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Holder Opts for Experience Over Political Connections in Personnel Changes at Justice Department

Ted Stevens leaves federal court in Washington with his daughters, from left, Beth Stevens, Lilly Stevens and Susan Covich. The former senator's conviction for ethics violations was vacated this week.
Ted Stevens leaves federal court in Washington with his daughters, from left, Beth Stevens, Lilly Stevens and Susan Covich. The former senator's conviction for ethics violations was vacated this week. (By Susan Walsh -- Associated Press)

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H. Marshall Jarrett, the current chief of the ethics unit, will move over to lead the executive office of U.S. attorneys. In that post, he will have a voice on policy issues during an early stage in the new administration, helping to direct the work of the 94 U.S. attorneys and to referee disputes among them.

Jarrett is a career prosecutor who has led the OPR since 1998. As an official at the U.S. attorney's office in the District, he worked closely with Holder and supervised high-profile prosecutions of former D.C. mayor Marion Barry (D) and former congressman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.).

In a statement, Holder expressed "the highest regard for Jarrett's experience, talents and capabilities."

Jarrett's familiarity with ethics issues sends a message to incoming U.S. attorneys about the importance of professional conduct and could signal a new emphasis on training career lawyers about the rules, said G. Douglas Jones, a top prosecutor in Birmingham during the Clinton administration.

"The attorney general is really making sure that people understand there's a new sheriff in town, and prosecutors are going to have to abide by the rules just like everybody else," Jones said. "It's no secret there have been major problems with the integrity of the Department of Justice over the past eight years, from Washington all the way down to assistant U.S. attorneys. That's why [Holder] has to take such a public stance on this."

Jarrett will replace Kenneth E. Melson, who directed the executive office of U.S. attorneys since 2007. Melson, who was a career prosecutor in Alexandria for nearly 25 years before shifting to department headquarters, will become acting chief of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bureau will play a role in the administration's heightened efforts to reduce violence and gun traffic on the southwestern U.S. border.

When she assumes her new job, Brown will have a full plate. The government's trouble in the Stevens case has prompted other defendants to call for new investigations of prosecutors and FBI agents. Defense attorneys for former Alabama governor Don Siegelman (D), for instance, recently sent a letter to Holder asking him to reopen the case for their client, who was convicted for his role in a corruption scheme. The ethics unit is investigating the lawyers who prosecuted Siegelman and was nearing the release of a report, which now may be delayed because of the new leadership within the OPR.


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