Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Senators will choose prosecutor

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Finding a replacement to take over as the top federal prosecutor for the state's western district is a largely political process that could take anywhere from weeks to months, legal experts said Monday.

With former U.S. Attorney Steve Pence's resignation, his top assistant will fill his role, at least temporarily. But if tradition holds, the next U.S. attorney will be whoever U.S. senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning agree on.

Traditionally, the state's senators recommend a candidate to the president, who then makes the nomination to the U.S. Senate for its final approval.

"With the two senators being Republican and the president being Republican, they might agree on something fairly quickly," said Bruce Davis, the Kentucky Bar Association's executive director. "It's an extremely important position and I hope that (they) will be able to fill it rather quickly."

Pence resigned from the post Sunday to become U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher's gubernatorial running mate, trying to become the state's next lieutenant governor. Pence replaces Hunter Bates, whom a judge declared ineligible because he failed to meet the residency requirement.

Exactly who may be considered to fill the vacancy is still unclear. Neither senator would comment Monday, spokesmen said.

Paul Salamanca, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, said he thinks because McConnell is Kentucky's senior senator and is from Louisville, he would probably have a louder voice in the nomination.

"Obviously, it's the president's call," Salamanca said. "But I think they would defer significantly, and be very interested in what Mitch McConnell thinks."

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