Progressives’ Attacks Possible on U.S. Attorney Candidate Keva Landrum for Her Past Failures

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The American Prospect, which provides informed analysis of public policy and the politics of power from a progressive perspective, slammed attorney and former judge Keva Landrum in an April 17, 2023 post, for her alleged “obvious comfort using the legal system to needlessly penalize already marginalized communities and enrich herself.” The story further suggested that Landrum’s past behavior would continue if she were to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana. 

Landrum’s name surfaced two years ago for the position but her nomination never moved forward perhaps because of her close relationship with former State Senator Karen Carter Peterson who is currently serving a 22-month sentence in federal prison. Landrum’s name recently resurfaced in connection with the position. The Biden administration has yet to formally nominate Landrum.   

The American Prospect’s disappointment with Landrum’s candidacy is based in part on their belief that Biden’s nominees “should reflect the ideals and policy commitments that he has established as administration priorities.” AP cited Biden’s 2019 and 2020 promises to cut incarceration, end private prisons, cash bail, mandatory-minimum sentencing and the death penalty. 

The publication goes a step further to remind readers about a quartet of troubling decisions in Landrum’s past. While Chief Judge of Criminal District Court, Landrum and her fellow jurists created what criminal legal reform activist Alec Karakatsanis described as a “modern day debtors’ prison.” The judges set the fines and fees that offenders had to pay and in turn used those funds to pay their office and staff expenses. Thousands of offenders were subsequently jailed for their inability to pay the “excessive” fees. Though Landrum defended the practice, a federal court eventually ruled that it violated citizens’ 14th Amendment rights.

Progressives also fault Landrum for her decision in 2016 to strike almost a dozen Black voters from jury services, calling her action “clearly illegal racial prejudice.” In another policy move Landrum systematically sought felony charges for previously convicted offenders who were later arrested for minor marijuana infractions. Finally, The American Prospect claimed that Landrum – who while serving as interim District Attorney in 2007 – oversaw an office that swarmed with “prosecutorial misconduct” when prosecutors working under her direction hid exculpatory evidence from defendant Robert Jones.  After Landrum became a judge, she rejected Jones’ appeal in 2014 “despite the fact that it was her own office that mishandled the case.” 

The publication goes on to say that as both prosecutor and judge Landrum’s record shows a “gross disregard for people’s fundamental rights and a cruel impulse toward channeling state and local resources toward overzealous, punitive prosecution of the public for the smallest of offenses.”

The timeline for Landrum’s nomination has not yet been established. She must first successfully undergo a federal background check prior to a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee which is chaired by Dick Durbin, D-IL. U.S. Senate John Kennedy R-LA is also a member of the committee.        

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