Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, March 26, 2002


Page 1


Superior Court Judge Yang Nominated to Be U.S. Attorney


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Debra Yang has been nominated for United States attorney for the Central District of California.

The long-expected nomination was sent to the Senate Friday by President Bush. Yang, 41, had previously been recommended for the position by West Los Angeles attorney Gerald Parsky, who oversees nominations in California for the White House, and by a committee chaired by retired Court of Appeal Justice Elwood H. Lui.

Other candidates who sought the post reportedly included interim U.S. Attorney John Gordon, Assemblyman Rod Pacheco, R-Riverside, Ventura County District Attorney  Michael D. Bradbury, Los Angeles attorneys Gordon A. Greenberg, Thomas E. Holliday, Mark C. Holscher, Stephen A. Mansfield, Vincent J. Marella, and Donald Etra, and Uttam S. Dhillon, who recently left the Los Angeles office of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy to rejoin the staff of Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Newport Beach.

Gordon has run the 240-lawyer office, which serves seven counties, since April of last year, when Alejandro Mayorkas resigned at the insistence of the Bush administration.

Yang is on vacation and unavailable for comment, a court clerk said. But U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, for whom she clerked more than a decade ago, pronounced himself “ecstatic” at the nomination.

“Knowing her as I do, I know she will be an outstanding U.S. attorney for this district,” Lew told the MetNews.

Lew said he expected confirmation to be swift and without difficulty.

“I would not expect that there would be any controversy with Judge Yang, and if there was any I couldn’t begin to speculate as to what it could be,” the judge said. “She’s  a fine individual, a fine attorney and judge….I don’t thing anyone who knows her abilities would raise any concern.”

Also supporting the nomination yesterday was Loyola Law School assistant dean Laurie Levenson, a former assistant U.S. attorney.

“I think they’re lucky to get her,” Levenson said.

Levenson, who has been critical of the direction—or lack of direction—of the office under Gordon and Mayorkas, said senators on both sides of the aisle should have little difficulty supporting confirmation.

“She’s talented, she can do the job,” Levenson said. She predicted that Yang would refocus the office on the priorities for which it has been known in the past—including civil rights enforcement, narcotics prosecutions, and attacking white-collar crime—while addressing internal concerns and reaching out to the community.

“It’s a wonderful place and has wonderful people,” Levenson said of the office. But morale has been low, experienced prosecutors have left, and the new U.S. attorney will have to fill the void by supporting the people who are there, she said.

“I think [Yang] will do wonderfully,” in that area, Levenson added.

The nominee is a 1981 graduate of Pitzer College in Pomona, and graduated from Boston College Law School in 1985. She was an associate at two local law firms between 1985 and 1988, then clerked for Lew for a year prior to joining Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman & Macthinger.

She worked at that firm for a year before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She spent seven years there, working on forfeitures and then criminal prosecutions, including that of Glendale Fire Capt. John Orr.

Orr, a noted arson expert whom prosecutors used the fires he set as material for a book he was writing, was convicted of setting three fires to buildings involved in interstate commerce, several years before being sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in state court for the deaths of four people in another arson fire. 

Yang was appointed to the-Los Angeles Municipal Court by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1997 and became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge two years ago as the result of unification of the trial courts.

She has also been an adjunct professor at USC’s law school and served on the Judicial Council’s advisory committee on criminal law.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company