Landrieu expects to recommend Cazayoux replacement soon

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., shares his thoughts Thursday about the duties of his current office, law enforcement in the Baton Rouge area and his plans for a future in private practice.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., shares his thoughts Thursday about the duties of his current office, law enforcement in the Baton Rouge area and his plans for a future in private practice.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said Thursday she plans to recommend one or more lawyers by September for President Barack Obama’s nomination for the post of U.S. attorney for the Baton Rouge-based Middle District of Louisiana.

“I’m not going to rush, but I’m not going to dillydally, either,” said Landrieu, D-La. “I would imagine within six to 10 weeks … I’ll have a strong recommendation to make to the president.”

Louisiana’s senior senator added she plans to check with the Justice Department on whether the administration would prefer a recommendation for one person or several.

U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. announced his resignation Wednesday after three years as the head federal prosecutor for the Middle District, which includes the parishes of East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana, Livingston, Ascension, St. Helena, Iberville and Pointe Coupee.

Cazayoux said he would leave office by July 1 to join a private law practice in the Baton Rouge area. He declined Thursday to identify the firm that he will join.

Landrieu lauded Cazayoux for doing a “terrific job” in office.

“He handled the office with professionalism, and I’m very sorry to see him go,” the senator said.

The search for a new U.S. attorney for the New Orleans-based Eastern District of Louisiana is about to conclude, Landrieu announced Thursday. She said she expects the president to officially nominate New Orleans lawyer Kenneth Polite Jr. “literally any day.”

The Eastern District includes the parishes of Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne and Washington. Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten resigned in December amid a scandal concerning two top prosecutors anonymously criticizing judges and defendants online.

The Shreveport-based Western District, where Stephanie Finley is U.S. Attorney, covers the rest of the state.

Landrieu said it is important to move fast to fill Cazayoux’s Middle District post in Baton Rouge “because it’s the district where the state capital is.”

“I’m leaving this office in incredibly good hands,” Cazayoux said Thursday. From July 1 until either an interim or permanent U.S. attorney is named, he said, the federal office in Baton Rouge will be administered by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Walt Green.

“He (Green) is a natural leader,” Cazayoux said. “He’s got integrity. He’s an impressive, impressive guy.”

Defense attorney C. Frank Holthaus said Cazayoux also is impressive.

“I thought he (Cazayoux) was absolutely super,” Holthaus said. “Don knows how to use power in a balanced way. And he knows how to use it fairly and with compassion, where compassion is needed.”

Holthaus said he knows exactly why Cazayoux chose to resign his post.

“He’s got three kids in school,” Holthaus said. “He’s got to make a living for his family. It’s regrettable that you have to leave public service to make a living.”

Cazayoux is a former assistant district attorney for the 18th Judicial District in both Pointe Coupee and Iberville parishes.

He also had a private law practice in New Roads. And he served as a state representative from 2000 to 2008 and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the last six months of 2008.

But Cazayoux repeated Thursday that he “probably never” would run for elected office again.

“My mother once told someone she’d be happy if I did (run for office) as long as she was no longer alive,” the prosecutor noted. He said election politics are hard on a candidate’s family.

Cazayoux said he will miss working with his staff, as well as state, federal and local law enforcement officials.

He said that is especially true where 19th Judicial District Attorney Hillar Moore III is concerned.

“It is been an honor to work with him (Moore) in an effort to bring down local crime rates,” Cazayoux added. “I think Hillar is the hardest working district attorney in this state.”

Moore saw Cazayoux’s impending departure in a way that was similar to Holthaus’ views.

“I would assume he wants to earn more money for his family,” Moore said Thursday. “I can understand that, but I’m really going to miss him.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson said: “Mr. Cazayoux has been a very effective and capable attorney for the United States. I know that (U.S. District) Judge James Brady and (U.S. District) Judge Shelly Dick join me in commending Mr. Cazayoux for his service to the citizens of the Middle District of Louisiana. We wish him success in the years ahead.”