In nominating Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. Attorney General, President Barack Obama has turned to the daughter of a Baptist preacher and a staunch defender of civil rights to become the nation’s top law enforcer. Lynch is an outstanding choice. Obama, the nation’s first Black president, is also sending a clear signal to this republic that he’s committed to an African-American lawyer holding the job as Attorney General during the last two years of his presidency – and he’s making history once again.
If confirmed, Lynch would become the first Black woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General while replacing Eric Holder, America’s first Black Attorney General.
“Throughout her 30-year career she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent U.S. attorney’s offices in the country,” the President said at the nomination ceremony for Lynch, who is currently the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime — all while vigorously defending civil rights,” Obama said.
Obama is proudly inserting his blackness into his nomination for Attorney General, which cements his legacy as a president who is dedicated to civil rights, social justice and judicial equality for African Americans and citizens of color.
“The nomination of Ms. Lynch, who would become the nation’s first African-American female Attorney General, has signaled that the President is uncompromising and determined that our country’s top attorney be dedicated to doing what is right for the American people,” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement. “President Obama has nominated one of the best and brightest to help lead this nation and move our justice system forward.”
As a child, Lynch would “ride on the shoulders” of her father, a Baptist minister, as he helped organize desegregation activists, the President said. Her grandfather, Obama said, was a sharecropper who had helped poor Blacks get legal help in the Jim Crow south of the 1930s. Years later, Lynch, 55, is following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather of seeking justice for African-Americans.
In 1997, Lynch was a federal prosecutor in New York during the high-profile racial case of police brutality where New York City police used a broomstick to sodomize a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, in a precinct bathroom. Lynch prosecuted the police officers that abused Louima and covered up the crime.
Today, Lynch is being nominated for Attorney General at a time when the Justice Department is investigating the racially-charged police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. This month, the grand jury is expected to decide whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown on Aug. 9.
The President believes Lynch would continue to embrace the administration’s philosophy of aggressively prosecuting civil rights violations and Obama feels confident that Lynch’s background makes her an ideal candidate for the position.
“Loretta has spent her entire life fighting for fair and equal justice that is the foundation of our democracy,” Obama said. For those civil rights activists who were concerned about Holder’s replacement, they can now breathe a collective sigh of relief.
“The NAACP commends President Obama for nominating Loretta E. Lynch to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States,” Cornell Brooks, President of the NAACP, said in a statement. “Her nomination couldn’t have come at a more critical time in our nation’s history. We look forward to working with Ms. Lynch to ensure that our nation’s voting rights laws, employment protection laws and anti-housing discrimination laws are strictly and fairly enforced.”
Obama has called for the confirmation of Lynch “without delay” though a final vote may not take place until January when the new Republican Senate convenes. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said the next Congress should consider Lynch’s nomination because outgoing lawmakers “are no longer accountable to the voters.”
“Ms. Lynch will receive fair consideration by the Senate,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who becomes majority leader in the Senate in January. “And her nomination should be considered in the new Congress through regular order.”
But supporters of Lynch argue that her confirmation should not be stalled. Political pundits speculate that Lynch will be confirmed, but only after being grilled by Republican lawmakers.
“The nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the new Attorney General of the United States is applaudable and deserving,” Rev. Al Sharpton, head of The National Action Network, said in a statement. “She is an excellent and worthy choice to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder in his groundbreaking work for the American people. I have known Ms. Lynch since she was on the team around the Abner Louima case in the late nineties. Though we have not always agreed on cases, I have always seen her operate in the most fair, balanced, and just manner. Americans would be served greatly by her becoming our next Attorney General and the President should be given kudos for such a nomination.”
Lynch was born in Greensboro, N.C., in 1959, a year before black students sat at a whites-only lunch counter that served as a catalyst for nationwide civil rights protests. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
“The Department of Justice is the only cabinet department named for an ideal,” Lynch said. “And this is actually appropriate, for our work is both aspirational and grounded in gritty reality. It’s both ennobling and profoundly challenging. Today I stand before you so thrilled, and frankly so humbled, to have the opportunity to lead this group of wonderful people who work all day and well into the night to make that ideal a manifest reality.”