Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Page 1


Yang to Resign as U.S. Attorney, Join Gibson Dunn


By Tina Bay, Staff Writer


U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang of the Central District of California said yesterday she has resigned her office effective Nov. 10 and will join the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Jan. 1.

Yang, 47, said she decided to step down from public service for personal reasons.

“I’m a single mother with three small children and I just sort of needed to take care of my family,” she said, adding that she began thinking about leaving this summer after her former colleague Michael T. Shelby, who had served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas, died of bone cancer.

“He had left public service so that he could provide for his children, and never had an opportunity to do that because he died,” Yang explained. 

Yang is set to co-chair Gibson Dunn’s National Crisis Management Practice Group along with Washington, D.C. partner Theodore B. Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general, and New York partner Randy Mastro, who served as New York’s deputy mayor of operations under Rudy Giuliani.  She is also expected to play a central role in the Business Crimes and Investigations Practice Group, the firm said.

‘Next Chapter’

She expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to serve as U.S. attorney, and said she would miss her colleagues.

“There probably isn’t a nobler kind of work to do in the legal profession,” she said.  “I think I have been very fortunate.  I work with amazing lawyers, and am humbled by their talents and their skills and dedication.”

But as sad as she is to leave her job, Yang added, she is very excited to work with Gibson Dunn.

“I’m really looking forward to the next chapter of my life,” she said.  “I selected a firm that I thought I could spend the rest of my days with.  I was so struck by the caliber of lawyers that they have and the kind of practice they have.

“And they’re a homegrown Los Angeles-based firm—I just think that it’s a perfect fit for me,” the Los Angeles native added. 

Olson, in a statement released by Gibson Dunn, said Yang’s addition would be enormously helpful to the crisis management group, which provides legal and strategic advice for responding to crises both inside and outside the courtroom.

“Her experience will be highly relevant for these high-profile matters that may require simultaneously managing criminal and civil litigation, internal investigations, legislative and regulatory investigations, and intense media scrutiny,” he remarked.

Bush Appointee

Appointed by President George W. Bush, Yang has been U.S. attorney since 2002 and is the first Asian American woman to hold the position.  She had served in the 1990s  as an assistant U.S. attorney for approximately seven years, during which time she prosecuted both violent and white-collar crimes, international money laundering, computer crimes and arson.

While at the helm of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles—which employs nearly 260 assistant U.S. attorneys and is the largest U.S. Attorney’s office outside of Washington, D.C.—Yang has served on the president’s Corporate Fraud Tax Force and has chaired the attorney general’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rights. 

She was also selected to serve on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’ advisory committee, and is currently on the Ninth Circuit Jury Reform committee.

Yang said of her tenure as U.S. attorney: 

“I think I want to be remembered as someone who worked to help put the Central District of California back on the map with respect to national prominence in a number of different substantive legal areas.”

Prior to becoming U.S. attorney, Yang served as a Los Angeles Superior Court judge and, before the trial courts were unified in 2000, a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge upon appointment in 1997 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson.

She has taught trial advocacy as an adjunct professor at the USC School of Law, and has also been an instructor for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and California’s Judicial College.

Yang’s professional activities include membership in the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association, the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

She has been recognized for her achievements by various institutions organizations including the Los Angeles City Council and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, which selected her as the 2003 recipient of its Trailblazers award.

Admitted to the State Bar in 1986, Yang holds a law degree from Boston College Law School and an undergraduate degree from Pitzer College in Claremont.

The Department of Justice is expected to appoint an interim successor sometime prior to Yang’s departure, but there was no word yet on when that would occur or who might be named, a department spokesperson told the MetNews.


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company