Loretta Lynch has served as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District twice, and for three presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama). During her years in Brooklyn, she has been involved in several high-profile prosecutions, including the racially charged police assault on Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in the late 1990s.
And yet, unlike any number of federal prosecutors who reveled in the limelight, Ms. Lynch kept a low profile. She didn’t arrange high-profile perp walks or stage any “look at me” news conferences to announce indictments. She simply did her work, and did it well.
And now Mr. Obama has nominated her to succeed Eric Holder as United States attorney general. She is a fine choice to be the nation’s chief law enforcement official.
Her biography is just as impressive as her credentials. The direct descendant of slaves, she is the granddaughter of a sharecropper. Her mother picked cotton in North Carolina, explaining to her daughter that she did so “so that you never have to.”
Loretta Lynch left the cotton fields of the South for the classrooms of Harvard, where she received her undergraduate and law degrees. What’s most impressive about Ms. Lynch’s journey is that she rarely talks about it. In this confessional, tell-all age, her discretion is positively counter-cultural.
Her work, however, speaks volumes. Her handling of the Louima case when she was the top-ranking assistant in the Brooklyn prosecutor’s office was a model of due diligence. She presented the case without theatrics, and in the end, won convictions against the officers charged with the appalling assault.
In the years since, Ms. Lynch has won high-profile convictions in several political corruption cases, including those against former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and former Brooklyn Assemblyman William Boyland. The cause of better government in Albany took several steps forward when Ms. Lynch sent Messrs. Espada Jr. and Boyland off to prison.
Ms. Lynch can expect harsh and perhaps even hostile questions from the new Republican majority in the Senate when confirmation hearings are held early next year. Her predecessor, Mr. Holder, became a lightning rod for many conservative activists over the last several years. Critics may ask Ms. Lynch to answer for Mr. Holder’s perceived failings, and yes, you can expect to hear the words “Benghazi” and “fast and furious” mentioned during confirmation hearings.
But Ms. Lynch has proven that she’ll be able to hold her own, and more. She brings to the office no long-standing friendship with the president (hardly the most-popular public official in the land these days), so mere partisan criticism will do her no harm.
These are hardly the best of times for Mr. Obama, but in choosing a replacement for Eric Holder, he has done well with Loretta Lynch.