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Obama nominates Judge Callahan as U.S. attorney

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 25, 2009 - Today, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Richard Callahan, a Missouri circuit court judge, to be U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. 

Callahan's name has circulated for months as the likely selection. Callahan is a longtime ally of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and was considered her favorite candidate for the position. He has been a Missouri circuit judge since 2002. He was also a former prosecuting attorney of Cole County and a special prosecutor in the Missouri attorney general's office. 

If confirmed by the Senate, Callahan would replace acting U.S. Attorney Michael W. Reap, who has served since Catherine Hanaway -- named by then-President George W. Bush -- stepped down as U.S. attorney last spring.

Traditionally, U.S. attorneys change when the president changes -- and often have political ties. But once in office, the attorneys are generally thought to independent and serve nonpartisan crime-fighter roles. They are part of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The furor over the firings in the Bush administration came because they occured mid-term and because they were thought to be in response to political pressure from the White House. As a rule, U.S. attorneys traditionally aren't removed mid-term except for malfeasance.

Obama says that he will take the approach of most other presidents to the office, and not get involved in the U.S. attorney's actions.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.