Brooklyn’s top federal prosecutor is hitting the big time.
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch is the first candidate to replace Eric Holder as attorney general, President Obama announced on Nov. 8. Some local lawyers and pols hailed the potential hire.
“She is a strong, independent, and confident leader, and she is ethical to the core,” said George Stamboulidis, a former U.S. attorney colleague of Lynch. “She works tirelessly and is committed to making sure there is justice for everybody.”
Lynch has spent two stints as top prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, first under the Clinton administration from 1999 to 2001 and again starting in 2010. In the interim she worked at a Washington, D.C. law firm.
Lynch’s champions say she is a leading voice for public accountability, citing her role in the civil rights prosecution of the NYPD cops responsible for torturing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in the 70th Precinct station house in 1997, and covering it up.
Lately, Lynch has made a name for herself by going after allegedly crooked politicians. In February, Lynch brought corruption charges against state Sen. John Sampson (D–Canarsie), alleging that he lied to federal investigators about his stake in a liquor store and directed his staff to help it deal with an outstanding tax bill. And in April she slapped Rep. Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) with a 20-count indictment listing charges including tax evasion, fraud, and perjury in relation to his management of a health-food restaurant before taking office.
A spokesman for Grimm declined to comment on Lynch’s nomination, and a representative of Sampson did not return requests for comment. Both lawmakers have pleaded not guilty and both were reelected last week despite their pending charges.
In a Nov. 8 press conference announcing her nomination, Obama praised Lynch for her poise in handling other challenging work.
“It’s pretty hard to be more qualified than Loretta,” he said. “She may be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters, and drug lords, and terrorists, and still has the reputation for being a charming people person.”
If appointed, Lynch would be the first female, African-American attorney general, replacing Holder, who was the first African American to hold the job.
But before she can take the office, she faces confirmation hearings before the Senate. If the hearings are delayed till the new year, a new Republican majority will have taken office. Republican legislators have been fiercely critical of Holder, Obama’s previous appointee.