By Sarah N. Lynch and Nate Raymond
WASHINGTON / BOSTON (Reuters) – Three black women prosecutors who have joined a movement to end racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system are viewed as candidates for top positions with federal attorneys by the Department of Justice.
Rachael Rollins in Boston, Sherry Boston in Atlanta, and Satana Deberry in Durham, North Carolina have been approached by Democrats or members of the Biden transition team to possibly run some of the department’s 93 US law firms.
They are part of a growing national movement of “progressive prosecutors” who support efforts to eradicate racial differences by rejecting the traditional culture of “hard crime” that has led to the disproportionate incarceration of black men.
The movement has gained momentum since nationwide protests took place following the May police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“It is definitely on the minds of reformers that it would be good to find US attorneys who are like the progressive prosecutors who have popped up in big cities across the country,” said Jeffrey Bellin, professor at William & Mary Law School.
In Massachusetts, Rollins and at least two other women are on a short list following a review by Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, said a person familiar with the review process.
In Georgia, Boston has been approached by congressional officials and is about to apply, two other sources said. The search for Georgia is not that far as the two Democratic senators were not sworn in until January 20, after winning the runoff elections.
In North Carolina, where there are two Republican Senators, the status of the review process has been unclear. If both senators of a state belong to the opposing party of the president, the oldest congressional democrat traditionally weighs.
North Carolina Democratic Representative GK Butterfield confirmed “on the administration of justice at the state and federal level,” in a statement he spoke to Deberry a few months ago, but said he had no candidate for a US lawyer for the Middle Ages Recommended district of North Carolina.
A spokesman for Republican Senator Thom Tillis said he and Senator Richard Burr would work with the White House to find mutually acceptable candidates.
Biden will ultimately decide who to nominate for US Senate confirmation for each role. A White House spokesman declined to comment.
BREAK WITH PRECEDENTS
Choosing one of the three women would increase racial diversity in the top positions of the Justice Department and a departure from the usual types of candidates for these jobs, which are often offered internally or to lawyers in high-profile law firms with prior experience in the department.
Merrick Garland, Biden’s candidate to lead the division as attorney general, told the Senate last month he believes the criminal justice system does not treat Americans of all races equally.
“Unfortunately, and I realize … it isn’t,” Garland said during his confirmation hearing.
Rollins, Boston and Deberry are among more than a dozen progressive prosecutors who signed letters confirming Garland’s nomination, as well as Lisa Monaco, Biden’s election as Justice Department No. 2 officer.
Rollins, who was elected to her role in 2018, said she would love to be named a U.S. attorney.
Their viability was called into question after an alleged incident in December. She was later cleared of wrongdoing. She declined to comment.
In an interview, Deberry confirmed she had been asked about the job but said she didn’t know where things were.
“I’m a little black girl from Hamlet,” she told Reuters. “It would be one of the great honors of my life.”
Boston declined to say if she was a contender.
But she said the Justice Department “would publicly support the idea of restoring community trust, although initiatives that are not necessarily always that law and order dynamic” would be “a heavenly marriage”.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)