U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who has served as attorney general since the beginning of the Obama administration, announced Sept. 25 that he would leave his position as soon as a successor is confirmed by the Senate.
In a statement delivered at the White House, Holder noted that the Obama administration “has made historic gains in realizing the principles of the founding documents and fought to protect the most sacred of American rights, the right to vote.” He also cited progress toward realizing the promise of equality for LGBT individuals, significant steps toward reforming the criminal justice system, and keeping “faith in our belief in the power of the greatest judicial system the world has ever known to fairly and effectively adjudicate any cases that are brought before it,” including those that involve the nation’s security.
President Obama emphasized in his remarks that Holder has addressed sentencing disparities, reworked mandatory minimums, and promoted alternatives to incarceration – all issues of priority concern to the ABA. As a result, Obama said, the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration rate have gone down by about 10 percent, the first time they have both declined during the same time period in more than 40 years.
The ABA has worked closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative, which the attorney general launched at the 2013 ABA Annual Meeting. During the meeting, he acknowledged the association’s history as a “driver of positive change” and asked the ABA to partner with DOJ to take the “bold steps” necessary to reform and strengthen the criminal justice system in concrete and fundamental ways.
The president said that Holder’s “proudest achievement might be reinvigorating and restoring the core mission of what he calls ‘the conscience of this building’ – and that’s the Civil Rights Division.” Holder has been relentless, Obama said, against attacks on the Voting Rights Act because “no citizen, including our servicemembers, should have to jump through hoops to exercise their most fundamental rights.”
The president is expected to wait until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections to nominate his choice to succeed Holder, but it is unclear whether he will submit the nomination this year or wait until the new Congress convenes in January.