The Senate, in a rare move, confirmed Damien Diggs, a career Dallas prosecutor, as the U.S. attorney for East Texas on Thursday. This makes Diggs the first black lawyer to lead the office responsible for federal law enforcement from Plano to Beaumont, including Jasper, where a notorious racial murder took place. The approval came on a unanimous voice vote, which is unusual given the current polarized political climate.
Texas’ Republican senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, had lobbied for Diggs’ nomination. So had Eddie Bernice Johnson, the state’s senior Democrat in Congress. President Joe Biden nominated Diggs in February, and his nomination sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee with unanimous approval in early March. Cornyn praised Diggs’ leadership, character, and commitment to the rule of law, saying he will serve the Eastern District of Texas well.
Biden named U.S. attorneys for the state’s other three districts in mid-October, but inexplicably did not fill the East Texas vacancy. The Senate confirmed all three by voice vote on December 6. Cruz expressed dismay over the delay at the time and called Diggs a “stellar candidate.” He said that his nomination sends a strong, positive message of how far we have come as a nation. The pick would be “particularly significant” in light of the 1998 murder in Jasper, when James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death, the senator said.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said that Diggs promises to be a fine U.S. attorney with ample relevant experience in the criminal justice system at the federal level. The Eastern District covers 43 of Texas’ 254 counties, including Sherman, Tyler, Marshall, and Texarkana, in addition to Plano and Beaumont.
Diggs has served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Dallas-based Northern District of Texas since 2018, working in the Criminal Division’s Violent Crimes Section. Before that, he worked in the nation’s capital for six years as an assistant U.S. attorney, where he handled homicides and other criminal cases. In the 2020 election, Diggs oversaw complaints in the Northern District related to election fraud and voting rights. He previously spent five years in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Diggs is a well-qualified candidate with impressive credentials, having graduated from Towson University in suburban Baltimore and earned his law degree at American University in 2003. His appointment as the first Black U.S. attorney for East Texas is a significant milestone and will be an inspiration for young Black lawyers in the region.
In a statement, Diggs thanked President Biden for the opportunity to serve and promised to be a fair and impartial prosecutor. He said, “I am honored to serve as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas and will work tirelessly to ensure that the rule of law is upheld in our communities.”
The appointment of Diggs is a positive development for Texas, a state with a long history of racial tensions and discrimination. His appointment sends a strong message that diversity and inclusion are essential in law enforcement and that qualified individuals from all backgrounds can make meaningful contributions to society.
In conclusion, the confirmation of Damien Diggs as the first Black U.S. attorney for East Texas is a significant moment in the region’s history. It sends a message of hope and inclusivity and serves as an inspiration to young lawyers from all backgrounds. Diggs’ appointment is a testament to his qualifications, character, and commitment to the rule of law, and he promises to serve the Eastern District of Texas well.