DOJ lawyer named new US attorney in Texas after resignation

William Barr. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

By JAKE BLEIBERG Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — Attorney General William Barr has named a Department of Justice lawyer to succeed the top federal prosecutor for East Texas, who abruptly announced his resignation this week.

Stephen Cox, a deputy associate attorney general in Washington, D.C., will take over as acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas on June 1, according to a Justice Department statement. He will succeed U.S. Attorney Joseph Brown, who said Tuesday that he’d be leaving office at the end of the month without giving a specific explanation for his departure.

Brown, 50, was nominated by President Donald Trump and took office in 2018. His resignation came two months after ProPublica  reported that his office clashed with senior Justice Department officials over a potential prosecution of Walmart for its opioid prescription practices. No charges were brought in the case and retail giant has denied that any employee committed a crime.

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Cox was reportedly among the officials skeptical of the case against Walmart. After the Justice Department told Brown to halt the criminal investigation of the company, Cox said a parallel civil case was also not ready to proceed, according to ProPublica.

Barr said Cox’s “experience in areas ranging from regulatory reform to fraud to corporate compliance, and his reputation for fairness, sound judgment, and management, will serve him well in Eastern Texas.”

Cox attended college and law school in Texas and has since worked in private practice and for the Justice Department, the FBI, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

After 120 days, acting U.S. attorneys generally require a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation, or federal judges could vote to appoint someone to the position.