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December 14, 2020

Anyone have any distinct views on who Joe Biden should pick as US Attorney General?

As perhaps my last substantive post for the semester, I will reinforce out common "who sentences" theme by asking whether anyone has any special thoughts concerning who Joe Biden should pick to serve as US Attorney General.  I probably would not assert that the US Attorney General is the most important "who" when it comes to sentencing, but I will say she is likely always among the top 10 most important "whos."  And especially at a time when there is much (justified) focus on the role that so-called "progressive prosecutors" can play in advancing criminal justice reform, I think the selection of an Attorney General is especially consequential circa 2020.

I have done two posts over at my main blog discussing the two people whom I still consider the likely front-runners:

For a variety of reasons, I would like to imagine a world in which reform advocates like Michelle Alexander or Bryan Stevenson might be realistic options for the role of AG.  But for a variety of reasons, I suspect folks like Doug Jones and Sally Yates may be about as progressive as any "realistic" US AG pick is going to be.  And I would love to hear any views on any possibilities (realistic or unrealistic) for who should be directing the Justice Department come 2021.

December 14, 2020 in Who decides | Permalink


I too, would love having a candidate like Michelle Alexander as the next AG, but as you mentioned, that probably isn’t too likely. Focusing on the realm of more realistic candidates, I am inclined to lean more towards choosing Sally Yates, although there are some minor concerns, as could be expected with any candidate. There are a few reasons why I prefer Yates, but the main reason is that I really, really, really like the idea of eliminating mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses. With all the tools and discretion available to prosecutors and other “whos” in the system, I am confident that they can find a way to properly sentence the criminals who are more “deserving” of a lengthier sentence; I do not see the decision of eliminating a mandatory minimums getting in the way of that or any other important values that most might hold concerning criminal justice reform. Not to mention, reducing incarceration rates relating to drug offenses in order to free up resources to be used elsewhere does not sound too bad to me at all. I am also a big fan of the idea of restoring Pell Grants and expanding education in prisons, I think this provides a lot of potential upside from a rehabilitation standpoint. We should help those who are trying to help themselves, and therefore helping community as a whole. Although not super progressive, I think Yates would definitely get things moving back in the right direction. Do you have preference between the two more “realistic” frontrunning candidates?

Posted by: Francis Williams | Dec 16, 2020 2:28:52 PM

I have heard from some folks I respect that we should all be rooting for Doug Jones among the names that have been widely discussed. I have long been a Cory Booker fan, but I surmise a lack of experience as a prosecutor impacts his prospects (though I would consider that a virtue). I am pretty sure I would be fine with Yates --- though I really think VP-elect Kamala Harris could be an even more important voice with respect to CJ reform if she want to use her political capital in this space.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 16, 2020 2:34:43 PM

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