- Served as a U.S. Attorney under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama
- Believes that the American criminal-justice system is rife with discrimination against nonwhite minorities
- Favors the use of alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders
- Supports the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons who have completed their prison sentences
Loretta Lynch was born in 1959 in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1981 she earned an A.B. from Harvard College, where she was an original member of Delta Sigma Theta, a newly formed African-American sorority chapter; another noteworthy original member was Sharon Malone, who subsequently went on to marry Eric Holder.
After completing her undergraduate studies, Lynch in 1984 earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where she was a member of the Black Law Student Association. From 1984-90 she was a litigation associate for the New York-based firm of Cahill, Gordon & Reindel.
In 1989 Lynch donated $550 to the New York City mayoral campaign of Democrat David Dinkins, who defeated both the incumbent Ed Koch (in a five-way Democratic primary) and Republican challenger Rudolph Giuliani (in the general election).
In 1990, Lynch began an 11-year stint during which she worked in various capacities for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Appointed As U.S. Attorney by President Clinton
In 1999 President Bill Clinton appointed Lynch as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, a job she would hold until the end of the Clinton administration in January 2001. Though she was the second African American to be named to that post, Lynch depicted her appointment as historic in a 2000 speech: “I took office last summer, and as I did I am sure that a long line of dead white men rolled over in their graves. But at the same time, I am sure that just a stone’s throw away from here, in the African burial ground, a long line of people for whom the law was an instrument of oppression, sat up and smiled.”
In 2000, Lynch was a member of the trial team in the highly publicized United States v. Volpe civil-rights case against a New York City police officer who had brutalized a black Haitian immigrant named Abner Louima. That same year, Lynch spoke of how black police officers and prosecutors “often face a dual challenge -- trying to improve a system that traditionally was one of the harshest to us.”
Also during her years in the U.S. Attorney’s office, Lynch was a frequent instructor in the Justice Department's Criminal Trial Advocacy Program, and she worked as an adjunct professor at the St. John’s University School of Law during the fall 2000 semester.
Private Practice & The Federal Reserve Bank
In 2002 Lynch began an eight-year stint as a partner with the New York law firm of Hogan & Hartson, where her practice focused on commercial litigation, white-collar criminal defense, and corporate compliance issues. From 2003-05 she served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Big Donor to Democratic Candidates
According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Lynch contributed a total of $10,700 to Democratic political candidates from 2004-08. The Hill newspaper reports: “Of that money, $4,600 went to [Barack] Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Another $1,000 went to the campaign of the late Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.), and $2,100 went to his son Chris’s unsuccessful 2006 House campaign. Lynch also contributed $1,000 to the failed 2008 campaign of North Carolina investment banker Jim Neal, and $2,000 to the fruitless 2008 campaign of Oregon politician Steve Novick.
Supporting Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama
In 2008 Lynch initially supported Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. But after Mrs. Clinton was defeated in the Democratic primaries by Barack Obama, Lynch donated a combined $9,200 to Obama For America (later known as Organizing For America and Organizing For Action) and the Obama Victory Fund.
Reappointed As U.S. Attorney by Barack Obama
In May 2010, President Obama appointed Lynch to the same post she had held towards the end of the Clinton administration—U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. In that capacity, she was responsible for overseeing all federal and civil investigations and cases in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.
Blaming Banks, Rather Than Government Policies, for the Financial Crisis of 2008
During her four-and-a-half years as U.S. Attorney, Lynch developed a close relationship with Attorney General Eric Holder. In early 2013 she was named chair of Holder's advisory committee, and she collaborated with the AG in a high-profile Justice Department investigation that ultimately (in July 2014) forced Citigroup to pay a $7 billion fine for having helped trigger the financial crisis of 2008. Specifically, Citigroup was charged with: (a) making mortgage loans that had material defects and a high probability of default, and (b) securitizing and selling pools of these defective loans to investors. Said Lynch: “[A]fter collecting nearly 25 million documents relating to every residential mortgage-backed security issued or underwritten by Citigroup in 2006 and 2007, our teams found that the misconduct in Citigroup’s deals devastated the nation and the world’s economies, touching everyone.” By contrast, Lynch made no mention of the various government policies—most notably the Community Reinvestment Act—which, in the name of social and economic justice, had required banks to knowingly lend money to underqualified borrowers, particularly nonwhite minorities.
Cover-Up of HSBC's Malfeasance
WorldNetDaily reports that Lynch, in her capacity as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, apparently participated in covering up the Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute HSBC Bank for its involvement in a massive money-laundering scheme with Latin American drug cartels and Middle Eastern terrorists. Whistleblower John Cruz, a former HSBC vice president and relationship manager, provided more than 1,000 pages of evidence and secret audio recordings to substantiate the allegations. Lynch, for her part, allowed the bank to enter into a “deferred prosecution” settlement that garnered $1.9 billion in fines and the admission of “willful criminal conduct.” But in exchange, she agreed not to pursue criminal investigations and prosecutions of HSBC directors or employees. For additional details on this matter, click here.
Advisory Board Member of The American Constitution Society
In addition to her work in government and with private law firms, Lynch also served a stint as an advisory board member with the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
Nominated for Attorney General by President Obama
On November 8, 2014, President Obama nominated Lynch to succeed Eric Holder, who had recently announced his intent to step down from the post of attorney general.
After President Obama formally announced, on November 20, 2014, that he was taking executive action (i.e., without Congressional approval) to prevent the deportation of some 5 million otherwise deportable illegal immigrants, Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Lynch about her position on that executive action. He subsequently told reporters that Lynch had been evasive: “I mean, she would say nothing; if I asked her if the sky was blue, I don’t think she would have committed to it in the meeting. I found her responses in the conversation about executive amnesty not just frustrating ... but sort of unbelievable.” According to a report in National Review:
"Vitter says that when he asked Lynch directly about her legal assessment of the president’s executive action, she made a vague statement suggesting that Obama was within his legal rights when he exercised prosecutorial discretion to defer or delay the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants. But when Vitter pressed her about the legality of producing new documents and work permits to satisfy the action, which he says has no basis in law, she clammed up."
During Lynch's Senate confirmation hearing on January 28, 2015, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asked her who she believed has a greater right to work: illegal immigrants, or lawful immigrants and American citizens? “Senator, I believe the right and the obligation to work is one that's shared by everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here,” Lynch replied. “And certainly, if someone is here—regardless of status—I would prefer that they be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace.”
Moments later, the following exchange took place:
Sessions: "[I]f a person comes here [to the U.S.] and is given a lawful right under the president’s executive amnesty to have Social Security and a work authorization card, what if somebody prefers to hire an American citizen first? Would you take action against them? Do you understand this to mean that those who are given executive amnesty are entitled as much as anybody else in America to compete for a job in America?"
Lynch: "Well, I don’t believe that it would give anyone any greater access to the workforce, and certainly an employer would be looking at the issues of citizenship in making those determinations."
Sessions: "Would you take action against an employer who says, 'No, I prefer to hire someone that came to the country lawfully rather than someone given executive amnesty by the president'? Would [the] Department of Justice take action against them?"
Lynch: "With respect to the — the provision about temporary deferral, I did not read it as providing a legal amnesty, that is, that permanent status there, but a temporary deferral. With respect to whether or not those individuals would be able to seek redress for employment discrimination, if — if that is the purpose of your question, again, I haven’t studied that legal issue...."
In the same Senate hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Lynch whether she believed that waterboarding was torture. Lynch replied: "Waterboarding is torture, Senator. And thus illegal."
Lynch Confirmed by the Senate
On April 23, 2015, the U.S. Senate confirmed Lynch in a 56-43 vote. She began her tenure as attorney general on April 28, 2015.
LYNCH'S VIEWS ON VARIOUS MAJOR ISSUES
Denouncing America's Racism and Indifference to the Poor
Shortly after the city of Los Angeles was overrun by deadly riots in response to the April 1992 acquittal of four policemen involved in the infamous beating of Rodney King, Lynch stood before a Baptist church congregation in South Carolina and denounced a “morally lost” society where minorities were routinely abused. “There is a poverty of spirit afflicting America that is crippling it,” she said. “Los Angeles has been burning for a long time, but no one noticed it. New York City is burning right now. Chicago is burning. Atlanta is burning. No one notices until the fire inside builds and strikes an outer match, and the flames rise above the skyline.”
In the same speech, Lynch harshly criticized the United States for the way it addressed the issues of poverty and the first Gulf War. “A society that takes away hundreds of thousands of jobs, and then blames people for not working, is morally lost,” she said. “A society that drops everything to save Kuwait, but barely lifts a finger to help the 13 million American children living in poverty in this country is sending the moral message that those children are not important, that they don’t matter. And if our society tells people that they don’t matter, how can we expect people to act like anything matters?”
Condemning Racism & Disparate Impact in the Criminal-Justice System
Lynch has long believed that the American crminal-justice system is rife with racism against nonwhite mnorities.
- Consider, for example, her reaction to the infamous case where, in March 2006, a black stripper accused three white members of the Duke University lacrosse team of having beaten, raped, and sodomized her during an off-campus party. These charges triggered an instantaneous eruption of outrage among left-wing civil-rights activists. All charges against the defendants were eventually dropped, however, when it became evident that the plaintiff's allegations were entirely fabricated, and that District Attorney Mike Nifong was not only guilty of serious procedural violations, but also of outright deceit. Yet Lynch refused to condemn Nifong. Instead, “as someone who grew up in Durham,” she lamented the “community divide” that existed between majority-white universities and surrounding black neighborhoods. In matters of criminal justice, Lynch suggested, “I guess where you stand depends on where you sit.” Moreover, she stated that slogans about being “tough on crime” have traditionally meant that “I’m going to be tougher on African Americans.”
- By the same token, Lynch opposes capital punishment because of its alleged bias against blacks and Hispanics. “Apply the death penalty to securities fraud prosecutions [committed mostly by whites] and [you'll] wipe out [the racial disparity] just like that,” she said sarcastically during a 2002 roundtable discussion. But when the defendants of certain crimes are mostly poor and minority, she charged, “you don’t have anybody there on the floor of Congress saying, ‘Wait a minute.’” By Lynch's reckoning, capital punishment would be immoral even if it were applied without any racial bias at all—because of the disparate impact it would continue to have on nonwhites, who commit homicides (i.e., the crimes subject to the death penalty) at much higher rates than whites: “That, to me, has always been the problem with the death penalty. Because you can be as fair as possible in a particular case, but the reality is that the federal death penalty is still going to hit harder on certain groups.”
- Lynch has participated in a number of Justice Department conferences that subsequently issued reports about the “pervasive” nature of racism in American society. In April 2014, for instance, she took part in a panel discussion titled “Strengthening the Relationship Between Law Enforcement and Communities of Color,” along with such notables as Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, and Bill de Blasio. One of the panel's action items stated: “Remember that racial bias is pervasive. Research has shown that people who are not consciously mistrustful of African Americans or intentionally racist can still behave in a way that is influenced by racial bias.”
- In August 2014, Lynch spoke about the need to “eliminate,” from the American criminal-justice system, all forms of “racial discrimination” against “the most vulnerable members of society.” She stated that she and Eric Holder were focused “not just on the prosecution of crime, but on eradicating its root causes as well as providing support for those re-entering society after having paid their debt to it.” Lamenting that the U.S. “currently … imprisons approximately 2.2 million people” who are “disproportionately people of color,” Lynch emphasized the need to “reform ... this aspect of our criminal justice system,” which she described as a “drain on both precious resources and human capital.”
- That same month, Lynch, along with Al Sharpton, participated in a closed-door meeting with the family of Eric Garner, a black New Yorker who had died after a recent altercation with a white police officer. (Click here for details of this case, which Sharpton and others had recklessly and wrongly characterized as a racial incident.) Lynch assured Garner's family that her U.S. Attorney's Office was closely monitoring a pending state investigation.
- In a 2013 speech which she delivered at the Martin Luther King Center in Long Beach, New York, Lynch asked the young people in the audience: “What is it that makes you feel oppressed? Is it the prison of racism?”
Prisoners' Rights & Alternatives to Incarceration
Lynch contends that “stringent mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal drug crimes” should be “reserved [only] for the most serious criminals”—on the premise that, “quite often, less prison can also work to reduce crime.” Advocating the implementation of “alternative programs in place of incarceration,” she stresses the need to “provid[e] formerly incarcerated people with fair opportunities to rejoin their communities and become productive, law-abiding citizens”; to “restore voting rights to those who have served their debt to society, thus ending the chain of permanent disenfranchisement that visits many of them”; and to “identify [and eliminate] policies that result in unwarranted disparities within criminal justice.” Vis à vis the latter, Lynch has supported “the expansion of the federal clemency program,” “the retroactive reduction of penalties for non-violent drug offenders,” and “the reduction in the sentencing disparity” between crimes involving crack cocaine (a drug most often used by poor blacks) and powder cocaine (whose users are typically more-affluent whites.
Alleging That Voter ID Laws Are Racist
Lynch believes that voter ID laws are part of a racist effort to suppress minority turnout at the polls. “Fifty years after the civil rights movement,” she said in 2013, “we stand in this country at a time when we see people trying to take back so much of what Dr. [Martin Luther] King fought for.... People try and take over the State House and reverse the goals [gains] that have been made in voting in this country.” In line with this view, Lynch emphasized that she was “proud” of the Justice Department for having filed suit against North Carolina's voter ID laws that “seek to limit our ability to stand up and exercise our rights as citizens.”
Alleging That School Discipline Policies Are Racist
Lynch has also suggested that school discipline policies, which result in higher rates of suspension and expulsion for nonwhite children than for whites, are—because of their disparate impact—racist. “The dream is still continuing not only in the courts but in our schools,” she told a mostly black audience in 2013. “And we all know, education is the key. And we understand that discipline is important. We understand that rules are important, but we also know that when we sit and look at schools that have these zero-tolerance programs, they are often used, and they take our babies, minority children, black children, Hispanic children, and they put them out of school before they have a chance to learn.” Building on this theme, Lynch praised the Department of Justice for having “gone into the South, although we’re looking further, and brought the first ... 'school-to-prison pipeline' cases against school districts in Alabama.”
Dissociating Islam from Terrorism
In 2012, when the 66-year-old Shiite imam Kareem Ibrahim was sentenced to life-in-prison for the role he had played in a failed plot to firebomb New York's JFK Airport five years earlier, Lynch said that Ibrahim had “abandoned the true tenants [sic] of his religion” by participating in the conspiracy.
Lynch's Position on Civil Forfeiture
Lynch's position on civil forfeiture—a process by which the government can take and sell people's property without ever convicting, or even charging, them with a crime—is noteworthy. In January 2015, for instance, Lynch—as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York—signed off on a settlement that returned $447,000 to Bi-County Distributors, a Long Island business targeted for nothing more than a suspicious pattern of bank deposits. The federal government had held that money for almost three years, during which time the owners had never gotten a hearing before a judge, and no criminal charges had been filed. Instead they had received a series of offers from Lynch’s office to return part of the money—until the negative publicity associated with the case threatened to derail Lynch’s nomination for the post of Attorney General. Nonetheless, Lynch characterizes civil forfeiture as a “wonderful tool” that innocent people need not worry about, because: (a) it “is done pursuant to supervision by a court,” and (b) “the protections are there.”
MORE ON LYNCH AS ATTORNEY GENERAL
Abandoning the Use of the Words "Felon" and "Convict" When Referring to Former Prisoners
In May 2016, Lynch's Justice Department announced that its Office of Justice Programs (OJP) would no longer use words such as “felon” or “convict” to refer to released prisoners. Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, the head of OJP, wrote a guest piece in The Washington Post which said:
"In my role as head of the division of the Justice Department that funds and supports hundreds of reentry programs throughout the country, I have come to believe that we have a responsibility to reduce not only the physical but also the psychological barriers to reintegration. The labels we affix to those who have served time can drain their sense of self-worth and perpetuate a cycle of crime, the very thing reentry programs are designed to prevent. In an effort to solidify the principles of individual redemption and second chances that our society stands for, I recently issued an agency-wide policy directing our employees to consider how the language we use affects reentry success.
This new policy statement replaces unnecessarily disparaging labels with terms like 'person who committed a crime' and 'individual who was incarcerated,' decoupling past actions from the person being described and anticipating the contributions we expect them to make when they return. We will be using the new terminology in speeches, solicitations, website content, and social media posts, and I am hopeful that other agencies and organizations will consider doing the same."
DOJ "Transgender Bathrooms" Lawsuit Against North Carolina
On May 9, 2016, Lynch announced that the DOJ had filed suit against the state of North Carolina over HB 2, which sought to protect citizens from being intruded upon by transgenders, authentic or fraudulent, in public restrooms by dictating that all people should use the bathroom of their biological sex. At a press conference, Lynch said the following:
"Today, I’m joined by [Vanita] Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. We are here to announce a significant law enforcement action regarding North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also known as House Bill 2. The North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 in special session on March 23 of this year. The bill sought to strike down an anti-discrimination provision in a recently-passed Charlotte, North Carolina, ordinance, as well as to require transgender people in public agencies to use the bathrooms consistent with their sex as noted at birth, rather than the bathrooms that fit their gender identity. The bill was signed into law that same day. In so doing, the legislature and the governor placed North Carolina in direct opposition to federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity. More to the point, they created state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals, who simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security – a right taken for granted by most of us.
"Last week, our Civil Rights Division notified state officials that House Bill 2 violates federal civil rights laws. We asked that they certify by the end of the day today that they would not comply with or implement House Bill 2’s restriction on restroom access. An extension was requested by North Carolina and was under active consideration. But instead of replying to our offer or providing a certification, this morning, the state of North Carolina and its governor chose to respond by suing the Department of Justice. As a result of their decisions, we are now moving forward. Today, we are filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina. We are seeking a court order declaring House Bill 2’s restroom restriction impermissibly discriminatory, as well as a statewide bar on its enforcement....
"This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them – indeed, to protect all of us. And it’s about the founding ideals that have led this country – haltingly but inexorably – in the direction of fairness, inclusion and equality for all Americans.
"This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation. We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry. That right, of course, is now recognized as a guarantee embedded in our Constitution, and in the wake of that historic triumph, we have seen bill after bill in state after state taking aim at the LGBT community. Some of these responses reflect a recognizably human fear of the unknown, and a discomfort with the uncertainty of change. But this is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness. What we must not do – what we must never do – is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something they cannot control, and deny what makes them human. This is why none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something they are not, or invents a problem that doesn’t exist as a pretext for discrimination and harassment.
"Let me speak now to the people of the great state, the beautiful state, my state of North Carolina. You’ve been told that this law protects vulnerable populations from harm – but that just is not the case. Instead, what this law does is inflict further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share. This law provides no benefit to society – all it does is harm innocent Americans.
"Instead of turning away from our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, let us instead learn from our history and avoid repeating the mistakes of our past. Let us reflect on the obvious but often neglected lesson that state-sanctioned discrimination never looks good in hindsight. It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations keeping people out based upon a distinction without a difference. We have moved beyond those dark days, but not without pain and suffering and an ongoing fight to keep moving forward. Let us write a different story this time. Let us not act out of fear and misunderstanding, but out of the values of inclusion, diversity and regard for all that make our country great.
"Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself. Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time...."