President-elect Joe Biden is considering a shortlist for Attorney General pick that includes former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the Wall Street Journal reports. The names are a sign that Biden is weighing whether to emphasize extensive prosecutorial experience or credibility with social-justice advocates. Civil-rights groups like Black Lives Matter are pressing Biden to put equitable treatment of Blacks and other minorities in the criminal justice system at the center of the Justice Department’s work. Other supporters are urging him to prioritize restoring a more predictable approach to sensitive prosecutions.
Yates, the No. 2 at DOJ in the Obama administration, spent decades as a federal prosecutor in Atlanta bringing public corruption cases and taking the lead on high-profile matters. She ended the federal use of private prisons and encouraged clemency for more than 1,000 lower-level drug offenders, actions that former colleagues cite as evidence of her commitment to addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Jones, who lost his race for re-election, served as the top federal prosecutor in Birmingham, where he gained the convictions of two members of the Ku Klux Klan for their role in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four Black girls. He also has some Republican support and has shown a willingness to work with them on key issues. Jones was one of just three Democrats who voted to advance a Republican bill aimed at changing police practices that others in his party said was inadequate. The third top candidate, Patrick, briefly ran for president in the 2020 Democratic primary. He led the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which enforces federal antidiscrimination statutes and pursues constitutional rights violations by local police, among other mandates, in the Clinton administration. He doesn’t have prosecutorial experience.