NEW YORK — A senior U.S. Attorney on Saturday suggested that federal prosecutors will put an emphasis on fighting cyber crimes and enforcing environmental laws next year.
Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, who is the chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, said U.S. Attorneys will meet in November to discuss efforts to target Internet criminals and violators of environmental laws, in addition to conferring about work on national security, civil rights and health care fraud issues.
“The U.S. Attorney conference in this coming November is really focused in on a couple of areas and … this will give you some clues of us trying to pivot from a reactive mode to a proactive mode,” Jones said at the annual National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys conference.
Jones said his colleagues are finding that the Internet is a major platform for criminal activities, including child pornography production and fraud. He said they plan to discuss efforts to move beyond existing means for dealing with cyber criminals, and train prosecutors to better handle these matters.
The U.S. Attorney also said his counterparts will meet with officials from various federal agencies to increase their knowledge of environmental criminal enforcement, in light of matters like the BP oil spill this summer.
But Jones said the conference will also reemphasize some of the existing priorities of the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder.
The U.S. Attorney said the upcoming conference will have a “pretty good section of time” for discussion on civil rights issues. He noted that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of the Civil Rights Division has boosted efforts to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and combat human trafficking.
Jones also said “some time” will be devoted to talks on health care fraud. The DOJ under Holder has expanded its Medicare Fraud Strike Force and taken advantage of new powers approved by Congress to better combat health care fraud.
But the U.S. Attorney said national security issues remain at the forefront of the DOJ’s agenda as “the saga continues.”
“I think bottom line [is] each U.S. Attorney new or holdover or acting understands that mission number one for us really is the national security challenge,” Jones said.
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When President Barack Obama signed sweeping hate crimes legislation into law at a ceremony last month, new Northern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach was there – a sign of the Cleveland prosecutor’s rising influence in civil rights enforcement.
Dettelbach, who was confirmed by the Senate in September, is the new chair of the civil rights subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.
The AGAC advises Attorney General Eric Holder on policy and law enforcement issues. And civil rights is a top priority of the Obama administration.
At his Oct. 26 investiture ceremony, Dettelbach made clear his commitment to enforcing anti-discrimination laws by invoking Tom Perez, the new Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
“We can and must follow Tom Perez’s example of relentless dedication to civil rights, because our citizens must understand that the laws we enforce apply equally to all, not just some,” he said in prepared remarks.
Dettelbach has a long history working on civil rights issues. He successfully prosecuted several civil rights cases during his almost two decades as a federal prosecutor at U.S. Attorney’s offices in Cleveland and Maryland and at Justice Department headquarters in Washington.
He told Main Justice in a recent interview that among his office’s “usual assortment of prosecutorial plaques and knickknacks” are two awards from former Attorney General Janet Reno that he received when he was an attorney in the DOJ Civil Rights Division.
One plaque honors Dettelbach’s work on a case that involved an Indian woman who was brought to Miami as a slave. She endured regular beatings over the course of seven months and was even branded with an iron, according to Dettelbach.
Another award commemorates the prosecution of Ku Klux Klan members who tried to undermine the integration of housing projects in Vidor, Texas.
“He is deeply committed to fighting for crime victims and to holding those who commit crimes, even the most powerful, accountable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Mythili Raman, who worked with Dettelbach in the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.
But Dettelbach’s experience extends beyond civil rights cases.
He was a part of the organized crime and corruption strike force during his time as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Cleveland. As deputy chief of the Greenbelt branch of the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, he prosecuted fraud cases. Dettelbach also worked as a Senate Judiciary Committee counsel to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and most recently as a partner in the Cleveland office of law firm Baker & Hostetler.
“He brings a good, well-rounded experience to the table,” said former Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford, who once supervised Dettelbach in the Cleveland U.S. Attorney’s office.
Dettelbach said while his diverse experience has prepared him to be U.S. Attorney, the job presents new challenges.
“There is no typical day,” Dettelbach said. “That’s what makes the job both so rewarding and so challenging. On any day, you are doing a mixture of managing the cases and the investigations that the assistants and agents are doing in the office, representing the office in the community and representing the office within the Department of Justice as a whole.”
The U.S. Attorney said taking over the reins of the Northern District office is “like getting on a train that going 100 miles per hour.”
“Even though I had worked here as an Assistant, it’s a much different perspective being the U.S. Attorney than it is being an Assistant,” he said.
His office is working a number of major prosecutions including a corruption scandal in Cuyahoga County and a civil rights case involving a white supremacist who mailed a noose to an Ohio chapter of the NAACP.
Dettelbach said terrorism will remain his office’s top priority, even as he puts a renewed focus on civil rights enforcement and financial fraud.
The U.S. Attorney said he is meeting with all of the office’s Assistant U.S. Attorneys to discuss his plans and hear their suggestions.
Dettelbach said his new responsibilities have cut into his personal time with his wife and two children. He works a lot and is “not allowed to talk to my wife about it,” he said.
But long hours are nothing new for Dettelbach, said Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. Dettelbach often worked nights and weekends as the deputy chief of the Greenbelt branch office, he recalled.
“He is a guy who really enjoys working for DOJ,” Rosenstein said.
Dettelbach said his work as a federal prosecutor has “made me the happiest.”
“I have to say one of the great things about this job is you can even explain to a four- and six-year-old the importance of what we do. And that to me is a great thing that Assistant U.S. Attorneys get to do and U.S. Attorneys get to do,” Dettelbach said. “Even at the most basic level, people can understand what you’re doing is something that is important in your community.”
This post has been corrected from an earlier version.
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The recently confirmed U.S. Attorney for South Dakota will chair the American Indian issues subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, the Justice Department announced last week.
Brendan Johnson, who was confirmed Oct. 15, will advise Attorney General Eric Holder on Justice Department initiatives in tribal lands and legal issues affecting American Indians.
The Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys is a 17-member policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at DOJ headquarters in Washington. Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones chairs the committee.
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Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday announced nine appointees to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.
In August, Holder tapped Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones to chair the committee, an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at Main Justice.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, of Illinois’ Northern District, served as interim chairman before Jones was confirmed. Chicago’s top prosecutor, a Republican appointee who has been recommended for a second tour of duty, will remain on the committee.
The nine new members are listed below. Click on their names for a summary of their Senate questionnaires.
- Preet Bharara, of the Southern District of New York
- Dennis Burke, of Arizona
- Jenny Durkan, of the Western District of Washington
- Paul Fishman, of New Jersey
- Neil MacBride, of the Eastern District of Virginia
- Peter Neronha, of Rhode Island
- Joyce Vance, of the Northern District of Alabama
- Channing Phillips, acting U.S attorney in the District of Columbia
- John Davis, chief of the criminal division of the federal prosecutors’ office in Alexandria, will represent the views of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
They will each serve two-year terms.
The Senate so far has confirmed 18 of 93 U.S. Attorneys. One nominee is waiting for approval by the full Senate, and 11 more await a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Holder, in a statement, said he would rely heavily on the the AGAC as the department works to curb violent crime and gang violence, promote civil rights, police the marketplace and protect national security.
The AGAC’s other members, who were appointed during the Bush administration, include U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, of Middle District of Alabama; Rod Rosenstein, of Maryland; Brett Tolman, of Utah; and Gretchen Witt, the civil chief in the District of New Hampshire.
Regulations require only that the committee have an “appropriate” number of members.
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Patrick Fitzgerald, the top prosecutor in Illinois’ Northern District, has been named interim chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC).
In his new role, Fitzgerald will be the lead voice for the U.S. attorney community. It’s the latest high-profile assignment for America’s prosecutor, who has been busy overseeing the prosecution of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), bringing down mortgage fraudsters, and fighting with journalists.
H. Marshall Jarrett, director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, made the announcement earlier this month in a memo to the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys.
The committee, which represents the views of the nation’s top prosecutors and molds law enforcement policy, has dwindled in size as Bush-era appointees have headed for the exit. Fitzgerald replaces Karin Immergut, the former U.S. attorney in Oregon, who stepped down as chairwoman this month to become a state judge. (Fun facts: Fitzgerald and Immergut share the same birthdate — December 22, 1960 — are both from Brooklyn, and attended Amherst College together.)
Fitzgerald’s assignment is significant. It means the U.S. attorney community now has a chief ambassador with some staying power. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recommended Fitzgerald for another term, an overture that was well-received by Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder’s Justice Department has been working with a group of outgoing Bush-era U.S. attorneys, except for Fitzgerald, who was appointed to AGAC last year, and possibly Jim Letten, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. (Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has said she wants Letten to stay on the job. He serves on the AGAC subcommittees on national security, environmental crimes and violent crimes.) The AGAC meetings have been constructive, Justice officials say, but it stands to reason that Holder would prefer a committee of Obama appointees, vetted and interviewed by his department, to help him put policy in motion.
Fitzgerald will be keeping the seat warm for B. Todd Jones, who, as we reported here, is slated to chair the committee if confirmed. Jones, the nominee for the U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, has broad support and could see a vote on his nomination in the full Senate before the August recess. Jones is currently a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi in Minneapolis.
The AGAC, at full strength, comprises 17 members whose terms last about three years. The terms are staggered, and new members are generally appointed each year. The committee meets regularly with the attorney general, the deputy attorney general and staff.
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B. Todd Jones, nominated to be the top federal prosecutor for the District of Minnesota, is slated for an important advisory role to Attorney General Eric Holder, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
If confirmed, Jones will be appointed head of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC), which represents the views of U.S. Attorneys before Main Justice and helps craft Justice Department policy, the people said.
Jones has the experience and broad political support needed for the job. He served as Minnesota’s U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration and was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. He is expected to be swiftly confirmed by the full Senate, perhaps as early as next week.
More recently, Jones has been a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi in Minneapolis, specializing in complex business litigation and corporate criminal defense. Click here for his firm bio and here for a copy of his Senate questionnaire.
As the Justice Department has pushed ahead with its policy initiatives, it has maintained ties to the AGAC, which is currently composed of one career lawyer and 10 Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys. The Justice Department has stressed the importance of maintaining continuity among the U.S. attorneys offices, and that means giving Bush appointees a seat at the policy table until the administration replaces them.
The AGAC has convened twice since Election Day. (I reported on the December meeting here.) On May 19, the committee met with Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, and Assistant Attorneys General Lanny Breuer, David Kris, Tony West and Ron Weich. The attorney general did not make an appearance.
The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys also has held teleconferences with the AGAC and communicated with offices though other channels. Justice Department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said that “the members of the AGAC are being used in key policy positions.” They have been working with Holder and Ogden on “critical projects,” such as discovery and sentencing policies, Schwartz said.
The AGAC, at full strength, comprises 17 members whose terms last about three years. The terms are staggered, and new members are generally appointed each year. The committee meets regularly with the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. According to the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, the committee has two functions: ”It gives United States Attorneys a voice in Department policies and advises the Attorney General of the United States.”
Karin Immergut, the U.S. attorney in Oregon, is now AGAC chairwoman, though she is stepping down this month to accept an appointment as a state judge.
The other members include:
- U.S. Attorney David Nahmias of Atlanta’s Northern District
- U.S. Attorney Leura Canary of Middle District of Alabama
- U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Illinois’ Northern District
- U.S. Attorney Roger Heaton of Illinois’ Central District
- U.S. Attorney Thomas Moss of the District of Idaho
- U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein of the District of Maryland
- U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman of the District of Utah
- U.S. Attorney Donald Washington of Louisiana’s Western District
- U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley of the District of North Dakota
- Gretchen Witt, the civil chief in District of New Hampshire
A few names jump out. Canary, in particular, has drawn criticism for her role in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. As we reported here, Siegelman has filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that prosecutors failed to produce Brady material, tampered with witnesses and targeted him for political reasons. Fitzgerald, who is overseeing the prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), has been recommended for another term and could continue to serve on the AGAC. (He was appointed to the committee last year.)
Schwartz said the Justice Department would “continue to solicit the input and views of the United States Attorney’s Offices through every means available to us as new USAs transitions through the appointment process.”
The Obama administration has announced seven nominations, five of which, including Jones’s, have been reported out by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney nominee for the District of New Jersey, and Jenny Durkan, the nominee for the Western District of Washington state, are awaiting a committee vote. There are about 30 U.S. attorney candidates in the pipeline, according to one person familiar with the process, but it’s unlikely that they’ll reach the Judiciary panel before Congress returns in September.