2 Current, 3 Former Federal Prosecutors Are Finalists for U.S. Attorney for D.C.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor.
U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor. (Marvin Joseph - The Washington Post)
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By Del Quentin Wilber and Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 29, 2009

Two current and three former federal prosecutors have emerged as finalists to become the U.S. attorney for the District, according to sources familiar with the process.

The current prosecutors are Channing Phillips, 51, and Roy L. Austin Jr., 39, and the former prosecutors are Anjali Chaturvedi, 40, Ronald C. Machen, 40, and Shanlon Wu, 50, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the selection process.

The next top prosecutor is not expected to take office until this fall. Jeffrey A. Taylor, a Republican who was tapped by President George W. Bush to take the post in 2006, is stepping down today to take a job in the private sector, officials said. His resignation was expected.

A 17-member nominating commission has been interviewing the five candidates and will send its recommendations to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). She is expected to interview the finalists and pass on her suggestions to President Obama. Norton did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. attorney's position is one of the most coveted in federal law enforcement. The U.S. attorney oversees the largest federal prosecutors office in the country, with about 340 prosecutors who handle local and federal criminal cases. Some of the nation's most high-profile crimes are handled by the District's federal prosecutors.

Because the District does not have an elected local prosecutor, Norton plays a key role in the secretive selection process.

The decision rests with Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. The sources said two leading candidates mentioned in news reports several months ago did not apply.

Norton and the commission also are reviewing applications for three U.S. District Court judge openings. At least 23 judges and lawyers have applied.

The five lawyers who applied for U.S. attorney declined to comment. Friends, associates and their law firms provided brief biographical sketches of them.

Phillips started working in the U.S. attorney's office in the District in 1994 after being hired by Holder, a former U.S. attorney for the District. Phillips hasn't prosecuted a case in 12 years but has served as senior adviser and part of the executive staff to the past five U.S. attorneys in the District. He attended the University of Virginia and received his law degree from Howard University. He lives in the District.

Machen is a partner at the law firm WilmerHale and was an assistant U.S. attorney in the District from 1997 to 2001. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, Machen handled crimes ranging from theft to mail fraud, according to his firm's Web site. At WilmerHale, he has specialized in internal investigations for corporations.

Wu is co-founder of District-based Wheat Wu. The firm specializes in white-collar defense work, as well as employment and corporate issues. He served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Justice Department from 1990 to 2001 and former counsel to then-Attorney General Janet Reno from 1999 to 2000. Wu received his bachelor's degree from Vassar College, his master's degree from Sarah Lawrence and his law degree from Georgetown University. He lives in Alexandria.

Austin returned to his job as a federal prosecutor in the District last month after leaving that position in May 2007 to become a partner at McDermott Will & Emery. From 1995 to 2000, Austin was a senior trial lawyer with the Department of Justice, specializing in civil rights cases. Austin did his undergraduate work at Yale University and received a law degree from the University of Chicago. He lives in Takoma Park.

Chaturvedi worked for 12 years in the federal prosecutors' offices in the District and Northern California, where she led an organized crime task force. In the District, her firm's Web site says, Chaturvedi successfully tried a nine-month racketeering trial. She also served as a counsel to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and is a partner at the law firm Nixon Peabody. She lives in Chevy Chase.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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