San Diego U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said Tuesday she does not feel pressure from Attorney General Eric Holder on the types of cases her office should bring.
In a radio show interview, during which she said it is not “out of the realm of possibility” that more suspects might be arrested in connection with supporting a terrorist group operating in Somalia, she discussed her predecessor, Carol Lam, who was fired during the Bush administration’s purge of U.S. Attorneys.
When asked if there was pressure from the Obama administration, Duffy said, “I actually don’t feel pressured by Attorney General Holder to pursue certain kind of cases.”
In August, the Justice Department announced charges against 14 individuals in Minnesota, California and Alabama. The defendants are charged with providing material support for the terrorist group al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and has ties to al-Qaeda. An attorney for one of the individuals charged, Nima Ali Yusuf, did not seek bail during a hearing on Tuesday because she is not a U.S. citizen, and being released on bail would mean she would automatically be placed in an Immigration Custom Enforcement facility, according to her attorney.
Duffy said the investigation is ongoing, adding that “we are definitely closing in on the individuals that we believe to be involved in, as has come out in other papers and publicly.”
As for the priorities in her office and her relationship with the Obama administration, she said, “I’m happy to report that I think a number of the priorities in this district are in line with the national priorities.”
She went on to say that she had met Holder several times, and that the Attorney General gives individual U.S. Attorneys considerable discretion. “And really, what the position of this Department of Justice is under Attorney General Holder is that they’re focused on setting the policy of the nation and really leave to each and every U.S. Attorney in the district to be the chief law enforcement officer in their district and set the ways in which those policies can be best [implemented in]…that district given the unique characteristics and needs of the district.”
Laura Duffy has assumed her new job as San Diego’s U.S. Attorney, The North County Times reported. Interim U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Karen Hewitt stepped down from her position before Duffy assumed her new position.
Hewitt, who had headed the office since U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was fired in the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge, will officially resign June 11, the newspaper reported. She plans to enter private practice in San Diego beginning in August.
Laura Duffy (Iowa State University, Creighton University School of Law) is nominated to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. She would be the first Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney in the Southern District since Carol Lam, who was one of the U.S. Attorneys dismissed during 2006 by the Bush administration. The district’s current interim U.S. Attorney is Karen P. Hewitt.
- Born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1962.
- Attended but did not earn degrees from the University of Iowa and Northwest Missouri State University.
- Has worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of California since November 1997, serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the narcotics enforcement section and as Deputy Chief of the general crimes section.
- Worked at Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., from October 1993 to November 1997, serving as a trial attorney in the narcotics and dangerous drug section and the money laundering section.
- Clerked for public defender Thomas Riley in the Douglas County public defender’s office in Omaha from January 1992 to February 1993.
- Clerked for Kennedy, Holland, Delacy & Svoboda in Omaha from May 1991 to October 1991.
- Worked as a cook at the Village Inn in Ames, Iowa, during the summer of 1990.
- Was the assistant manager of Scandia Down, a retail store selling comforters and linens, in West Des Moines, Iowa, from June 1989 to May 1990.
- Worked as the assistant manager of Service Merchandise in West Des Moines, Iowa, from August 1988 to May 1989.
- Has tried four federal felony jury cases to verdict, serving as co-counsel in two and sole counsel in two.
Click here for her full Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
UPDATE: On her Office of Government Ethics financial disclosure Duffy reported receiving a $23,637.50 distribution in 2009-2010 from Gila Rut, an Aveda salon in Chula Vista, Calif., which she has a 45 percent ownership stake in. She also reported earning $35,400 from nine speaking engagements at the Aveda Business College Seminar.
On her Senate Judiciary financial disclosure she reported assets of $2.1 million, mostly from two residences, and liabilities of $1.26 million, mostly from two mortgages, for a net worth of $831,500.
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The search for the Southern District of California’s next top federal prosecutor is close to wrapping up, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported today.
The screening panel established by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) stopped accepting applications earlier this summer, according to the newspaper. Boxer will advise President Obama on who he should nominate, but it is unknown if she has made recommendations yet, the Union-Tribune reported.
Here are the finalists for the post, lawyers familiar with the screening committee told the newspaper:
-Timothy Coughlin (Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California)
-Laura Duffy (Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California)
-Kevin Kelly (First Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California)
-Jerry Coughlan (Partner at San Diego law firm Coughlan, Semmer & Lipman)
Acting U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt currently leads the Southern District office. She was appointed by the district’s judges after Carol Lam was fired during the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge.
Boxer must also make U.S. Attorney recommendations for the Northern District of California. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is in charge of recommending candidates for the Central and Eastern districts.
Obama nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner to be the top federal prosecutor in the Eastern District. Read about possible candidates for the California posts in our U.S. Attorney’s chart.