South Florida has been without a U.S. attorney for too long. Appoint Markenzy Lapointe | Opinion

·3 min read

The Southern District of Florida has been called “one of the most dynamic federal prosecutor’s offices in the nation.” We don’t have to look too far into the past to see the broad consequences of the office’s decisions for our country. It has been at the center of some of the most highly contested and influential cases in history, including Bush v. Gore, the fight for Elián González and the prosecution of Manuel Noriega. There is no doubt that the influence of the U.S. attorney in South Florida is set to shape critical judicial precedent in one of the most diverse regions in nation.

Whoever leads this office will serve as the federal gatekeeper of criminal prosecution in South Florida. This office demands a dynamic figure at its helm, someone with experience, an even-handed temperament, prosecutorial judgment and a commitment to uphold justice.

However, the office currently operates without a permanent leader after years-long delays in nominating, confirming and filling this crucial post.

Without a reliable and qualified U.S. attorney who is accountable to the American people, it’s easy to see how someone like Jeffrey Epstein could skirt justice for his egregious crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors in what is one of the most heinous miscarriages of justice in recent history. Like so many others who have faced an injustice, Epstein’s victims counted on the U.S. attorney to be their advocate. Instead, they were robbed of the justice they rightfully sought.

Like many other communities around the country, South Florida is grappling with soaring crime rates, high rates of fraud and criminal organizations targeting the low-income communities I represent. The Southern District of Florida needs a strong leader, and we are lucky to have a qualified candidate to recommend in Markenzy Lapointe.

Lapointe is a product of Miami’s Liberty City, a decorated Marine Corps veteran and an experienced former prosecutor with decades of experience. If nominated and confirmed, he would become the first African American U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida — an important step toward repairing the trust between our criminal-justice system and the community it serves.

After all, it was just two years ago when our community spilled out into the streets, voicing their frustration and distrust with a broken system of justice that disproportionately locks up Black boys and perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline. Those concerns still run largely unaddressed.

We need to begin to repair the broken bonds between Black Floridians and the region’s top federal law-enforcement officer by appointing individuals whose stories and backgrounds mirror those of the residents they serve. By improving the representation of our community on the federal bench and in these offices, we can lay down a foundation for mending this relationship and strengthening the ties that support a fair system of justice.

As the first member of Congress to call for the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, I applaud President Biden for heeding that call and appointing a fine and distinguished jurist to the nation’s highest court. Her nomination was a crucial step toward improving diversity and representation. This is another vital component.

Lapointe already has received broad support from South Florida Bar associations, social-service organizations, community leaders, professionals and esteemed Black prosecutors, in addition to signals of support from our U.S. senators. This magnanimous support comes to him because of his extraordinary experience in the courtroom and within our community, as well as his distinguished service to our nation.

South Florida needs a U.S. attorney of courage, unquestionable conviction and long-running local ties. Markenzy Lapointe is the right person to lead this office. I join the chorus of voices supporting his nomination as the next U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida to serve and protect the constituents of our community.

Frederica Wilson is the congressional representative for District 24.