Indiana U.S. attorney nominees scheduled for committee vote

The two nominees for the U.S. attorney positions in the Northern and Southern districts of Indiana are scheduled for a vote Thursday in the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, moving the Hoosier State closer to filling the top federal lawyer seats that have been vacant since late 2020.

Clifford Johnson and Zachary Myers have been nominated by the Biden administration to become U.S. attorneys for the Northern and Southern districts in Indiana, respectively. Approval of their nominations by the judicial committee will move them to the full Senate for a confirmation vote on a currently undetermined date.

If confirmed, both Johnson and Myers would be the first Black U.S. attorneys to lead the district offices in Indiana.

The Northern Indiana District U.S. attorney seat has been vacant since Thomas Kirsch II was confirmed in December 2020 to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Southern Indiana District U.S. attorney position opened when Joshua Minkler resigned in November 2020. He subsequently joined the white collar practice at Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis.

According to the office of Indiana Sen. Todd Young, the Republican supports the two nominees and hopes their nominations soon reach the Senate floor. Sen. Mike Braun’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the nominees.

Neither Clifford, Myers nor the other U.S. attorney nominees are receiving hearings before the committee votes. Thursday’s executive business meeting includes a full roster of nominees for the circuit and district court benches as well as several U.S. attorney slots.

Johnson, born in Gary, has spent his entire legal career as a Department of Justice attorney, mostly serving in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana, according to the questionnaire he submitted to the judiciary committee. He studied at Valparaiso University, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1976 and J.D. degree in 1980.

During the first five years of his tenure in the public sector, Johnson worked as a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., before transferring to the Northern Indiana office in 1986. He served 34 years in Indiana, filling the role of acting U.S. attorney from March to October 2017, before retiring in August 2020.

In his questionnaire, Johnson listed his most significant litigated matter as United States v. James Fozo and Mieddie Thomas, 904 F.2d 1166 (7th Cir. 1990). The case originated when a Black family’s newly purchased home in an all-white neighborhood in South Bend was vandalized with racial graffiti. The Black family rescinded the purchase and did not move into the home.

At trial, Johnson made a motion under Rule 612 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and was able to obtain several sheets of paper that James Fozo kept reviewing then slipping into his pocket. The papers contained a “script” written by Mieddie Thomas to ensure the co-defendants’ testimony was consistent.

Both defendants were convicted of making false statements to a federal grand jury, and Thomas was also convicted of conspiracy to make false statements to the grand jury.

Myers is currently an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, where he has served since 2014, according to the questionnaire he submitted to the judiciary committee. In 2018, he helped create the U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security & Cybercrime Section and was then selected to serve as the section’s first cybercrime counsel.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 2003 and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2008.

Myers began his career in Indiana. After working for the late Indiana Congresswoman Julia Carson, he stepped into private practice, joining the business litigation, white collar defense and internal investigations groups at what is now Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath.

In 2011, he became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.

Myers told the committee in his questionnaire that his most notable legal work, a case in which he served as sole prosecutor, was United States v. Joseph c. Woodruff, et al., 1:12-cr-00198 and 1:13-cr-00144. The three defendants orchestrated a scheme to charge many customers $1,000 for a clear title to a vehicle even though they still owed substantial debts for the purchase. All three defendants, including an employee of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles who was providing confidential information from the agency’s databases, pleaded guilty.

The judiciary committee’s meeting can be watched live online at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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