Saving Jim Letten
Here is a question to ask candidates in the race for Bill Jefferson’s Second Congressional District: If a Democrat is elected president, will you urge that Jim Letten be retained as U.S. Attorney?
Those who serve as U.S. Attorney do so at the pleasure of existing presidents. Letten, a Republican whose appointment was made official by George W. Bush after serving as acting U.S. Attorney, is theoretically vulnerable to losing his job with the change at the White House.
Most presidents have little time, or knowledge, to worry about the various U.S. Attorney spreads across the country, so they usually rely on advice from their party’s members of congress within each district. Letten was preceded as U.S. Attorney by Eddie Jordan, a former law partner of Jefferson’s, who was appointed by Bill Clinton at Jefferson’s urging.
Whoever is elected in the Second Congressional District will likely be a Democrat and so could have some leverage if there is a Democrat president.
Losing Letten would be a serious loss for the area. Not only has he done a great job, he has inspired confidence that a political system, haunted by an image of corruption, can be made honest. At a time when local esteem has been tested to the fullest, Letten has given people reason to believe.
Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who is up for re-election this year, would have an influential voice in the matter. We find it unlikely that she would do anything to encourage removing Letten. The only uncertain voice is that of whomever will occupy the Second Congressional seat. That person would serve the district’s constituency well by looking past party patronage.
There are critical moments in government when elected officials, more than ever, are called upon to do the right thing. Maintaining the active administering of justice is such a moment.
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