Alberto Gonzales' resignation as Attorney General gives President Bush the opportunity to restore credibility at the top of the United States Department of Justice.
To be fair, the Attorney General is a political appointee who serves at will. The same is true for United States Attorneys. Nonetheless smart presidents have sought attenuate the political obligations of appointed federal prosecutors.
Gonzales' replacement should be someone both of impeccable credentials and integrity, preferably a person with knowledge of the job and whose reputation in the legal community is that of a strong but straight-shooter.
One person who would fill that bill is Joe D. Whitley.
Whitley served as general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security before returning to the Atlanta law firm of Alston. Whitley was formerly United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from June 1990 to November 1993. Previously, he served as the third-ranking DOJ official. As Acting Associate Attorney General, he provided policy guidance to the 60,000 employees of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Parole Commission, the Pardon Attorney, Interpol, the Office of Justice Program, and the 93 U.S. Attorneys and their staffs. Whitley also served for five years as the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, the youngest person ever to be appointed a United States. Attorney and the only person to ever serve as United States
Attorney for two separate federal jurisdictions. He also held other management positions in the DOJ.
Whitley served on the Criminal Justice Section Council for the American Bar Association and is a regular participant in ABA activities. He is known for being low-key, accessible and honorable. These qualities are in short-supply and much needed.