Judge Yang Nominated as L.A.’s U.S. Attorney

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Superior Court Judge Debra W. Yang has been nominated by President Bush to become U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, the White House said Monday.

Yang, 42, would become the first Asian American to hold the seven-county post, the largest federal prosecutor’s office outside Washington, D.C.

Yang, a former federal prosecutor, said she hopes for a quick Senate confirmation vote. No opposition is expected.


“I’m anxious to get into the office and begin assessing what its current needs are, and what changes need to be put into place,” she said. However, Yang added that she has no changes in mind at this time.

She estimated it would take her about two weeks to clear her calendar at the Santa Monica courthouse.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has not scheduled a vote on the nomination. A spokeswoman said the committee is awaiting documents from the White House.

Yang’s nomination had been expected for several months. The White House counsel’s office recommended her to Bush last fall after interviewing a short list of finalists--including Yang and two Los Angeles attorneys.

Active in Republican Party affairs, the Los Angeles native was chosen to succeed former U.S. Atty. Alejandro N. Mayorkas, a Democrat, who resigned last April. The 245-lawyer office has been headed on an interim basis by John S. Gordon, a career prosecutor.

With headquarters in Los Angeles and branches in Santa Ana and Riverside, the U.S. Attorney’s office prosecutes federal crimes in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The office also represents the Justice Department in civil-law suits.


Yang, whose grandfather emigrated from China, has been active in the Asian American Bar Assn.

After graduating from Boston College Law School in 1985, she practiced civil law for three years and then clerked with U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew in Los Angeles. Following another year in private practice, she joined the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1990 and prosecuted cases for six years.

Praise for Handling of Kidnap-Rape Case

Prosecutors have praised her for her 1994 prosecution of Timothy D. Shue, a parolee who kidnapped a Castaic real estate agent at gunpoint, forced her to withdraw cash from an ATM and then drove her to Arizona, where he sexually assaulted her. Shue was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

David Schindler, a former colleague in the U.S. Attorney’s office, said that in addition to her legal skills, Yang displayed rapport with crime victims.

She also was a favorite among federal law enforcement agents, he said, because she understood and appreciated the dangers they encountered on the street.

“Because of this, Deb is going to be a tremendously successful U.S. Attorney,” Schindler said.


Ellen Barry, a former federal public defender who represented Shue in the kidnap-rape trial, recalled that Yang “was always professional and friendly. She was a pleasure to work with, even though she was on the other side. I think she’s going to make a fine U.S. Attorney.”

Lew, her former mentor, said he was elated about Yang’s nomination: “She’s certainly well qualified for this position and I look forward to her speedy confirmation ....”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Patricia Donahue described Yang as tough but fair, intelligent and excellent at assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a case.

Gordon offered his congratulations and said he and his staff “intend to do our best to make the transition for her as smooth as possible.”

Yang left the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1997 when Gov. Pete Wilson appointed her to a Municipal Court judgeship in Los Angeles. When the county’s court system was unified in 2000, she became a Superior Court judge.

Yang was also in the running for a federal judgeship. A local bipartisan selection committee headed by Gerald Parsky, who ran Bush’s presidential campaign in California, recommended Yang to the White House by a 6-0 vote. But Yang indicated that she preferred the U.S. Attorney’s post.