Legal professional and scholar Loretta Lynch is U.S. attorney general, confirmed under the office of President Barack Obama.
Born on May 21, 1959, in Greensboro, North Carolina, Loretta Lynch went on to earn her degree from Harvard Law School. She worked as a litigator for a private law firm before becoming a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's office in New York's Eastern District, eventually making news as a senior prosecutor for the infamous 1997 Abner Louima police-brutality case. She served as U.S. attorney under the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and in 2014 was nominated by President Obama to be U.S. attorney general, succeeding Eric Holder. After a long delay, in April 2015 she was confirmed and sworn in, thus becoming the first African-American woman to hold the position.
Background and Education
Loretta Elizabeth Lynch was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, to librarian Lorine Harris Lynch and Baptist pastor Lorenzo Lynch. Coming from a household that was directly involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the young Lynch went on to attend Harvard College, earning her bachelor’s in literature in 1981, and then opted to stay on with the university, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1984.
Career in New York
Eventually moving to New York, Lynch worked as a litigator at the firm Cahill, Gordon & Reindel from the mid-1980s until 1990. It was that year that she took on a governmental position, working as prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney team of New York’s Eastern District. In 1994 she became chief of the Long Island Office, and after several years was appointed top assistant to U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter.
High-Profile Cases and Posts
In 1999, Lynch served as one of the senior prosecutors in the high-profile case of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was beaten and sodomized after being taken into police custody in Brooklyn. Coordinating strategies that included surprise testimony from police witnesses, Lynch and her team were able to secure a conviction for officer Justin Volpe.
The formidable prosecutor would then be appointed twice to the post of U.S. attorney for New York's Eastern District under two Democratic leaders: The first appointment came in 1999 from President Bill Clinton. After she returned to private practice in 2002, this time as a partner at Hogan & Hartson LLP, she returned to the U.S. attorney seat in 2010 under President Barack Obama. She later became chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, and in 2014 coordinated another high-profile investigation, that of Staten Island Congressperson Michael Grimm, who would plead guilty to felony tax evasion and resign.
Confirmation as U.S. Attorney General
In November 2014, after it was announced that current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would be stepping down from his post, President Obama nominated Lynch for the cabinet position. Coming under immediate scrutiny, Lynch was praised for her professionalism and ability to remain focused no matter what the circumstances.
While the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Lynch’s nomination by a vote of 12 to 8 in February 2015, the subsequent vote to be held by the overall Senate, with a Republican majority, was stalled for weeks. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell announced a delay Lynch’s potential confirmation due to the parameters of an unrelated human trafficking bill waiting for approval. With the vote taking more than five months to be held, both the presidential office and media pundits have expressed outrage.
Lynch's confirmation vote was finally put to the Senate floor on April 23, 2015. She was successfully confirmed in a tally of 56 to 43 and sworn in a few days later, making Lynch the first African-American woman to hold the position of U.S. attorney general.
Soccer Scandal and Marriage Benefits
At the end of the following month, Lynch's work became known around the globe in connection to scandals rocking the soccer world: She held a news conference announcing the Justice Department's 47-count indictment of 14 FIFA top officials and executives, including charges of money laundering and racketeering on a grand scale that involved U.S. banks. Weeks later, after the Supreme Court ruled in late June that gay weddings are legal across the country, Lynch announced that federal marriage benefits will be made available to all same-sex spouses, with qualifications for benefits having been previously determined on a state-by-state basis.
Lynch married Stephen Hargrove, who works behind the scenes at the cable channel Showtime, in 2007. She has two stepchildren.