Bipartisan Agreement Over North Dakota’s U.S. Attorney Is a Welcome Departure From Hyper-Partisan Obama Era


Federal prosecutor Christopher Myers of the U.S. Attorney's Office addresses media members about opiate new enforcement and prosecution strategies to be employed during a news conference at Fargo Police Headquarters on Monday, May 16, 2016. Nick Wagner / The Forum

The Trump administration has asked dozens of Obama-appointed U.S. Attorneys across the nation to step down, which is a routine matter for new administrations. Particularly when control of the White House switches parties.

But North Dakota’s federal prosecutor is staying on the job, and the bipartisan consensus among North Dakota’s congressional delegation is that Trump should let him continue.

That’s a good thing for North Dakota, and a departure from President Obama’s decision to staff the office with a hyper-partisan political hack.

U.S. Attorney Chris Myers took over for Obama appointee Tim Purdon when the latter opted to leave office early for a job with an activist law firm, one heavily involved in supporting the #NoDAPL protesters.

Purdon’s tenure in federal office was pretty short. His appointment was delayed for roughly a year because of his political background. You see, President Obama appointed Purdon to the job directly from the Democratic National Committee. That, rightfully, gave Senators pause during the confirmation process.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]In Myers North Dakota has someone with real experience in criminal justice. There is no reason to question his ability to do the job. Heck, he’s already doing it.[/mks_pullquote]

Purdon wasn’t confirmed until late 2010, and he left in early 2015 having served for less than five of the eight years of the Obama administration.

On the job Purdon behaved as exactly the sort of ideologue he appeared to be, promptly attempting a laughable prosecution of a group of oil companies over a couple of dozen dead ducks.

Purdon’s case was laughed out of federal court, and earned him national derision.

And it wasn’t just Purdon’s environmental zealotry which did a disservice to the office he inadequately filled. At a time when North Dakota was facing significant challenges from organized crime moving into region alongside oil workers Purdon’s lack of a background in criminal law was painfully obvious.

Purdon is nothing if not a skilled political showman, organizing conferences and sending out press releases about his crime fighting efforts, but those on the ground in the criminal justice community saw him as little more than a figurehead. Someone who got a resume-padding job because he had the right ideology.

In Myers North Dakota has someone with real experience in criminal justice. There is no reason to question his ability to do the job. Heck, he’s already been doing it since Purdon decamped for the private sector.

As for his politics, I don’t even know what they are, and that’s as it should be.

I can’t say that I’ll always agree with Myers approach to the job. I am concerned, as one example, over his office’s handling of state immunity granted in cases of drug overdoses. But overall I think we can expect Myers to pursue his job as U.S. Attorney with a degree of competence, and a lack of ideological fervor, which we didn’t get from the office’s previous occupant.