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July 24, 2014

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U.S. attorney for state hopes Obama keeps him on job

Greg Brower, the U.S. attorney for Nevada, says he hopes the Democratic administration of Barack Obama won’t fire him.

“It’s certainly my intent to continue in the position if the new president thinks I’m the right person for the job,” the Republican federal prosecutor says. “The office recently went through an evaluation by the Department of Justice, and we passed with flying colors.”

Unfortunately for Brower, a former two-term assemblyman from Reno, that evaluation was done under the supervision of Attorney General Michael Mukasey, a Bush administration appointee Obama is looking to replace. Obama opposed Mukasey’s nomination last year.

In a news release announcing his opposition, the Illinois senator said Mukasey, who succeeded the scandal-plagued Alberto Gonzales, did not represent the “change in direction” he believed the Justice Department needed.

Brower, also a Bush administration appointee, has been in office here only since January. He replaced Daniel Bogden, who was forced out in December 2006 in a Justice Department purge that led to a congressional investigation and the eventual resignation of Gonzales.

It’s routine for a new president to fill U.S. attorney positions across the country with members of his own party. Already, there are rumblings within the local legal community that some prominent Democrats are eyeing the coveted federal prosecutor’s job, which is viewed as a springboard to elective office. The speculation is causing Brower and others in the office to start thinking about their futures, though Brower insists it’s business as usual for him at the federal courthouse.

One of the biggest arguments for retaining Brower is to preserve the stability that his presence has brought the office in the past 10 months. Bogden’s abrupt firing left the office rudderless for more than a year at a critical time in several high-profile investigations.

Brower’s best hope of surviving the Obama cut rests with Harry Reid, the state’s senior U.S. senator and majority leader, who wields considerable influence with the president-elect.

Reid supported Brower’s nomination last year and is said to genuinely like him, but the senator isn’t ready just yet to make a public commitment to Brower this time.

Reid’s Washington spokesman, Jon Summers, offered no insight on the senator’s leanings on Monday.

“Sen. Reid will give his recommendation to the Obama administration,” Summers says. “But ultimately, it’s the Obama administration’s decision to make.”

With several new big-time investigations in the works here, the U.S. attorney’s office is, once again, on pins and needles.

•••

Family Court Judge Jennifer Elliott takes the reins of the county’s expanding Adult Criminal Drug Court on Wednesday.

Elliott will bring her experience as a marriage and family therapist to the drug court program, which provides an alternative to prison for drug-addicted defendants.

To avoid prison, defendants accepted into the program must remain free of drugs and alcohol and attend counseling and court sessions for a year.

The program, founded by then-District Judge Jack Lehman in 1992, now convenes three days a week and handles 600 defendants.

Elliott is to continue handling a Family Court docket along with her new duties.

•••

With the help of state funding, another diversion program is expanding in Las Vegas Justice Court.

Justice of the Peace Nancy Oesterle is taking over a second DUI Court to help steer drunken drivers convicted of misdemeanor offenses into treatment. Justice of the Peace Tony Abbatangelo started the original DUI court in 2003.

Officials hope to expand the number of DUI Court participants from 180 to 300 in the near future with Oesterle’s help.

Oesterle says the two specialty courts have the ability to keep hard-core alcoholics out of jail and offer them “the hope of a clean and sober lifestyle.”

Of those who go through the program, only about 18 percent wind up being repeat offenders, according to Ray Figueroa, the program’s coordinator.

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