A family tragedy set Richard Hartunian on his path to becoming a U.S. Attorney, The Syracuse Post-Standard reports. In 1988, Hartunian’s parents got the news that their daughter had been killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
Lynne Hartunian, then a student at the State University of New York at Oswego, was returning from a study-abroad program in Europe, the newspaper reports. At the time, 27-year-old Richard Hartunian, who last week won Senate confirmation to be the new U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, was a new lawyer doing mostly real estate closings.
His mother, Joanne Hartunian, was paralyzed by the news and stayed on the couch for days. Her son brought her food and worked on taking care of the family. “I kind of had to kick into gear,” he told The Post-Standard.
In addition to supporting his family, this included becoming a leader the Pan Am 103 victims group, according to the newspaper. Hartunian was one of the seven original members of the group that lobbied for a presidential commission on security at airports and called for additional investigations from the U.S. and British governments, the newspaper reports. Even though he was only three years out of law school, Hartunian was the legal adviser to the group.
Joanne told The Post-Standard that it was this experience as a crime victim and advocate for others that helped the attorney realize he wanted to be a federal prosecutor. “The only thing he ever said, and this was a long time ago, was that after being a victim he had decided that he wanted to be a prosecutor,” she said. Hartunian became a federal prosecutor in 1997.
Before the bombing, Hartunian had hoped to become an assistant district attorney in Albany County, N.Y., which he eventually did for seven years. However, the aftermath of the bombing educated him not only about the power of the federal government but the need to be compassionate toward victims, according to the newspaper. Among the issues Hartunian dealt with were getting death certificates from Scotland, having personal property returned and the identification of the remains.
Although the bombing was a turning point in his life, Hartunian did not want it to overshadow other aspects of his life. “You don’t want to be defined by those events alone,” he told The Post-Standard. “They were an important chapter in my life that steered me, that had impact on me, that taught me a lot about myself, about faith, about family and the importance of living life to its fullest every day.”
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The Senate confirmed three U.S. Attorneys tonight by unanimous consent, according to a Senate spokesperson.
– Andre Birotte Jr. (Central District of California): The Los Angeles Police Commission’s inspector general succeeds Thomas P. O’Brien, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney last September. Birotte was nominated on Dec. 23. Read more about him here.
– Richard Hartunian (Northern District of New York): The interim U.S. Attorney for the district is the first presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney to lead the office since Glenn T. Suddaby resigned in 2008. Hartunian also was tapped on Dec. 23. Read more about him here.
– Ron Machen (District of Columbia): The partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr succeeds Jeffrey A. Taylor, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney last May. Machen was nominated on Dec. 23. Read more about him here.
The Senate has now confirmed 34 U.S. Attorneys. The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to schedule votes another 12 would-be U.S. Attorneys.
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Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama has withdrawn most of his “holds” on presidential nominees, including President Obama’s picks for key Justice Department posts.
Shelby’s office announced late last night that the senator would drop his “blanket hold” on more than 70 nominees pending on the Senate Executive Calendar. A hold is when a senator — often anonymously — lets it be known he would oppose a unanimous consent request to bring a particular bill or nomination to the Senate floor. Without unanimous consent, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would have to make a debatable motion to bring the matter to the floor, thus raising the possibility of a filibuster. Senate leaders usually do not even begin that process, recognizing it would be very time-consuming.
The DOJ nominees who were caught up in Shelby’s hold were:
- Mary L. Smith, to be Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division. She was reported out of committee last Thursday.
- Christopher Schroeder, to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy. He also was reported out of committee on Thursday.
- John Laub, to be director of the National Institute of Justice. He was reported out of committee on Dec. 3.
- Susan Carbon, to be director of the Office on Violence Against Women. She was reported out of committee on Dec. 3.
- Richard Hartunian, to be U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
- Andre Birotte Jr., to be U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
- Ron Machen, to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
The Alabama senator had held up the more than 70 nominees since Thursday over concerns he has about a tanker contract that could bring 1,500 jobs to Mobile, Ala., and over funds he is requesting to build an FBI counterterrorism center in his state. Northrop Grumman is vying to win the tanker contract, and if successful, would assemble the planes in Mobile.
A spokesman for Shelby said the Republican had “accomplished” his goal by employing the “blanket hold,” according to Politico.
“The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House’s attention on two issues that are critical to our national security – the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI’s Terrorist Device Analytical Center (TEDAC). With that accomplished, Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition until the new Request for Proposal is issued,” Shelby aide Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement, according to Politico.
Shelby still has holds on the nominations of Terry Yonkers, assistant secretary of the Air Force; Frank Kendall, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics; and Erin Conaton, undersecretary of the Air Force, Politico said.
Democrats and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs had sharply criticized Shelby for the rare move to hold up all of Obama’s nominees who were waiting for votes in the full Senate. Last week, Gibbs said there likely wouldn’t be a “greater example of silliness throughout the entire year of 2010.”
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Seven Justice Department nominees that have been reported out the Senate Judiciary Committee might not receive votes on the Senate floor anytime soon thanks to Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.
Last night Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that Shelby had placed a “blanket hold” on all nominations pending on the Senate Executive Calendar, including two Assistant Attorneys General nominees, two would-be directors of DOJ offices and three prospective U.S. Attorneys.
Those nominees are:
- Mary L. Smith, Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division. She was reported out of committee yesterday.
- Christopher Schroeder, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy. He also was reported out of committee yesterday.
- John Laub, Director of the National Institute of Justice. He was reported out of committee on Dec. 3.
- Susan Carbon, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women. She was reported out of committee on Dec. 3.
- Richard Hartunian, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
- Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
- Ron Machen, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. He was reported out of committee on Jan. 28.
But the Republican’s beef isn’t with the nominees.
The Alabama senator is holding up the nominees over concerns he has about a tanker contract that could bring 1,500 jobs to Mobile, Ala., and over funds he is requesting to build an FBI counterterrorism center in his state, according to The Caucus blog on The New York Times Web site. Northrop Grumman is vying to win the tanker contract, and if successful, would assemble the plans in Mobile.
“Senator Shelby has placed holds on several pending nominees due to unaddressed national security concerns,” Shelby spokesperson Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement, according to The Caucus. “Among his concerns is that nearly 10 years after the U.S. Air Force announced plans to replace the aging tanker fleet, we still do not have a transparent and fair acquisition process to move forward. The Department of Defense must recognize that the draft Request for Proposal needs to be significantly and substantively changed.”
He added: “Senator Shelby is also deeply concerned that the administration will not release the funds already appropriated to the FBI to build the Terrorist Explosives Devices Analytical Center. This decision impedes the U.S. military, the intelligence community, and federal law enforcement personnel in their missions to exploit and analyze intelligence information critical to fighting terrorism and ensuring American security worldwide.”
Shelby would be willing to speak with the Obama administration about his concerns at any time, according to the spokesman.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs condemned Shelby for the rare decision to hold up all of Obama’s nominees who are waiting for votes in the full Senate.
“I guess if you needed one example of what’s wrong with this town, it might be that one senator can hold up 70 qualified individuals to make government work better because he didn’t get his earmarks,” Gibbs told reporters today, according to the blog. “If that’s not the poster child for how this town needs to change the way it works, I fear there won’t be a greater example of silliness throughout the entire year of 2010.”
The Democratic National Committee also posted a video on YouTube yesterday that alleges Shelby’s holds are threatening national security.
The senator’s holds don’t make it impossible for the Senate to consider nominees. Under normal circumstances, Senate leaders honor an individual senator’s hold. But if Majority Leader Reid wants to bring a nomination to the Senate floor, he could file a cloture petition. Cutting off debate on a nomination is a time-consuming process for the Senate and would be difficult for the Democratic majority with the addition of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to the Senate. Brown became the 41st member of the Republican Senate caucus yesterday, ending the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority.
Reid said on the Senate floor yesterday that the president might have to start considering recess appointments, which wouldn’t require confirmation.
“The president will look at all his options,” Gibbs said, according to The Caucus.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved three U.S. Attorney nominees during its business meeting today.
– Andre Birotte Jr. (Central District of California): The Los Angeles Police Commission’s inspector general would succeed Thomas P. O’Brien, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney last September. Birotte was nominated on Dec. 23. Read more about him here.
– Richard Hartunian (Northern District of New York): The interim U.S. Attorney for the district would be the first presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney to lead the office since Glenn T. Suddaby resigned in 2008. Hartunian also was tapped on Dec. 23. Read more about him here.
– Ron Machen (District of Columbia): The partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr would succeed Jeffrey A. Taylor, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney last May. Machen was nominated on Dec. 23. Read more about him here.
The panel has now approved 34 U.S. Attorney nominees, 31 of whom have already won Senate confirmation. The committee has yet to schedule votes for another 12 would-be U.S. Attorneys.
The committee also postponed — as expected — consideration of Justice Department nominees Dawn Johnsen (to head the Office of Legal Counsel), Mary L. Smith (to lead the Tax Division) and Christopher Schroeder (to head the Office of Legal Policy). Committee rules allow senators to delay a vote on a nominee for a week.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee has added six nominations to the agenda for its Thursday business meeting — three U.S. Attorney nominees and three controversial figures nominated to be Assistant Attorneys General.
The three U.S. Attorney nominees are Andre Birotte Jr. (Central District of California), Richard Hartunian (Northern District of New York) and Ronald Machen (District of Columbia). All three were nominated Dec. 23. Read more about Birotte here. Read more about Hartunian here. Read more about Machen here.
The agenda also includes three high ranking Justice Department appointees whose nominations were not acted on by the Senate last year and whose nominations were returned to the White House at the end of last year’s session — Mary L. Smith to head the Justice Department’s Tax Division, Christopher Schroeder to head the Office of Legal Policy and Dawn Johnsen, to head the Office of Legal Counsel. President Obama re-nominated the three earlier this month.
Although the names of Smith, Schroeder and Johnsen were placed on this week’s agenda, committee Republicans have the right to delay action for a week.
The panel’s top Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has formally asked committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to schedule another hearing on the Johnsen nomination. Leahy sent a letter to Sessions regarding the Republican’s request, a Senate aide told Main Justice. It is unclear what the letter said.
Sessions also said Republicans would likely support additional hearings on Smith and Schroeder as well, although he has not formally made such a request.
Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.
This post has been updated from an earlier version.
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Richard S. Hartunian (Georgetown University, Albany Law School) is nominated to replace Glenn T. Suddaby as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. Suddaby resigned in 2008 when he became a federal judge. Hartunian is currently the interim U.S. Attorney.
- Born in Evanston, Ill., in 1961.
- Has worked in the district’s U.S. Attorney’s office since 1993. Has served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. Is currently an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Coordinator.
- Worked as an assistant district attorney in Albany, N.Y., from 1990 to 1997.
- Was a partner at Hartunian and Clark in Albany from 1990 to 1997.
- Was an associate attorney at Devine, Piedmont and Rutnik in Albany from 1987 to 1990.
- Was an employee/manager at Skyview Star Supermarket, the family grocery business, in Latham, N.Y., from 1976 to 1990.
- Has tried approximately 60 criminal cases to verdict and served as sole or lead counsel in all of those cases. Also has tried at least two civil cases to verdict.
- Has assets valued at $3.3 million, including four properties he owns, in part or full, valued at $1.25 million. He has no liabilities.
Click here for his full Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.
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U.S. Attorney-in-waiting Richard S. Hartunian (Georgetown University, Albany Law School) was sworn in as the interim U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York yesterday, The Troy Record reports.
President Barack Obama nominated the veteran prosecutor on Dec. 23 to fill the post. The last Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney in the district was Glenn T. Suddaby, who served from 2002 until 2008, when he became a federal judge.
Norman A. Mordue, chief judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, administered the oath of office. At the same time, Mordue swore in Andrew T. Baxter, the district’s former acting and interim U.S. Attorney, as a U.S. magistrate judge.
Baxter became acting U.S. Attorney on Sept. 5, 2008, following Suddaby’s resignation. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder then named Baxter interim U.S. Attorney on April 3, 2009.
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Northern District of New York acting U.S. Attorney Andrew T. Baxter was tapped to succeed U.S. Magistrate Judge Gustave J. DiBianco, The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y. reported today.
The acting U.S. Attorney will replace DiBianco when the judge retires in January, according to the newspaper. Baxter, a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Attorney’s office, has served as the top federal prosecutor in the Northern District of New York office since September 2008, when former U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby was appointed a U.S. District Judge.
The Board of Judges for the Northern District named Baxter to the position, according to The Post-Standard.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) recommended on May 5 that President Obama nominate Richard Hartunian as the next U.S. Attorney for the Northern District. Hartunian is a former Albany County assistant district attorney.
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Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has formally recommended his aide Preet Bharara to head the most prestigious U.S. Attorney’s office outside of Washington, the Southern District of New York. (Yes, we know, the offices is LA and Miami might disagree with that assessment).
Schumer also recommeded the White House nominate Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. in Buffalo to lead the Western District of
New York. The Hochul recommendation is something of a slap at the Bush White House; a 2008 Department of Justice Inspector General report found the Bush administration declined to promote the experienced counter-terrorism prosecutor because of his wife’s affiliation with the Democratic Party. Under the direction of then-DOJ White House liaison Monica Goodling, a less experienced Republican was promoted over Hochul, who prosecuted the “Lackawanna Six” on charges of providing material support to al-Qaeda. The IG report didn’t name Hochul directly but called his case “the most troubling example” of politics-based hiring decision that the office had reviewed.
For the Eastern District of New York, Schumer recommended Loretta E. Lynch, who previously served as the U.S. Attorney there from 1999 to 2001. His proposed Northern District nominee is Richard Hartunian, a former Albany County assistant district attorney.
Lynch, who started at the Eastern District in 1990, is a partner at New York offices of Hogan & Hartson, where she focuses on white collar crime. If nominated and confirmed, she would replace interim U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell.
“Loretta’s tremendous experience and steadfast commitment to justice make her the ideal candidate to lead U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York,” Schumer said in a statement to The New York Times. “She is brilliant, dedicated, and fair, and her commitment to, and experience in, the Eastern District is simply without parallel.”
We previously reported in our U.S. Attorneys chart that Bharara has been Schumer’s chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee since 2005, where he helped lead the panel’s investigation into the firings of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush administration. Bharara also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he was known for his prosecutions of mobsters and gang members. If nominated and confirmed, Bharara will succeed Michael J. Garcia as the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District and oversee an expected large case load of new Wall Street financial investigations.
Hartunian began at the Western District office in 1995 and received acclaim for sucessfuly prosecuting the Jungle Junkies gang as chief of the Organized Crime Drug Task Force. If nominated and confirmed, Hartunian would replace acting U.S. Attorney Andrew T. Baxter, who has been on the job since September 2008 when Glenn T. Suddaby resigned to become a U.S. district judge.
“Mr. Hartunian’s commitment to justice and the safety of the people of New York state is evident in his lifetime in public service,” Schumer said in a statement to the Times Union. “His brilliance, dedication and experience in the Northern District make him an unparalleled choice.”
Hochul has served in the Western District for almost 20 years, and is known for his sucessful prosecution of the LA Boys street gang as well as the “Lackawanna Six” who trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. If nominated and confirmed, Hochul would replace former U.S. Attorney Terrance P. Flynn, who left for the private sector position in January.
“Mr. Hochul has had a long and distinguished career in public service,” Schumer told The Buffalo News. “His exceptional, innovative legal mind, his commitment to justice, and his extensive experience will make him an outstanding U.S. attorney for the Western District.”
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