CREW requests records on Robert Higdon
Under the Freedom of Information Act, CREW requests all documents related to any investigation or inquiry conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”) of, involving, or relating to Robert J. Higdon, Jr., from January 2011 to the present.
By way of background, Mr. Higdon served as chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina from 2002 until 2013. In 2013, U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker announced he had removed Mr. Higdon from this position. Thereafter, Mr. Higdon served as a senior trial counsel for DOJ’s Public Integrity Section until 2015. This year, he was nominated by President Trump to be the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, a position for which he was confirmed on September 28, 2017.
Mr. Higdon’s removal coincided with an opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, United States v. Bartko, 728 F.3d 327 (4th Cir. 2013), harshly criticizing the practices and behavior of the criminal division Mr. Higdon led, directing the Clerk of the Court to serve a copy of its opinion on the Attorney General and OPR, and noting that “[s]anctions or disciplinary action are also options.” 728 F.3d at 342.
As U.S. Attorney, Mr. Higdon currently serves in a position of great public trust. Moreover, pursuant to an Executive Order President Trump issued on March 31, 2017, Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice, Mr. Higdon is fourth in the line of succession. The requested records will shed light on the integrity of Mr. Higdon and the extent to which he has properly been placed in such a high-ranking and significant position given the serious lapses outlined by the Fourth Circuit. As a top DOJ official, Mr. Higdon’s privacy interests clearly are outweighed by the public interest in the requested information.