position is secured.

Recommendations for the positions traditionally are made by the senator in the same party as the administration. Landrieu has made nine recommendations for federal posts in Louisiana including Letten.

But confusion remains over whether Letten has to be renominated and reconfirmed. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement saying only that Letten is serving in his job without being renominated by the president.

That's not good enough, Vitter said.

"I've asked the White House several times for an update on their intention to reappoint Jim Letten," Vitter said. "It suggests that there is some hesitancy to reappointing him."

The White House declined to comment on the matter Wednesday, saying President Barack Obama and his aides do not discuss nominations. Landrieu said Letten does not have to go through the nomination process again because he serves at the pleasure of the president.

"Nine other well-qualified individuals are pending for important federal posts," Landrieu said in a statement. "Senator Vitter's partisan antics will do nothing but hurt the people of Louisiana who need these positions filled."

The position is part of a long-running feud between the two Louisiana senators that has resulted in the judgeship not being filled for the past two years.

Under the U.S. Senate process in place, a confirmation hearing is not held by the Senate Judiciary Committee until both senators from the state submit what are called "blue slips" of support that allow the process to move forward.

Vitter is holding back his "blue slip" on Jackson and Genevieve Lynn May, who has been nominated for a U.S. Marshal post in the Eastern District.

May would become the first female marshal in Louisiana history, Landrieu said. "It can't be in Senator Vitter's best interest to stand in her way," Landrieu said.

May said Wednesday she is "eager to jump into the new job."

Vitter praised Letten for his accomplishment of rooting out public corruption. Since being in office, Letten has convicted more than 200 people related to public crimes.

"It's important to send the message that he is going to be there for the long term," Vitter said.

During the Bush administration, Landrieu blocked - for two years - the nomination of U.S. Attorney David Dugas for the judgeship for which Jackson has been nominated. Landrieu cited concerns she had with cases that Dugas handled.

The move agitated Vitter, who accused Landrieu of obstructionism.

Neither Letten nor Jackson, now in private practice in New Orleans, would comment on the matter Wednesday.

Jackson, who graduated from Xavier University and received his juris doctorate from Southern University, served as a first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District from 1994 to 2002.

Landrieu has also recommended former Democratic U.S. Rep. Don Cazayoux for the U.S. attorney position held by Dugas. Kevin Harrison, who works in the office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in New Orleans, has been nominated for a U.S. Marshal spot in the district..

Neither of them has been officially nominated by the White House.



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