The state legislature did the right thing in hiring an outside lawyer who knows Washington as it prepares for a multi-front battle against our unhinged new president and his administration.

But did they pick the right lawyer?

That’s the question Sacramento should be asking about former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The lawyer has a sterling reputation as a thoughtful person and administrator. But looking over his career, there’s little evidence that he’s much of a fighter.

Holder’s time as attorney general was distinguished by the fights he wouldn’t take on. In particular, he repeatedly declined to go after banks and bankers who not only caused the great recession, but also were engaged in money laundering or other fraud. Whistleblowers in the financial industry have frequently said there was little appetite in Holder’s Justice Department to pursue wrongdoers. And the fact that Wells Fargo and its executive never went to jail – for its systemic fraud borders on the criminal in itself.

Holder also refused to take the risk of prosecuting the torture or other abuses from the Bush administration. And his department did very little on public official corruption. Holder’s earlier tenure as a deputy a.g. during the Clinton administration and his previous career as a prosecutor follows a similar pattern.

Holder is now 65, and California is hardly his only case. He’s been talking more about a high-profile effort to push for redistricting reform in other states.

One could make the case that Holder’s decisions not to fight have reflected strategic or political prudence. But California and its legislature need a brawler, someone who can take the fight to Washington, and slay powerful, even venal adversaries.

And where is the fight in Eric Holder?