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Michael Mukasey Nominated to Become the New U.S. Attorney General


Attorney General Michael Mukasey
Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images.

Biographical Details:

Michael Mukasey was born in 1941 in the Bronx. He received an A.B. from Columbia University in 1963, then graduated from Yale Law School in 1967. Mukasey is an Orthodox Jew, and if confirmed by the Senate will become the second Jewish attorney general in U.S. history. (The first, Edward Levi, served under President Gerald Ford.)

Career as Prosecutor:

After several years in private practice, Mukasey worked from 1972 to 1976 as the assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York? An up-and-coming young prosecutor named Rudolph Giuliani. To this day they remain friends, and Mukasey has been a vocal supporter of Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign.

Appointment as District Court Judge:

With the election of President Jimmy Carter in 1976, Mukasey went into private practice for more than a decade. In 1987, he was tapped by President Ronald Reagan to serve as a judge in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, the same district where he had served as prosecutor in the decade before.

The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing Case:

Mukasey presided over the 1996 trials of two high-ranking terrorists, Omar Abdul Rahman (aka "the Blind Sheikh") and El Sayyid Nosair, in which both were sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in the original 1993 World Trade Center bombing. During the trial, Mukasey was accompanied by armed law enforcement agents due to threats that had been made against him.

The José Padilla Case:

Mukasey became chief judge of New York's Southern District Court in 2000. In December 2002, he presided over the trial of José Padilla, a U.S. citizen who had been detained as an "enemy combatant" due to his alleged involvement in al-Qaeda. Mukasey earned the support of many civil libertarians when he ruled that the Bush administration must allow Padilla to visit his attorneys, an order that the Bush administration initially ignored. Padilla was later transferred to civilian courts, where he was convicted on conspiracy charges in August of 2007.

The Susan Lindauer Case:

Lindauer, a staff journalist at U.S. News and World Report, was arrested in 2004 on charges of working as an unregistered agent for the Iraqi government, which has allegedly given her $10,000 in bribes. She was deemed incompetent to stand trial in 2005, and forcibly administered sedative antipsychotic medication until the trial reached Mukasey's desk in September 2006, at which time he ruled that the forced medication order was unconstitutional and ordered that she be released on bail.


Days after rendering his decision in the Lindauer case, Mukasey retired from the bench and returned to private practice. Mukasey would go on to advocate in a Wall Street Journal editorial that Congress should establish FISA-style National Security Courts to try alleged terrorists and abandon the current system of enemy combatant detention.

Attorney General Nomination:

With the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in September 2007, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) suggested that Mukasey would be a good, moderate choice for attorney general. Schumer had previously mentioned Mukasey as a possible nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Mukasey, Schumer said, is "legally excellent, ideologically moderate," and "has shown a commitment to the rule of law." Somewhat surprisingly, the Bush administration apparently agreed.

Current Status:

On September 17, 2007, President George W. Bush announced Michael Mukasey as his nominee to succeed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey must still be confirmed by the Senate, but this seems a likely prospect given his record and broad bipartisan support.
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