Crime & Courts

U.S. attorney for Kansas confirmed

An Overland Park attorney who specialized in discrimination claims under the Civil Rights Act has been confirmed as the next U.S. attorney for Kansas.

Barry R. Grissom, 56, and eight other U.S. attorneys were confirmed late Thursday night in a unanimous consent vote by the Senate, according to a spokeswoman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

"Obviously I'm honored beyond words," Grissom said. "I'm anxious to get started."

Kansas has not had a permanent U.S. attorney since Eric Melgren resigned in 2008 to take a federal judgeship. Lanny Welch has served as interim U.S. attorney since then.

President Obama in April nominated Grissom, who was recommended by Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson and Rep. Dennis Moore, both Democrats. Grissom was legal counsel for Moore's 1998 and 2000 campaigns and served on the committee for a major fundraiser in 2007 for Obama in Kansas City, Mo.

Grissom was vacationing in California on Friday morning when he got word that he had been confirmed. He said no date has been set to assume his new position.

Grissom graduated from the University of Kansas in 1977 and the Oklahoma City University law school in 1981. He opened a general law practice in 1983, handling criminal and civil cases, before narrowing the focus of his firm to handling discrimination claims under the Civil Rights Act.

A majority of his practice was in federal court, with cases ranging from wrongful death to employment discrimination.

In 1995, Grissom wrote a letter to the Kansas City Star urging conservative talk show hosts to re-examine their programs, noting that they "provide a fertile environment which fosters intolerance, disrespect and ultimately, hatred."

"All are ingredients that led to the tragedy in Oklahoma City," he wrote a month after 168 people were killed and more than 600 were injured by a bomb set off by a U.S. citizen.

The letter and others were part of the application materials he submitted for the federal prosecutor's position.

He stated in his financial disclosure report that he would dissolve his law practice after being confirmed for the post.