WHY IS Thomas Puccio being thrust upon the

District of Columbia to be the new U.S. attorney? Mr. Puccio may be a good lawyer and a very good prosecutor, but as a candidate for the U.S. attorney's job he has three strikes against him: he has never lived in Washington, he is not a member of the District bar and he has little experience in handling the sort of minor crimes that make up the bulk of the caseload for the U.S. attorney's office here.

Mr. Puccio's selection is also a swipe at the spirit of home rule. In nominating him, the president ignored all promptings by local officials to consider local candidates. It is a well-established national tradition that the Justice Department picks the U.S. attorney from the ranks of local lawyers. Has any Washington lawyer ever been appointed prosecutor in New York? Why should it work the other way around?

This concern over Mr. Puccio's lack of local experience in the District takes nothing away from his credentials as a prosecutor. His career has been a string of successful performances. But the U.S. attorney's office is not some national prize. The office is preoccupied with local matters. It occasionally gets involved in some nationally significant cases-- such as Watergate--but they are the exception. The U.S. attorney here would, in any other city, be called simply the district attorney. Mr. Reagan ought to reconsider his nomination of Mr. Puccio and apply a standard more attuned to the local nature of the U.S. attorney's job.