Larry Baca: Confirm Mary Smith, Cherokee, to DOJ position
"Mary L. Smith has been nominated to be the assistant attorney general for the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice. Having been nominated April 20, 2009, she is the longest-standing presidential nominee not to receive a full Senate vote. While I have kept a respectful silence during this process, the time has come when I can be silent no longer. She merits immediate confirmation.

Many of us know Mary Smith. We know she possesses impeccable credentials to serve as an assistant attorney general. She understands complex litigation and has exhibited excellent management skills. Having previously served as an attorney in the highly prestigious Skadden Arps law firm, Smith has served as senior litigation counsel at Tyco International (US) Inc., where she managed a securities class-action multi-district litigation that was the largest case pending at Tyco and one of the largest cases pending in the country. While at Tyco, as part of her responsibilities, Smith managed a multimillion dollar budget, more than 40 outside counsel, and more than 60 contract attorneys. She also has specific tax-related experience.

When she served in the Clinton White House, she worked with Congressional offices, the Treasury Department, and the National Economic Council to address tax disparities between Indian tribes and state governments. Smith also served on President Obama’s Justice Department transition team where she helped review and analyze the Tax Division, the very component she has been nominated to lead.

Her appointment is of greater significance than just her leadership of the Tax Division. Although she will not serve in a position that directly affects litigation or policy involving American Indians, her presence at the Department of Justice will affect the dialogue. When the assistant attorneys general meet with Attorney General Eric Holder as a group to discuss larger policy issues for the department, if Native American issues do arise, for the first time in history someone at the table will speak of Native Americans as “we” when everyone else is saying “they.” The appointments of Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor had such effects on the discourse at the Supreme Court. Smith’s confirmation as assistant attorney general will be of comparable significance."

Get the Story:
Larry Baca: First Native American nominee deserves a vote (Indian Country Today 5/25)

Related Stories:
Blog: Coburn blasts Cherokee woman's nomination (6/17)
Obama names Cherokee woman to top DOJ post (4/8)