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Polite takes over the reins as U.S. Attorney for La.’s Eastern District

23rd September 2013   ·   0 Comments

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr. officially seized the reins after being sworn in Friday morning as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Kenneth Polite Jr. as the new U.S. attorney for Louisiana’s Eastern District.

The Eastern District has been managed by veteran federal prosecutor Dana Boente since former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten stepped down last December. Letten resigned after two of his top deputies acknowledged posting anonymous comments on nola.com, The Times-Picayune’s companion website, about cases their office had handled.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu recommended Polite, a New Orleans attorney and former assistant U.S. attorney for New York City, for the post and President Barack Obama nominated him. The Senate unanimously backed the nomination Tuesday.

“I’m confident that the people of the Eastern District will be well served by the leadership of Kenneth Polite. He is a smart, caring and inspirational leader who will bring integrity and passion to this important work,” Landrieu said in a statement.

Polite, a 37-year-old New Orleans native and De La Salle High School grad, said he was grateful for the opportunity.

“This is a responsibility that I take seriously. As I begin my service, I commit to them that I will be tireless in my efforts to fight crime and root out corruption,” Polite said.

Although Sen. David Vitter did not block Polite’s confirmation, the Republican senator gave the nominee a lukewarm endorsement before he was confirmed Tuesday.

“Ken is a bright young guy, and I wish him all the best in this very challenging time for that office,” Vitter said in a statement. “I remained concerned that that office really needs a more seasoned leader and supervisor to immediately stabilize it after its scandals, and that Ken’s focus on street crime will unintentionally take focus away from battling political corruption. I hope his service proves otherwise.”
His confirmation is for four years, although it’s routine after the election of a new president for all U.S. Attorneys to offer their resignation and give the new president a chance to name his own federal prosecutors. In a break with tradition, Obama kept Letten in the position after his election – largely on the recommendation of Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Polite takes over the helm of a troubled office that was lambasted last week by a federal judge after an online posting scandal involving at least three federal prosecutors who served under former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.

Polite says he will spend his initial time as U.S. attorney evaluating and reorganizing the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s staff of almost three dozen attorneys.

“I think I have a sense of what it means to walk in a lot of different shoes,” Polite told The Advocate last week. “As a person who certainly didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, but went to high school on St. Charles Avenue and had many friends who were quite wealthy, I learned to appreciate the struggles every race, class and culture deal with. Ultimately I think it makes me a more empathetic person.”

This article originally published in the September 23, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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