At least one Alabama Democratic Party nominee for U.S. attorney would be no better than her Republican predecessor, according to a source inside the Department of Justice.
A state Democratic Party advisory council this week recommended Anna Clark Morris as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. The Middle District, under the George W. Bush administration, was headed by Leura Canary, and her office handled the prosecution of former Democratic governor Don Siegelman.
Morris is an assistant U.S. attorney in the Montgomery-based office, with almost 11 years of experience as a federal prosecutor. She is the daughter of Alexander City trial attorney Larry Morris, a major Democratic Party contributor.
The appointment of Anna Clark Morris would be "disastrous," a Department of Justice source told Legal Schnauzer.
"She currently works in the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney's Office, where she is heavily invested in the culture of gossip, support-staff abuses, and maintaining the status quo," the source said. "An appointment of Clark Morris as U.S. attorney would be disastrous--four more years of the same."
The Alabama Democratic Party advisory council is one of two groups making recommendations for key federal positions to the incoming Barack Obama administration. U.S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) heads a second group that has made recommendations, and the two groups' findings differ substantially.
The Democratic Party council touted Joyce White Vance for the Birmingham-based Northern District position and Barrown Lankster for the Mobile-based Southern District. Vance has been an assistant U.S. attorney in Birmingham since 1991 and has been chief of the appellate division since 2005. Lankster is a former district attorney in Demopolis.
Davis' group also recommended Vance in the Northern District. But it went with Michel Nicrosi in the Middle District and Vicki Davis (no relation to Artur Davis) in the Southern District. Nicrosi is a former U.S. attorney from Daphne, now in private practice. Davis is an assistant U.S. attorney in the Mobile office.
An appointment of Clark Morris would smack of the kind of partisan politics that resulted in Leura Canary's appointment, our source said. Canary was appointed after she and her husband, Business Council of Alabama head Bill Canary, made substantial contributions to the Bush campaign and the Republican Party.
Our source also noted the irony of Democrats pushing Clark Morris to lead an office that prosecuted Siegelman for an alleged "pay to play" scheme involving a political appointment in exchange for campaign support.
A Clark Morris appointment would look like a "classic quid pro quo," the source said, "what federal prosecutors call 'white-collar crime' or 'corruption,' yet when it involves a DOJ insider, it is perfectly fine. Am I missing something here?"
What kind of person should serve as a federal prosecutor in Alabama? The source gives an example.
Christa D. Deegan, who had 16 years as a federal prosecutor in Cleveland, Ohio, moved to the Montgomery office in March 2007. "She was an excellent prosecutor, a mover and a shaker, very competent--too competent for such a mediocre office," the source says. "More importantly, she conducted herself in a professional manner and worked very hard. She immediately opposed the hostile work environment, refused to participate in the afternoon gossip sessions, and refused to conform to the toxic culture of the office."
After about seven months on the job, Deegan was fired because she "didn't fit in." Said our source: "She was replaced by Clark Morris, who was more than willing to conform, even embrace the culture."
Deegan now is Ohio's director of industrial relations, where she took over an office that was plagued with allegations of racial discrimination and retaliation. Deegan has vowed to restore staff morale in the Ohio agency. "Except for her experience in Montgomery, Alabama, she has a spotless record for competency, ethical conduct, and professionalism," the source said.
We wondered in an earlier post if U.S. attorneys should have substantial experience outside the districts where they will serve. For example, we noted that two leading candidates to lead the Birmingham office--Vance and Jim Sturdivant--have deep social and professional ties in Birmingham. Can they possibly have the kind of objectivity needed in a federal prosecutor?
Deegan sounds like the kind of person Alabama needs to be attracting, not running off.
And let's hope someone takes a second look at the Clark Morris recommendation.