A former Oakland attorney who rose to be the U.S. Justice Department’s third-in-command will step down and return to the private sector.
U.S. Associate Attorney General Tony West – brother-in-law of California Attorney General Kamala Harris – will leave his post Sept. 15, the Justice Department announced; the release didn’t specify where he’s going.
West, 49, has been the department’s No. 3 since early 2012 but was there from the administration’s start, nominated to head the Justice Department’s Civil Division just two days after President Obama took the oath of office in January 2009. Before that, he’d been a prolific supporter of and fundraiser for Obama’s presidential campaign while working as a litigation partner at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday said West “has been an indispensable member of the Department’s senior leadership team, an exemplary and dedicated public servant, and a close advisor and good friend.”
Holder praised West for working on issues such as the Obama Administration’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s constitutionality; securing re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act; advocacy for American Indian and Alaska Native rights; and combating financial fraud, holding corporations accountable, and fighting for consumers. His work has “made a tremendous and lasting difference in the lives of millions of people across the country,” the attorney general said.
“I have been honored to count him as a colleague – and privileged to work alongside him. I thank him for his service, and his friendship, over the past five years,” Holder said. “And although I wish him the best as he opens an exciting new chapter in his career, I will miss his leadership, his many contributions, and his steadfast commitment to the cause of justice.”
A candidate in the 23rd Assembly District’s 2000 Democratic primary, he later served as a delegate for John Kerry at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 — meeting Obama there, soon after the speech that put the future president on many Americans’ radar for the first time — and then for Obama in Denver in 2008. He served as a California finance co-chairman for Obama’s first campaign, raising at least $500,000 and often speaking on Obama’s behalf at campaign events.
West holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard College, where he was the Harvard Political Review’s publisher, and a law degree from Stanford University, where he was the Stanford Law Review’s president.
In 1993 and 1994, he was a special assistant in the Clinton administration’s Justice Department, working on national crime policy including the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill. From 1994 to 1999, he was an assistant U.S. attorney here in Northern California, prosecuting a wide range of criminal cases; his highest-profile case there might have been that of the “Orchid Club,” an international online child pornography and molestation ring involving 16 defendants in four countries — all convicted.
From 1999 to 2001, West was a California Special Assistant Attorney General appointed by then Attorney General Bill Lockyer to advise on high-tech crime, identity theft, the Microsoft antitrust litigation, police officer training, civil rights and police misconduct; in 1999, he helped lead a review of the shooting death of an unarmed woman by four Riverside police officers, which led to that department being forced to adopt new policies.