Two More names for OJJDP Administrator


Corrected April 22

JJ Today has heard two more names thrown around for the top job at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: Baltimore attorney Stuart Simms and Ernestine Gray, former chief judge of the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court in Louisiana.

Simms ran the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services from 1995 to 1997 before being promoted to run the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, where he stayed until 2003. Prior to his work with juvenile and adult corrections, he served as deputy state's attorney.

One person who knows Simms believes he would be a very safe bet to be confirmed, and would likely be an efficient administrator who would not rock the boat much. "I can't imagine anybody criticizing him" during a confirmation process, the person said.

Gray is one of the rare birds who remains on the juvenile court bench with no desire to flee for greener pastures. She is still an active judge, now in her 25th year on the bench. Gray is also a former president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and serves as president of the board of trustees for the National Court Appointed Special Advocates.

"She would do a fabulous job at anything she did," said David Bell, the chief judge for the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court. "She's just a phenomenal individual. She's probably forgotten more than any of us will ever learn."

The same person who sees Simms as a competent candidate said Gray lacks that administrative gene required to manage a large federal staff and budget. "She doesn't have an administrative bone in her body," he said. "I can't imagine her running" OJJDP.

We mentioned this last week, but it bears repeating: Despite a large group of supporters in the JJ advocacy and reform world, some supporters of Vincent Schiraldi now believe that he is a long shot to get the job because of a running series of columns written by Washington Post columnist Colby King.

[FYI: JJ Today is not in any way endorsing Schiraldi for the job. We have devoted more attention to his candidacy than others for one basic reason. While many sources keep their names out of attribution's way before federal appointments are announced, the information we have gathered points to a large group of supporters around the country for Schiraldi.]

Would King stand silent should Obama choose to nominate Schiraldi? Not likely. And some believe that there are a few members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions is the name we've heard most) who might really hold Schiraldi's feet to the fire regarding King's columns.

Had the confirmation process heretofore gone swimmingly for the new administration, maybe a guy like Schiraldi is worth taking a chance on. But of course, that is not the case.

And considering the trouble Obama has had pushing through nominees already, "If you were advising the president of his best interests, would you tell him to nominate [Schiraldi]?" mused one person who said he would like to see Schiraldi get the job.

Schiraldi and Maryland Department of Juvenile Services Don Devore will appear on a popular D.C. radio show tomorrow.

Another little tidbit on the field of candidates: It turns out that David Onek's brother, Matt Onek, works for Obama's domestic policy council. JJ Today heard from one source that he was involved in vetting candidates for the OJJDP job; Matt Onek said he "absolutely is not" involved.