Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department, on Monday, May 19, 2014, in Washington. The Justice Department on Monday charged Credit Suisse AG with helping wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes through offshore accounts, and a person familiar with the matter said the European bank has agreed to pay about $2.6 billion in penalties. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department, on Monday, May 19, 2014, in Washington. The Justice Department on Monday charged Credit Suisse AG with helping wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes through offshore accounts, and a person familiar with the matter said the European bank has agreed to pay about $2.6 billion in penalties. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department, on Monday, May 19, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

(The Washington Post) – Setting clear management guidelines may be the least glamorous part of being a Cabinet secretary, but by this measure, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has succeeded over the past year in communicating his law-enforcement priorities to the Justice Department.

When I queried a range of Washington attorneys about Holder’s record for a June 2013 column, I found considerable criticism. Some questioned his supervision of major cases. Others faulted what they said was a failure to shape legal policy. Holder’s supporters countered at the time that the criticism was unfair and that the attorney general was setting an agenda internally that would become clearer to the outside world.

A year later, a sharper focus at Justice has indeed been noted by many outside observers, including some who were critical of Holder before. “Being attorney general is about setting priorities, and Holder has done that during the second term,” says one prominent Washington lawyer who was earlier a skeptic.

“Holder deserves more credit than his critics give him,” says John Bellinger, who served as State Department legal adviser during the George W. Bush administration. “He’s launched some important domestic justice initiatives and has directed a series of successful terrorism prosecutions.”

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