By Marc H. Morial
“Mr. President…I pledge to show to you and the American people that if I have the honor of being confirmed by the Senate, I will wake up every morning with the protection of the American people my first thought. And I will work every day to safeguard our citizens, our liberties, our rights, and this great nation which has given so much to me and my family.” –Loretta Lynch on Nov. 8 upon nomination by President Obama to be America’s next Attorney General
I had the honor of visiting the White House for President Obama’s announcement of his choice to succeed Eric Holder, who recently declared his decision to retire, as Attorney General of the United States. It had been rumored for days that Loretta Lynch, who currently heads the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, had risen to the top of the president’s list. While the timing of the announcement, just four days after the power-shifting mid-term elections, may have surprised many, it also confirmed the president’s commitment to seamlessly uphold the civil rights protections and criminal justice reforms that have been so fiercely advocated by Holder.
Lynch, who would be the nation’s first African American woman Attorney General, has served more than15 years as a prosecutor in the office that covers 8 million people in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, N.Y. The Senate unanimously confirmed her to lead the U.S. Attorney’s office on two separate occasions – once under President Clinton and more recently under President Obama.
She has an outstanding record of successful prosecutions, including the terrorists who plotted to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank and the New York subway system, some of New York’s most violent and notorious mobsters and gang members, and corrupt public officials from both parties. She has also won a number of Wall Street financial fraud cases. In 1999, she famously prosecuted one of the most egregious cases of police brutality in New York City history, the beating and sexual assault of Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima.
In nominating Lynch, President Obama said, “It is pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta. Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed the most prominent offices in the country. She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cyber-crime, all while vigorously defending civil rights.”
A native of Greensboro, N.C., the daughter of a Baptist minister and the granddaughter of a pastor/sharecropper, Lynch’s dedication to protecting civil rights and ensuring equal justice is part of her DNA. Her background and experiences also inform her commitment to common sense criminal justice reforms designed to make our system smarter and fairer. She remembers as a child riding on her father’s shoulders to student anti-segregation boycott meetings at his church. She also recalls her sharecropper grandfather lamenting, “In rural North Carolina in the 1930s, if you were poor and Black and got in trouble with the law, you had very little recourse.” As a lawyer and U.S. attorney, Lynch’s career has been undergirded by an unshakeable belief that, as she states, “Justice is only served when people feel protected by their government rather than targeted.”
Those are the values we look for most in the People’s Lawyer. We urge the Senate to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next United States Attorney General without delay.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.