WASHINGTON — Kenneth Polite Jr. is expected to move one step closer to becoming New Orleans’ next U.S. attorney by the end of the week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled Thursday to approve the nomination of Polite as the top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Louisiana after he was first nominated for the job by President Barack Obama in June.
Polite should receive committee approval without any problems, which would put him on track to receive full Senate approval as soon as the week of Sept. 23. Once that occurs, he can officially take over in the job.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in February recommended Polite for the job, choosing to make him her sole choice after she said he stood out from the pack of potential choices.
Polite, who also is a state civil service commissioner, would fill the void left by embattled former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, who resigned in December amid a scandal concerning two top prosecutors anonymously criticizing judges and defendants online.
Dana J. Boente, of Virginia, is serving as the interim U.S. attorney.
“Kenneth Polite’s legal career has been distinguished and impressive,” Obama said in his June announcement. “I am confident that, as a U.S. attorney, he will be relentless in his pursuit of justice and serve the people of Louisiana with distinction.”
Polite has said he would refrain from further comment on the matter during the confirmation process.
Polite’s confirmation process is expected to proceed smoothly — although the hope was originally to get him confirmed before the August congressional recess — because Sen. David Vitter, R-La., opted against blocking the confirmation.
Still, Vitter has expressed concerns about Polite’s level of experience and his interest in focusing more on violent crime.
“Ken is a bright young guy, and I wish him all the best in this very challenging time for that office,” Vitter stated in June. “I remain 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.”
Polite, a New Orleans native, currently serves with the Liskow & Lewis law firm, where he practices law in business litigation, appellate advocacy, government investigations and white-collar criminal defense.
Prior to joining Liskow, Polite was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he served as lead counsel in numerous investigations and prosecutions of federal criminal offenses, including bribery, extortion, narcotics trafficking, money laundering and identity theft.
Polite was named to the state Civil Service Commission in early 2011 by Gov. Bobby Jindal. Polite was one of three recommendations made to the governor by Xavier University President Norman Francis. This past year, Polite was critical of some of Jindal’s privatization and hospital layoffs plans.
Polite is a graduate of Harvard University and the Georgetown University Law Center. He clerked for U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Thomas L. Ambro.
Polite was born to teenage parents and raised, early on, in the Calliope and Lafitte housing projects of New Orleans, and then in the Lower 9th Ward.
He went on to become the first African-American valedictorian of De La Salle High School in New Orleans before going to Harvard.