Metro-East News

Southern Illinois’ Boyce not among 46 U.S. attorneys asked to resign

Donald Boyce, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.
Donald Boyce, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

Donald Boyce, the federal prosecutor for the district covering the metro-east and Southern Illinois, is not among 46 United States attorneys who have been asked to resign.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week asked for the resignations of 46 United States attorneys who were holdovers from the administration of President Barack Obama.

Boyce was appointed interim U.S. attorney for Southern Illinois in July, by Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch. That temporary appointment expired after 120 days, as is routine. Then in October, Chief Judge Michael Reagan of the Southern District of Illinois appointed Boyce as the district’s U.S. attorney.

So Boyce is a court-appointed U.S. attorney, not an Obama appointee, like the 46 who were asked to resign, according to Nathan Wyatt, who is an assistant U.S. attorney for Boyce and is the office’s spokesman.

“He continues to serve in that capacity until something changes,” Wyatt said. “He is not a presidential appointee.”

Boyce had been an assistant federal prosecutor since 2006 and is a former St. Louis police officer.

Boyce was appointed after Stephen Wigginton, an appointee of Obama, stepped down in 2015 to go into private practice.

At least two local attorneys have expressed interest in serving as U.S. attorney for Southern Illinois, if the administration of President Donald Trump decides to appoint a replacement for Boyce. U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville would likely have a top role in an appointment because he’s the most senior Republican in Illinois’ congressional delegation.

If the southern district needs a new U.S. Attorney, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, have asked Shimkus in a letter to allow for bipartisan cooperation when recommending a selection.

“It has now been nearly two months since President Trump’s inauguration and over one month since Attorney General Sessions was sworn in on Feb. 9. We are prepared to continue our discussions with the goal of reestablishing a bipartisan process to identify and recommend candidates for whom we would be willing to sign affirmative blue slips,” the senators wrote.

Jordan Haverly, a spokesman for Shimkus, said the office was surprised to read about the letter in the press.

“I’m pretty positive Sen. Durbin has Congressman Shimkus’ cellphone number,” Haverly said. “(Durbin) definitely could have given him a call.”

Haverly said when a recommendation is made, it will be a “collaborative and inclusive process,” with input from around the state.

“We’re not trying to take anyone out of the process,” Haverly said.

Haverly added there hasn’t been any word one way or the other from the Justice Department about the Southern District’s U.S. attorney.

Many of the federal prosecutors who were nominated under Obama have already left their positions, but the nearly four dozen who stayed on in the first weeks of the Trump administration have been asked to leave “in order to ensure a uniform transition,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said.

“Until the new U.S. attorneys are confirmed, the dedicated career prosecutors in our U.S. attorney’s offices will continue the great work of the department in investigating, prosecuting and deterring the most violent offenders,” she said in a statement.

By Friday evening, U.S. attorneys around the country — including in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Arkansas — had publicly announced their resignations.

It’s fairly customary for the 93 U.S. attorneys to leave their positions after a new president is in office, but the departures are not automatic and don’t necessarily happen all at once.

One U.S. attorney appointed by President George W. Bush, Rod Rosenstein of Maryland, remained on the job for the entire Obama administration and is the current nominee for deputy attorney general in the Trump administration.

The action Friday was similar to one taken in 1993 by then-Attorney General Janet Reno, who served under President Bill Clinton and, soon after taking office, sought the resignations of the U.S. attorneys appointed by President George H.W. Bush. At the time, Sessions was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.

U.S. attorneys are federal prosecutors who are nominated by the president, generally upon the recommendation of a home-state senator, and are responsible for prosecuting federal crimes in the territories they oversee. They report to Justice Department leadership in Washington, and their priorities are expected to be in line with those of the attorney general.

The Associated Press and BND Reporter Joseph Bustos contributed to this article.