WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Saturday tapped Brooklyn prosecutor Loretta Lynch to replace departing Attorney General Eric Holder.
Obama made the announcement at the White House, where he will was joined by Lynch and Holder, who has served since the beginning of Obama’s first term.
Lynch will be the first African-American female to hold the post.
Obama said Lynch has a “fierce commitment to equal justice” and a solid record as a tough, fair federal prosecutor.
It’s “pretty hard to be more qualified” for the job of attorney general than Lynch, Obama said.
“Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists, and still has the reputation for being a charming people person,” Obama said to laughter from those who packed the Roosevelt Room for the announcement.
Lynch said she was humbled and thrilled at the prospect of leading “the only Cabinet department named for an ideal.”
“If I have the honor of being confirmed by the Senate, I will wake up every morning with the protection of the American people my first thought,” she said. “And I will work every day to safeguard our citizens, our liberties, our rights, and this great nation which has given so much to me and my family.”
Republicans have promised tough scrutiny of Obama’s pick after years of battles with Holder, who is close to Lynch and appointed her as chair of a committee that advises him on policy. Holder has been an unflinching champion of civil rights in enforcing the nation’s laws and his successor will be left to grapple with several prominent civil rights issues that have been elevated on his watch.
White House officials said they are leaving it up to Senate leaders to work out the timeline for her confirmation, with Obama calling for approval “without delay.” But with Democrats facing a long list of priorities before year’s end brings a shift to Republican control, it’s likely she won’t get a vote until next year.
She was chosen in large part because the White House sees her as likely to win approval among the political divisions in the wake of Republican victories in Tuesday’s midterm election. Lynch is the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, a position she also held under President Bill Clinton.
“Loretta doesn’t look to make headlines, she looks to make a difference,” Obama said, offering an explanation why she’s largely unknown in Washington outside legal circles. “She’s not about splash, she is about substance.”
Loretta E. Lynch was appointed by President Barack Obama and on May 03, 2010, took the oath of office as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York from Chief United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie. In that capacity, she is responsible for overseeing all federal and civil investigations and cases in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. She supervises a staff of approximately 170 attorneys and 150 support personnel.
Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1990, Ms. Lynch practiced law as a litigation associate for a leading New York-based firm. She began her career in the Eastern District prosecuting narcotics and violent crime cases. Ms. Lynch served as Chief of the Long Island Office from 1994 to 1998, after serving as the Deputy Chief of General Crimes and as Chief of Intake and Arraignments for the district. While in the Long Island office, she prosecuted white collar crime and public corruption cases, and was the lead prosecutor in a series of trials involving allegations of public corruption in the Long Island town of Brookhaven. Ms Lynch also served the district as Chief Assistant, where she was a member of the trial team in United States v. Volpe, et al., a five-week civil rights case involving the sexual assault by uniformed New York City police officers upon Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
Ms. Lynch was appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, serving from 1999 to 2001. While U.S. Attorney, Ms. Lynch was a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, serving as Co-Chair of the White Collar Crime Subcommittee. She was a frequent instructor for the Department of Justice in their Criminal Trial Advocacy Program and served as an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s University School of Law.
Before returning to the office as United States Attorney in 2010, Ms. Lynch was a partner in the New York office of Hogan & Hartson, L.L.P. and was a member of the firm’s Litigation Group. Her practice focused on commercial litigation, white collar criminal defense, and corporate compliance issues. While at Hogan, Ms. Lynch also served as Special Counsel to the Prosecutor of the ICTR, and conducted a special investigation into allegations of witness tampering and false testimony at the Tribunal.
Ms. Lynch received her A.B., cum laude, from Harvard College in 1981. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984, where she was an adviser to the first year moot court competition and a member of the Legal Aid Bureau and Harvard Black Law Student Association