AG-to-Be Eric Holder: What We Know

The first piece of President-elect Barack Obama’s Department of Justice is presumably in place. Media reports say Obama plans to nominate Eric Holder, a partner at the Washington law firm Covington and Burling, to be his attorney general. And with a Democrat stranglehold on the Senate, he should be confirmed easily.

It is not the first go-round at Justice for Holder, who would be the nation’s first black attorney general. He was confirmed as deputy attorney general in 1997 for then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Before that, he served as a U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, a federal judge for the D.C. superior court, and as a prosecutor investigating political corruption for DOJ.

Here’s what we know about Holder’s views and experience on juvenile justice. Much of it comes from a transcript of his 1997 confirmation hearing that we obtained from the Senate Judiciary Committee library. (Pages 56-79 contain all statements on JJ, unless we missed something.)

* In the get-tough era of school shootings (which happened while overall juvenile crime and juvenile homicide arrest rates dropped) was a voice for prevention. Holder and Reno issued a joint statement in 1998 making the case for more focus on the front of end of the youth violence quandary.

“Police chiefs, prosecutors, and parents are all in agreement that targeted, effective crime prevention programs are the best way to combat youth violence,” the statement said. “Together, we have built more beds to house our prisoners and hired more police to patrol our streets, but everyone involved in law enforcement agrees that we are never going to be able to arrest and jail our way out of the juvenile crime problem.”

* He gets the need for aftercare, one of the issues most discussed at an American Bar Association’s juvenile justice panel earlier this month. And better yet, he gets that it costs money to improve it.

“We have to commit ourselves … as a society to spending the money in order to come up with programs because…the majority of [juveniles] will eventually be returned to the streets,” Holder said at his confirmation hearing. We need to, to the extent that we can, prepare them for that reentry. It involves a commitment on a society’s part, though, to devote the resources to doing that.”

This survey, done by the Center for Children’s Law and Policy for the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative in 2007, suggests the commitment is there. Then again, the economy has changed a little since then.

* He believes strongly in the value of initial drug screens for any juvenile offender who is arrested. That probably emanates from his experience as a superior court judge in Washington. D.C. tested all juveniles, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the percentage of youths testing positive went from 10 percent in 1988 to “50 to 60” percent in the mid-1990s.

“I think it is the sources of a whole lot of other juvenile crime problems that we have,” Holder told the committee. “We as adults on a local level have to be involved in activities and give messages to young people … that drug[s] are not acceptable, it is not a good thing.”

* Holder personally lives up to that standard. He is a long-time member of Concerned Black Men, a D.C.-based organization that mentors troubled youth in the city and has received more than $5 million in federal funds since 2000, including some grant money from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Anybody else got some info, thoughts on Mr. Holder? Comment below!




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