Saturday, President Barack Obama officially announced Loretta Lynch as his nominee to replace outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder. If confirmed, she would be the first African American woman in US history to hold the position.
In his announcement, the President emphasized the need for the next Attorney General to continue building on the civil and human rights legacy being left behind by Eric Holder, and pointed to the quiet, but solid record of his nominee. “It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta,” President Obama said on Saturday. “Loretta might 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.'”
Lynch, who is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, rose through the ranks of New York’s Eastern District, serving as chief of the Long Island Office, then moving on to Chief Assistant US Attorney, then US Attorney. Twice – under President Bill Clinton’s Administration, then again under President Obama – the Senate unanimously confirmed Lynch as head of the US Attorney’s Office. She is best known for successfully prosecuting the New York City police officers who assaulted and brutally sodomized Abner Louima with a broken broomstick in a Brooklyn precinct bathroom in 1997. Louima received $8.7 million in settlement money years after the gruesome attack, with one of the officers receiving a 30-year sentence. Lynch also successfully prosecuted the suspects that plotted to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank and the New York City subway system in 2012.
This morning, Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told NewsOne host Roland Martin that Lynch is “clearly” qualified for the job. “There’s no doubt that she has the background, the qualifications, and the experience to lead this important agency,” Arnwine said. “And it means the world to me that there will finally be an African American woman in this cabinet.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Lynch rarely gives news conferences or interviews, a quality the President lauded over the weekend. “Loretta doesn’t look to make headlines, she looks to make a difference,” he said. “She’s not about splash, she is about substance. I could not be more confident that Loretta will bring her signature intelligence and passion and commitment to our key priorities, including important reforms in our criminal justice system.”
During his comments, the President stopped to thank current Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for showing his support of Lynch as nominee. However, the new Republican majority in the Senate could prove trying for Lynch’s confirmation. Despite the President’s call for a speedy confirmation on Saturday, top ranking Republicans have already suggested her confirmation be delayed until the Senate shifts to Republican control next year. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell said Lynch’s nomination “should be considered in the new Congress through regular order.” Iowa Republican and incoming Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley congratulated Lynch on her nomination in a statement issued late last week, but warily added that “US Attorneys are rarely elevated directly to this position.”
Media Resources: White House 11/9/14; The New York Times City Room 8/9/07; The Grio 11/9/14; ABC News 11/7/14; Black America Web 11/10/14; LA Times 11/7/14; The Washington Times 11/9/14; Chuck Grassley 11/7/14