Local News

Governor's Power Will Keep Durham DA on Job, Despite State Law

Posted September 11, 2007 4:32 p.m. EDT
Updated September 11, 2007 5:16 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley's appointee as Durham district attorney can stay in the job even though the appointment seems to violate a recent state law about who can be named to elective offices, a spokeswoman for the governor said Tuesday.

Easley, on Aug. 19, signed the legislation, which states nobody can be appointed to fill a vacancy in any elected office without being qualified to vote for that office.

District Attorney David Saacks, who lives in Cary, took the oath of office Friday after Easley appointed him to fill the position left vacant by former prosecutor Mike Nifong's suspension and, later, his resignation.

Sondra Artis, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, said Saacks' appointment is not in jeopardy and that the governor's power, given to him by the State Constitution, take precedence over the legislation.

Easley appointed the 15-year veteran prosecutor, who served as the chief assistant district attorney under Nifong, after more than two months of speculation about who would take the helm and help restore public confidence in the office following Nifong's mishandling of a case involving three members of the Duke University 2006 men's lacrosse team.

Some in Durham’s legal circles praised Easley’s decision, calling it "a logical and smart choice" and describing Saacks as fair, ethical and honest.

Saacks, who will serve as district attorney until the 2008 election, when a new district attorney will be elected, said last week he has no intention to move to Durham and run for the post next year.

"I put myself in a position to be doing this, at this point," he said. "And I'm willing to do it to help out and get us through this time – to be a bridge, so to speak – until someone else who is elected comes over and takes over."