The U.S. Attorneys for Seattle and Nashville were inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers last weekend — an honor bestowed on less than 1 percent of a state’s total lawyer population.
Western District of Washington U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and Middle District of Tennessee U.S. Attorney Ed Yarbrough became fellows of the leading U.S. professional trial organization at a March 6 induction ceremony in Palm Desert, Calif. There are more than 5,700 fellows in the college, which selects new members by invitation only.
Yarbrough told Main Justice that he is honored by the fellowship. He said most fellows are civil trial lawyers and few have served as U.S. Attorneys.
“It is a little unusual for people like me and Jenny to be inducted,” said Yarbrough, who has been U.S. Attorney since October 2007.
Durkan, who has been U.S. Attorney since October, said she also greatly appreciated the accolade.
“It was a great honor to be asked to join ACTL, which has so many great lawyers and leaders in its ranks,” Durkan said in a statement to Main Justice.
Please send news of moves, promotions and honors to email@example.com.
This post has been updated from an earlier version.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington has closed a two-year investigation into rape allegations against magician David Copperfield without filing charges, reports The Associated Press.
The notice came in a brief court document filed Tuesday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Roe. The office is headed by Jenny Durkan, who was confirmed in late September. Says the article:
The woman who made the complaint, a former Miss Washington contestant, said in a related civil lawsuit against Copperfield, whose real name is David Kotkin, that she met him during a performance in Kennewick and was invited to visit his private island in the Bahamas in July 2007.
The woman claimed Copperfield invited her to visit his private island in the Bahamas in 2007, where he assaulted her. Copperfield’s attorneys denied the allegations and said the woman was trying to extort Copperfield.
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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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SEATTLE — More than 60 former top federal prosecutors attended the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys annual conference here last weekend. Main Justice tagged along, and we confess: We were a little star struck at finally getting to meet many of the luminaries we’ve been covering since launching last spring.
Founded in 1979, NAFUSA (pronounced na-foo-sa) counts about 300 former U.S. Attorneys as members. Not all living former U.S Attorneys are members of the bipartisan organization, but admission is open to any ex-U.S. Attorney who has was appointed by the president, the Attorney General or a court.
The NAFUSA is a who’s who of ex-prosecutors. Many are founders of their own law firms, and several are partners at major international firms. NAFUSA can even count among its members most of the U.S. Attorneys fired in 2006 and former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, who left the Republican Party to run as the 2008 presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party.
We even found out that these former U.S. Attorneys were a pretty fun group, despite having buttoned-down and high-influence jobs at some of the nation’s top law firms.
Not all of them wore suits. Some opted for open-buttoned polo shirts and jeans. A few donned cowboy boots.
They argued about which college football team was the best as they munched on banana nut bread and fruit for breakfast. They complained about the difficulty in getting their hotel showers to function correctly. They even discussed their nights out at the bar and indulged in a few cocktails at conference events over the weekend.
Despite coming from different administrations stretching back to President Johnson, their political ideologies aren’t evident as they share jokes and drinks with each other.
“After awhile, you forget who is who,” said Margaret Person Currin, who served in the Eastern District of North Carolina from 1988 to 1993.
But with Barack Obama now in the White House, there were a lot of new faces at this conference from the Bush administration.
Many of the U.S. Attorneys in this class work for firms like Greenberg Traurig and the Ashcroft Law Firm, which was founded by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. For many of the Bush U.S. Attorneys and most NAFUSA members, the conference is a rare opportunity to catch up with former colleagues.
Johnny Sutton, who served in the Western District of Texas from 2001 to 2009, said keeping up friendships is “one of the main reasons” former U.S. Attorneys join NAFUSA and come to the conference. “You really develop strong relationships with these U.S. Attorneys over the years,” said Sutton, who is now with the Ashcroft Law Firm.
But outgoing NAFUSA President Mike McKay, who served in the Western District of Washington from 1989 to 1993, said there is more to the conference than catching up with former coworkers.
“Most people join initially to see their colleagues,” McKay said. “But once they join, there are a lot of other wonderful opportunities.”
A highlight of the weekend were remarks from former Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who resigned in 1973 rather than carry out President Nixon’s orders to fire special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. (We’ll have more about Ruckelshaus tomorrow).
Other speakers included drug czar Gil Kerlikowske; Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys Director H. Marshall Jarrett; Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones; newly confirmed Western District of Washington U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Miller, who is the lead prosecutor in the terrorism case against Najibullah Zazi. Miller was honored with an award.
Dave Boerner, a professor at the Seattle University School of Law, also discussed ethical issues surrounding the Bush-era memos on harsh interrogation methods at the conference. Andrew Siegel, who also teaches at the Seattle University School of Law, gave a rundown on the cases the Supreme Court heard during its last session.
“It is great to come here and exchange ideas,” said former NAFUSA President Ed Dowd, who served in the Eastern District of Missouri from 1993 to 1999.
The exchange of ideas for NAFUSA is not always academic. NAFUSA members have informal discussions with the administration officials, who speak at the conference. The organization also meets at least once a year with EOUSA and the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys in Washington.
NAFUSA Executive Director Ron Woods, who served in the Southern District of Texas from 1990 to 1993, said the organization is not “banging on the door” of the Justice Department. But NAFUSA helps out anytime it is called on.
McKay said NAFUSA rarely takes formal positions on issues since it is a bipartisan organization. One notable exception was a letter to Bush Justice Department officials that expressed concern about the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 — including McKay’s brother, John McKay, who was the Western District of Washington U.S. Attorney.
“It is unusual when we, as a group, make a public statement,” the outgoing NAFUSA president said.
Although the Justice Department has been scarred by Bush administration scandals, NAFUSA members have not lost faith in DOJ. The former U.S. Attorneys continue to hold the Justice Department close to their hearts.
“We have an abiding love of the Justice Department and that keeps us coming back [to the annual conference],” said Don Stern, who served in Massachusetts from 1993 to 2001. “It is the greatest law firm in the world.”
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The Senate confirmed three U.S. Attorneys last night by unanimous consent.
-Jenny Durkan (Western District of Washington): The Seattle lawyer was nominated June 4. She will replace Jeffrey C. Sullivan, who has been the interim U.S. Attorney since John McKay was forced out in the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge. Read more about Durkan here.
-Florence Nakakuni (Hawaii): The Hawaii Assistant U.S. Attorney was nominated July 14. She will succeed Bush holdover Edward Kubo Jr., who has been U.S. Attorney since 2001. Read more about Nakakuni here.
-Deborah Gilg (Nebraska): The Omaha lawyer was nominated July 31. She will replace Bush holdover Joe Stecher, who has been U.S. Attorney since 2007. Read more about Gilg here.
The Senate has now confirmed 14 U.S. Attorneys who have been reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Paul Fishman for New Jersey is the only nominee who has been endorsed by the panel, but has not been considered by the full Senate yet. Fishman and Durkan waited more than three months before the Senate Judiciary Committee considered them. Read our previous report about the delays on them here.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to consider eight U.S. Attorney nominees, including Timothy Heaphy for the Western District of Virginia who will go before the panel tomorrow.
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A quick review of Jenny Durkan’s political contributions over the past decade may help shed light on why it took the Senate Judiciary Committee almost four months to approve her nomination for Western District of Washington U.S. Attorney.
Durkan donated $288,205 to Democratic candidates, causes and organizations on the state and federal levels from 1998 to 2008, according to election records from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
Durkan gave $164,415 to Democrats on the federal level, including $2,300 to Barack Obama in 2008. She also gave $123,790 to Democrats in Washington, $37,275 of which went to the Washington State Democratic Party in 2006.
Durkan was nominated on June 4 as part of the first batch of U.S. Attorney nominees announced by the White House. But then, her nomination stalled. When it finally came before the Judiciary committee on Sept. 17, ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) invoked committee rules to delay consideration another week.
Sessions told Main Justice in an interview that unnamed Republicans on the committee had questions and needed time for further review. The panel reported her nomination on Sept. 24 by unanimous consent. It’s unclear when the full Senate will consider Durkan for confirmation. Sessions declined to specify what issues arose in the GOP vetting.
The Seattle Times in June raised the question of whether Durkan’s Democratic ties would present ethical problems if she is confirmed as U.S. Attorney. The Times noted her close relationship to Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) and wrote:
Durkan long has been one of Gregoire’s staunchest allies — friend, confidante, attorney and counselor. Durkan was consulted by Gregoire’s campaign and represented the governor’s interests during the failed GOP legal challenge to her razor-thin 2004 victory over Dino Rossi.
Durkan comes from a powerful Democratic family in the Pacific Northwest. Her father, Martin Durkan Sr., was a long-time state senator in Washington. He died in 2005.
Durkan would replace Jeffrey C. Sullivan, who has been the interim U.S. Attorney since John McKay was forced out in the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed five Justice Department nominees today by unanimous consent.
-Ignacia Moreno (Environment and Natural Resources Division Assistant Attorney General): The General Electric Co. counsel was nominated June 8. She would succeed Ronald Tenpas, who resigned in January. Read more about the nominee here.
-Jenny Durkan (Western District of Washington U.S. Attorney): The Seattle lawyer was nominated June 4. She would replace Jeffrey C. Sullivan, who has been the interim U.S. Attorney since John McKay was forced out in the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge. Read more about the nominee here.
-Paul Fishman (New Jersey U.S. Attorney): The New York lawyer was nominated June 4. He would replace Ralph Marra, who became acting U.S. Attorney after Chris Christie resigned in December 2008 to run for New Jersey governor. Read more about Fishman here.
-Florence Nakakuni (Hawaii U.S. Attorney): The Hawaii Assistant U.S. Attorney was nominated July 14. She would replace Bush holdover Edward H. Kubo Jr., who has been U.S. Attorney since 2001. Read more about Nakakuni here.
-Deborah Gilg (Nebraska U.S. Attorney): The Omaha lawyer was nominated July 31. She would replace Bush holdover Joe Stecher, who has been U.S. Attorney since 2007. Read more about the nominee here.
Durkan and Fishman were held over from last week at the request of Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) Read our report here.
The panel has now endorsed a total of 15 U.S. Attorney nominees. The Senate has confirmed 11 U.S. Attorneys that have been reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel has yet to consider eight U.S. Attorney nominees.
Moreno joins four Assistant Attorney General nominees, who were reported out of committee and are waiting for votes in the full Senate. Dawn Johnsen (Office of Legal Counsel), Thomas Perez (Civil Rights Division), Christopher Schroeder (Office of Legal Policy) and Mary L. Smith (Tax Division) were endorsed by the panel months ago. Read our report on the stalled nominees here. The panel still has to consider one more Assistant Attorney General nominee, Laurie O. Robinson, who was nominated Sept. 14 to lead the Office of Justice Programs.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider President Obama’s nominee for the Justice Department Environment and Natural Resources Division at a meeting Thursday.
Ignacia Moreno testified at a nomination hearing before the panel earlier this month. She said her work as a counsel on environmental programs at General Electric Co., along with her time in the Clinton Justice Department as a prosecutor in the Environment and Natural Resources Division, will be assets to her if she is confirmed.
Some Environmental Protection Agency attorneys have said they were concerned about Moreno because of her work at GE, according to a report by ProPublica, a non-profit investigative Web site. Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he does not have concerns about Moreno’s job at GE.
The panel will also consider U.S. Attorney nominees Jenny Durkan for the Western District of Washington, Paul Fishman for New Jersey, Deborah Gilg for Nebraska and Florence Nakakuni for Hawaii.
Last week, Sessions postponed panel votes on Durkan and Fishman until the Thursday meeting. Gilg and Nakakuni are appearing on the panel agenda for the first time this week.
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By now, it’s crystal clear that U.S. Attorney nominees Jenny Durkan (Western District of Washington) and Paul Fishman (New Jersey) have hit roadblocks. But Senate Republicans have declined to say what the problem is.
Durkan and Fishman were in the first batch of nominees announced by the White House in May. Their names were formally sent to the Senate on June 4. Since then, the Senate has confirmed 11 of President Obama’s U.S. Attorneys, while Durkan and Fishman are still sitting in the political refrigerator, starting to smell a little bad.
After a long delay, Durkan and Fishman were finally slated for a committee vote today. But the ranking member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), invoked his right under the panel’s rules to delay their consideration for another week. “We try to move U.S. Attorneys as quickly as we can,” Sessions said at today’s business meeting. He gave no explanation for the delay, and Judiciary Republican staff wouldn’t explain it either, beyond indicating that more “review” of their records was needed.
Our guess: Durkan’s Democratic political ties are a problem, while Fishman is likely somehow caught up in the fierce battle over ex-New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie’s (R) bid for governor. If confirmed, Fishman would take over a major public corruption investigation called Operation Bid Rig that has become an issue in the campaign. Two mayors charged in the case were close to Christie’s opponent, Gov. Jon Corzine (D). And acting New Jersey U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, a Christie ally, is under investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility for remarks in a news conference about the Operation Bid Rig arrests that the Corzine camp complained were partisan.
Reluctantly, we also have to ask: Is the conservative Sessions possibly objecting to Durkan because of her sexual orientation? Sessions has a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy organization.
(UPDATE 4:46 p.m: Brian Benczkowski, Judiciary minority staff director, phoned us to say it was “complete bullshit” to suggest Sessions opposed Durkan because of her sexual orientation. Benczkowski said his words were on the record. He otherwise declined to discuss the reasons for the delays).
(UPDATE 6:45 p.m.: Sessions told Main Justice in a press gaggle that he decided to ask for another week to review Durkan and Fishman because Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had questions about the two nominees.
The ranking member called Fishman a “capable prosecutor” and said he doesn’t think the New Jersey governor’s race is holding up Fishman.
When asked whether Durkan’s sexual orientation or ties to Democrats was holding her up, Sessions said, “I…think that she will be up on the agenda next week and I expect she will get an up or down vote and move forward.”
Sessions said Republicans have asked before to postpone votes on nominees that come through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I wouldn’t read this as any attempt to block these nominations,” he said.)
Under Judiciary rules, Republicans can delay the nominees in committee only one week after they have first appeared on the agenda. Durkan and Fishman are back on the schedule next Thursday, along with U.S. Attorney nominees Deborah Gilg for Nebraska and Florence T. Nakakuni for Hawaii.
Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report, which was updated at 4 p.m., 4:50 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.
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The Senate confirmed six U.S. Attorneys this afternoon by unanimous consent.
-Steven Dettelbach (Northern District of Ohio): The partner at the Baker & Hostetler law firm was nominated July 14. Dettelbach will replace Gregory White, who resigned in 2008. Read more about Dettelbach here.
-Carter Stewart (Southern District of Ohio): The associate at the Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease law firm was nominated July 14. He will replace Gregory Lockhart, who resigned last month. Read more about the appointee here.
-Peter Neronha (Rhode Island): The Rhode Island Assistant U.S. Attorney was nominated July 31. Neronha will replace Robert Clark Corrente, who resigned June 26. Read more about the appointee here.
-Daniel Bogden (Nevada): The former Nevada U.S. Attorney, who was fired during the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge, was re-nominated July 31. Bogden will replace Gregory Brower, whose resignation is effective Oct. 10. Read more about Bogden here.
-Dennis Burke (Arizona): Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s senior adviser on border security and law enforcement was nominated July 14. Burke will replace Diane Humetewa, who resigned Aug. 2. Read more about the appointee here.
-Neil MacBride (Eastern District of Virginia): The Justice Department Associate Deputy Attorney General was nominated Aug. 6. MacBride will replace Chuck Rosenberg, who resigned in October 2008. Read more about MacBride here.
The Senate has now confirmed all 11 U.S. Attorneys that have been reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On Thursday, the panel is slated to consider U.S. Attorney nominees Jenny Durkan for the Western District of Washington and Paul Fishman for New Jersey. After the committee votes on Durkan and Fishman, it will still have to consider five more U.S. Attorney nominees. The panel has not announced when it will vote on the five nominees.
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