David Hammer / Eyewitness News
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WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mary Landrieu recommends New Orleans attorney Kenneth Allen Polite Jr. as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, filling the post formerly held by Jim Letten.

'Mr. Polite is part of the next generation of dynamic leaders who are committed to ushering in that change. He believes in the potential of our region and understands that establishing and nurturing the public trust will be critical to this effort,' said Landrieu in a statement.

'I'm honored that Senator Landrieu is recommending me to the position of U.S. attorney,'Polite told Eyewitness News. 'And if I'm nominated by the president and confirmed, I am prepared to serve without reservation.'

The candidacy of Polite, 37, caught some local political and legal observers off-guard because he spent most of his career outside of Louisiana, including a stint as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Justice Department's largest district office, the Southern District of New York based in Manhattan.

But he is a New Orleans native who grew up in the Lower 9th Ward and went on to become the first black valedictorian in the history of De La Salle High School. He graduated from Harvard University and Georgetown Law before serving as a prosecutor and later returning to New Orleans to do business litigation, appellate advocacy, government investigations and white-collar defense at Liskow and Lewis.

'His legal experience and years as a prosecutor, combined with his stellar academic credentials, quickly elevated him to the top of an impressive field of candidates,' Landrieu said. 'I am delighted to recommend him as the next U.S. attorney for our state's Eastern District.'

Landrieu was influential in keeping Jim Letten as the U.S. Attorney in 2009 after the election of President Barack Obama, who has the authority to appoint the U.S. Attorney to a four-year term. She worked to keep him on even when he was the only George W. Bush appointee still left in office.

And ever since the first batch of names emerged for a replacement, those who knew of Polite's work enthusiastically supported him as the most qualified candidate and the one who would be the least wrapped up in politics, including those on the other side of the political aisle.

Former assistant U.S. attorney Shaun Clarke, a Republican and now a white-collar defense attorney in Houston, said he was thoroughly impressed with Polite during their time together at Liskow and Lewis and hoped months ago that he would be the nominee. And another Republican, shipyard owner Boysie Bollinger, chimed in after Landrieu's announcement to say she had made an 'excellent choice.'

'For the region to continue to build and thrive, it is imperative that we have a strong and proven crime fighter to protect the citizens of the Eastern District and root out corruption where it exists so that New Orleans remains the entrepreneurial capital of the nation,' said Landrieu.

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