The U.S. attorney general job is an important one. The “general” leads the U.S. Department of Justice, enforces rights established by the Constitution and statutes, prosecutes violations of federal law, protects our nation from violence and terrorism, and ensures the president and all federal agencies follow the law. Personal and professional integrity, skillfulness as a lawyer and organizational leader, independent judgment, principled decision-making, and allegiance to justice and the rule of law are essential qualifications.
Loretta Lynch, nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed Eric Holder, excels in all these areas. I have known her since we were first-year law students at Harvard about 30 years ago. The president was right to say, “It is hard to think of anyone more qualified than Loretta for the job.”
My first impression of Loretta in 1981 was that she had prodigious gifts, including a strong legal mind, eloquence and poise. She also projected a determination to do something important with her life and career in recognition of the debt she owed, as a black woman from North Carolina, for opportunities won by courageous men and women before her.
Lynch was born and raised in the South during the time the civil rights movement reached its peak. Coming from a family of ministers and educators who fought for equal civil rights, she stands on the shoulders of those whose efforts made it possible for her to attend a desegregated high school and qualify for admission to Harvard College. Driven to excel, she earned valedictorian status at high school graduation but was required to share the honor with several white students to avoid fearsome objections from some.
Lynch’s life story is inspirational, and her accomplishments are as compelling. As U.S. attorney for New York’s Eastern District, she prosecuted many high-profile cases, and her reputation and integrity have withstood close scrutiny. She enjoys an exceptionally fine professional reputation and has been confirmed for office twice before by the U.S. Senate.
There is no greater governmental priority than protecting the nation from terrorist attacks and bringing attackers to justice. Lynch has been a national leader in prosecuting counterterrorism, coun-
terintelligence, weapons proliferation and cybercrime cases.
Throughout her career, she has committed herself to protecting victims. Combating human trafficking has been a priority. In the last decade, her office prosecuted 55 defendants for sex trafficking and rescued 110 victims of trafficking, including 20 minors. Eighteen children have been reunited with their mothers who were victims of trafficking.
Her reputation as an effective and respected prosecutor was built, in part, upon her prosecution of a New York police officer who brutally beat and assaulted Abner Louima. The officer was sentenced to 30 years. In her handling of that case, she was praised as a calm, under-the-radar lawyer who could also fight hard when it helped her cause; having a keen sense of courtroom tactics rather than rhetoric; and embodying the soul of grace under pressure.
Other examples of Lynch’s effectiveness include cases of mortgage fraud and financial misconduct in which the government recovered billions in remedies for taxpayers and individual victims and put those responsible behind bars.
The strong favorable impression Loretta Lynch made upon me 30 years ago is validated by her many extraordinary accomplishments since then. It is indeed hard to think of anyone more qualified for this important office than she is.
Maurice A. Watson is chairman of the Husch Blackwell law firm.