WASHINGTON — The Baton Rouge U.S. Attorney’s Office will soon have a new top prosecutor at the helm after the U.S. Senate confirmed Brandon Fremin Thursday evening.
Fremin, who now heads the criminal division of the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, will take over the office from Acting U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson. Fremin will oversee federal prosecutions for the Middle District of Louisiana, a nine-parish jurisdiction based in the state capital.
Fremin's nomination was one of more than two dozen Trump nominees for posts in the Department of Justice the U.S. Senate unanimously approved on a voice vote just before adjourning Thursday evening.
The batch of approvals came after U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, lifted a hold he'd placed on those nominations in retaliation for the Department of Justice's shifting stance on marijuana enforcement under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions in January cancelled an Obama-era memo instructing federal prosecutors to largely ignore marijuana offenses in states that have legalized the drug, including Gardner's home state of Colorado.
Gardner said Thursday his decision to drop the hold came after "productive" conversations with Trump administration officials.
Fremin, 43, previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the office he'll now lead. He's also worked as an East Baton Rouge assistant district attorney and served for eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
A Louisiana native, Fremin earned his bachelor's degree at Southeastern Louisiana University and holds a law degree from LSU in Baton Rouge.
The parishes in the Middle District are: Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana.
Amundson took over as acting head of the office in March after President Donald Trump asked U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama to step down, including then-Baton Rouge U.S. Attorney Walt Green.
Amundson, a career federal prosecutor, had served as the top deputy to Green and has worked in the Baton Rouge U.S. Attorney's Office since 2002. Amundson's wife, Susan, is also an assistant U.S. attorney in the office's civil division.
Amundson did not apply for the permanent position. He'll continue in the interim post until Fremin is officially sworn in as U.S. attorney and will then return to his previous position as a federal prosecutor in the office.
Trump must sign Fremin's official commission before the Middle District's chief federal judge can swear Fremin into the post, a process that generally takes between one and two weeks.
"I, along with the rest of the office, am thrilled to have Brandon Fremin as our new U.S. Attorney," Amundson said in a statement. "He has the experience, ability, integrity and judgment to successfully lead and strengthen the office in all our efforts. His appointment is a terrific development for the honest members of our community, and we look forward to fully supporting his leadership in pursuing security and justice for all of the communities we serve."
Fremin's boss, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, called Fremin "a law and order leader" and thanked him for his work for the state.
"Brandon has led division operations, managed hundreds of prosecutors and support staffers and done so with distinction," Landry said in a statement. "President Trump once again made an outstanding selection in Brandon."
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III welcomed Fremin's confirmation while praising Amundson's handling of the office over the past year. Fremin worked as both an investigator and prosecutor in Moore's office. Moore also began his law career as a district attorney's investigator.
"I think he’s going to be able to hit the ground running and I'm looking forward to working with him," Moore said. "He inherits a really dedicated, hard-working staff and I really look forward to a lot of good things from him."
U.S. attorneys are political appointees who are generally — though not always — replaced after a change in presidential administration, though the abruptness of Trump's move, which came before the White House had vetted potential replacements, caught some off-guard.
Moore led an unsuccessful lobbying effort by Baton Rouge-area officials in March to convince the White House to keep Green on the job, describing him as a no-nonsense career prosecutor who'd built a strong relationship with local law enforcement.
Green, who now works in private practice and remains on reserve duty as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, spent 14 years as a federal prosecutor in the Baton Rouge U.S. Attorney's Office and served as acting U.S. attorney before being tapped by the Obama administration to succeed Don Cazayoux.
"As a friend and a fellow prosecutor for many years, I know Brandon Fremin will be successful as the next U.S. Attorney for our district," Green said on Friday. "He inherits a staff of dedicated men and women who are resolved to carry out the mission of the U.S. Department of Justice on a daily basis."
Louisiana's two other U.S. Attorney's Offices — the New Orleans-based Eastern District and the Lafayette-based Western District — remain under interim leadership.
The White House named current Western District Assistant U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph as its nominee to take the helm of that office Friday. The president has not yet nominated anyone for the New Orleans position.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday also filed a cloture motion on the nomination of Terry Doughty for a federal judgeship in Louisiana's Western District, a procedural move that puts Doughty in line for a confirmation vote by the full Senate, likely in early March.
Doughty is now a state district judge in Franklin, Richland and West Carroll parishes. If confirmed by the Senate, he'll fill one of seven current vacancies in the sprawling 42-parish Western District, which includes courthouses in Lafayette, Alexandria, Shreveport, Monroe and Lake Charles.