VI elected officials praised President Joe Biden’s September nomination of St. John’s own Delia L. Smith to be the next United States Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands. Almost six months later, however, her appointment remains in limbo as an Arkansas senator blocks the process.
Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett urged Monday that Virgin Islanders not lose hope. Plaskett said the delay in the process had nothing to do with Smith’s qualifications or her as a person and everything to do with politics. She said she was sure Smith could be confirmed when the process moved forward.
The time frame remains unclear.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) has said he objects to Smith’s nomination — and seven others, all in states that voted for Biden — because he believes U.S. Marshals in Portland, Ore., have been treated unfairly by the federal government. Cotton is blocking the nominations, he said, because the marshals — accused of using excessive force during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 — deserve to be defended by the U.S. government from suits or be given reasons why they won’t be defended beyond the reasons they’ve already been given. Hours of testimony on the Senate floor devolved into a stalemate that has Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), chair of the Judiciary Committee, vexed.
“You can’t stand up and say, ‘I don’t want to defund the police,’ and then refuse to fill vacancies when it comes to law enforcement. That’s inconsistent,” Durbin wrote on his Senate website.
Masked federal marshals allegedly hid their badges while using unmarked vans to pull people off the streets of downtown Portland during the chaotic summer of 2020. Local media reported innocent, and legal protestors were accosted by the officers along with vandals graffitiing the federal courthouse — all while political rivals clashed in often-violent protests and counter-protests on the city’s normally-placid west side.
The unrest was covered extensively by the national media and mentioned repeatedly by then-President Donald Trump.
It has nothing to do with Delia Smith or the Virgin Islands, said Plaskett, who vocally backed Smith’s nomination.
The nominations remain on the Senate’s calendar, but it is unclear how it will move forward. Some fear it will take a day-long series of roll call votes.
Since 2005, Assistant United States Attorney Smith served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of the Virgin Islands, and from 2012 to 2014, she was detailed to work as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Smith was an Assistant Attorney General in the Virgin Islands Department of Justice from 1999 to 2005. She received her Juris Doctorate from Texas Southern University in 1997 and her bachelor’s degree from UVI in 1993.
Cotton’s objection blocks the confirmation of others too. Ryan K. Buchanan would be United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia; Jason M. Frierson would be United States Attorney for the District of Nevada; Andrew M. Luger would be United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota; Mark A. Totten would be United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan; Marisa T. Darden would be United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio; Eddie M. Frizell would be United States Marshal for the District of Minnesota, and LaDon A. Reynolds would be United States Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois if the process moves forward, and they are approved.