8 US attorney picks by Biden would include historic firsts for Indiana, nation

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Eight new individuals have been nominated by President Joe Biden for U.S. attorney positions across the country, including attorneys for Indiana’s Northern and Southern districts.

Zachary Myers, who specializes in national security and cyber matters as a federal prosecutor in Maryland, would be the first Black U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Indiana, according to the White House. Additionally, nominee Clifford Johnson would be the first Black lawyer to lead the Northern District of Indiana after spending nearly 35 years in that office.

Indiana Sen. Todd Young indicated his support for both nominees.

“As Hoosiers witness large spikes in violence in our cities, it’s important to have experienced federal prosecutors leading our United States Attorneys’ Offices. Having previously served as Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Clifford Johnson and Zachary Myers both have the experience I look for in these roles. I look forward to meeting with them soon,” the Republican said in a statement.

The nominees announced by the White House on Monday come as the Justice Department is continuing to round out its leadership team under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who traveled to Chicago last week to announce an initiative to crack down on gun trafficking corridors. The Justice Department’s 93 U.S. attorneys, who are responsible for federal criminal prosecutions in their respective districts, are likely to be central to efforts to combat violent crime.

If confirmed by the Senate, the nominees would run offices in the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Washington state. Most would be historic firsts, including the first Black or female attorneys to lead their districts, the Biden administration said.

The eight were “chosen for their devotion to enforcing the law, their professionalism, their experience and credentials in this field, their dedication to pursuing equal justice for all, and their commitment to the independence of the Department of Justice,” according to the White House.

Johnson, a 1980 graduate of Valparaiso Law School, served for several months as acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana after former U.S. Attorney David Capp resigned in 2017.

After he earned his law degree, Johnson served from 1980 to 1985 as a trial attorney in the Employment Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Returning to Indiana, he became as assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern Indiana District in 1986 and served as first assistant U.S. attorney from 2010 until 2020.

If confirmed, Johnson will replace acting U.S. Attorney for Northern Indiana Tina Nommay, who was the first woman to hold that position. She stepped into the leadership role after Thomas Kirsch, former U.S. attorney for the Northern Indiana District, was confirmed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Myers earned his J.D. in 2008 from the Georgetown University Law Center, then came to Indiana to work as an associate what is now Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath.

In 2011, he became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, then left in 2014 to become assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland. Since 2018, Myers has worked as cybercrime counsel in the Maryland District’s National Security and Cybercrime Section.

If confirmed, Myers will replace John Childress, acting U.S. attorney for Southern Indiana. Childress has been serving since Josh Minkler resigned in 2020. 

The lawyers represent the first batch of U.S. attorney nominees advanced by the Biden White House, which is still working to fill key Justice Department posts six months into the administration. The White House last week announced the nomination of a lawyer to run its antitrust division but withdrew its nominee for the civil division head. No nominee has been announced for the key solicitor general role.

Among the nominees announced Monday is Matthew Graves, a former fraud and public corruption prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in the District of Columbia who is being tapped to run that office at a time when it is consumed by hundreds of cases arising from the Capitol riot.

The Trump administration appointee who held the job during the riot, Michael Sherwin, later left the Justice Department. The position has been held on an acting basis by Channing Phillips, who served in the same role during the Obama administration.

Rachael Rollins, the district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, would be the first Black woman to serve as U.S. attorney in that state. Erek Barron, a former federal prosecutor and policy adviser to Biden and a current state lawmaker, would be the first Black U.S. attorney in the District of Maryland, the White House said.

Justice Department environmental lawyer Vanessa Waldref would be the first woman to run the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Washington. And Nicholas Brown, who has been a federal prosecutor and general counsel to the governor, would be the first Black lawyer to run the Western District of Washington, which encompasses Seattle.

The Justice Department disclosed in February that it was seeking the resignation of most U.S. attorneys appointed during President Donald Trump’s administration, though it did leave in place David Weiss, the top federal prosecutor in Delaware, where law enforcement officials have been conducting a criminal tax investigation involving Biden’s son, Hunter.

U.S. attorneys serve at the president’s pleasure and are routinely nominated with a recommendation from a home-state senator. For instance, Trini Ross, a former federal prosecutor who is being nominated as U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York in Buffalo, was recommended for the job by the state’s senior senator, Charles Schumer.

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