Channing Phillips, the number two official in the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s office, will take a newly created position at Main Justice concerning diversity in the ranks of the Justice Department.
Phillips has been appointed Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity, where he’ll oversee the Justice Department’s initiatives encouraging the hiring of employees from a wide range of backgrounds. He will report to Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli.
Phillips will start his new position on Monday, a DOJ official said.
WTOP reporter Mark Segraves first reported the news on Twitter, and Justice Department officials confirmed the appointment.
Phillips had often been the office’s public face on high profile cases, including the investigation into the 2001 death of intern Chandra Levy and the 2010 prosecution of Wizards basketball player Gilbert Arenas on gun charges.
“He is as steady as a rock, knowledgeable and calm,” said former D.C. U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard Jr., who served from 2001 to 2004.
Howard said Channing won the trust of the D.C. Assistant U.S. Attorneys over the almost 16 years Phillips has spent at the office.
Phillips started at the office in 1994 as a line attorney in the criminal division after a four-year stint as an attorney in the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. He also clerked for D.C. Superior Court Judge Shellie Bowers before becoming a prosecutor. Phillips received his undergraduate degree from University of Virginia in 1980 and law degree from Howard University in 1986.
Most recently, Phillips was acting U.S. Attorney. He followed former U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor in May 2009 and was replaced by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen in February 2010. He also served as Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney from 2004 to 2009, was a chief of staff to Howard from 2001 to 2004 and special counsel from 1997 to 2001.
In the 2000s, he often acted as the office spokesman and played a role in hiring decisions, including the 2003 appointment of Tejpal Singh, the first Sikh Assistant U.S. Attorney at the DOJ.
“He’s really part of the backbone of that office,” said Kenneth Wainstein, who represented Arenas and served as a D.C. Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1992 to 2001 and as U.S. Attorney from 2004 to 2006. “He has a keen understanding of how the office works.”
Colleagues noted the respect the D.C. community has for Phillips. In December 2009, the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, a voluntary bar association, named Phillips lawyer of the year. He is also the son of the late Rev. Channing E. Phillips, a civil rights leader. The elder Phillips led Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign in D.C. His name was placed in nomination at the Democratic convention in Chicago after Kennedy was assassinated.
This post has been updated since it was first published.