Every Black History Month, I do a series featuring Legal Divas of Color. Last year, I focused more on the original trailblazers in the legal field, such as Jane Bolin, Charlotte E. Ray, and Gwen S. Cherry. This year, I will focus on 21st century African American women, who are movers shakers, and laying the groundwork for a new generation of legal divas!!
It is only fitting that I begin with the Legal Diva whose name is at the forefront of the news at present: Loretta Lynch.
On November 8, 2014, President Obama nominated Ms. Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General of the United States. This is the top legal position in America. Not only does the Attorney General advise the President, but the Attorney General sets the policy and the tone for all prosecutions that occur in the federal system. However, being nominated is step one; surviving the Senate is the big hurdle. At present, Loretta Lynch is going through her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate, where the Senators grill her on her beliefs, what kind of Attorney General she would be, and what policies she will enforce.
But who is Loretta Lynch?
Her path was a very straightforward one. She was born in Greensboro, North Carolina on May 21, 1959. The grandchild of sharecroppers, and the daughter of a schoolteacher and a minister, Ms. Lynch knew the value of hard work early. She also learned the importance of justice; she attended civil rights rallies as a child, and sat front row to history being made. Academically, Ms. Lynch excelled. She was valedictorian of her high school class, and received her undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard.
Upon graduation, Ms. Lynch joined a firm, then became an Assistant US Attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Eastern District of New York in 1990. The Eastern District of New York includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and parts of Long Island. In 1999, then President Bill Clinton nominated her to become the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, making her the head of that office. She left the office to join a firm in 2001, returning in 2010 when President Obama nominated her to the position again.
Loretta Lynch has prosecuted more terrorism cases than any of her counterparts. She has successfully prosecuted politicians for corruption (both Democrat and Republican), and prosecuted the police officers who brutalized Abner Louima in 1997. She has also met with the family of Eric Garner after his chokehold death during a police encounter in 2014 to discuss the viability of a federal prosecution. And, she has prosecuted banks for fraud, obtaining million dollar settlements.
On a personal note, I met Ms. Lynch two years ago. She has an air of grace, a quiet strength, and resolve that is really cool to behold. She is very understated, which certainly why her opponents underestimate her. Ms. Lynch inspired and continues to inspire me to blaze my own trail.
Thank you Loretta Lynch, for being an inspiring Legal Diva!!
PS if you want to voice your support for Loretta Lynch, call your Senator at 202-224-3121 and urge him/her to vote to confirm her. The National Black Prosecutors Association (of which I am President) stands with many bipartisan organizations that support Ms. Lynch.