A veteran prosecutor known for his no-nonsense style is President Joe Biden’s pick to be the next U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge, according to a source with knowledge of the nomination.
Ronald Gathe Jr., who has spent two decades working as a prosecutor for parish district attorneys, would become U.S. attorney if confirmed by the Senate.
Gathe, a graduate of Xavier University and Southern University Law Center, would be the first Black person nominated by a president for the position in the Middle District of Louisiana. The district was created in April 1972.
Gathe would succeed Brandon Fremin, who had been the Trump administration’s appointee until he resigned at the end of February with the Biden administration planning to appoint a replacement. Ellison Travis has been serving as the interim.
The U.S. attorney for the Middle District essentially acts as the federal district attorney for a nine-parish area: East Baton Rouge, Ascension, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana. The office has 60 attorneys and support personnel.
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Gathe, 46, spent 19 years as an assistant district attorney in East Baton Rouge Parish and since January has been the chief of trials for the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which encompasses the parishes of Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge.
Gathe was prosecuting a murder trial Wednesday in West Baton Rouge Parish.
“He’s one of the best litigators I’ve ever seen,” said Gathe’s boss, Tony Clayton, the 18th Judicial District attorney, adding that “he is one of the most low-key human beings I have ever met. He’s the kind of guy Cassidy and Kennedy would love.”
That last point is important because Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, under Senate traditions, have the right to veto the president’s nomination. Both are Republicans.
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Kennedy typically meets one-on-one with key federal appointees to Louisiana, while Cassidy generally has an outside committee vet the nominees.
Still ahead for Gathe is a formal nomination by the White House, confirmation by the Judiciary Committee and confirmation by the full Senate.
“He’s a good choice,” said Doug Moreau, who hired Gathe as a prosecutor when Moreau was the East Baton Rouge district attorney. “He’s gained a lot of experience and gained a good reputation over the years. He’s well-liked.”
Hillar Moore III, Moreau’s successor, also spoke favorably of his former prosecutor.
“Ron not only has the temperament that is needed for this very important job during this critical time, but he also has the legal knowledge and experience to lead his office,” Moore said.
Gathe, an adjunct professor at Southern University Law Center, is vice president of membership for the National Black Prosecutors Association. He was previously the group's national treasurer and a regional director, and started the association's Louisiana chapter. He graduated from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge.
Others mentioned as possible candidates for the position were state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, state Department of Transportation and Development executive counsel Deidre Deculus Robert; and Michael Adams, a law partner at DeCuir, Clark & Adams.
Brian Jackson, now a federal judge in Baton Rouge, and Stan Lemelle are Black men who served as U.S. Attorney in the Middle District without having been appointed by a president.