U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer on Tuesday nominated new top federal prosecutors for the Southern and Eastern District of New York, offices that generally handle Long Island criminal cases.
Schumer, who also nominated someone for the Upstate Western District, said that his selections marked "the first time ever that three African American leaders would fill these critical positions" in the U.S. Justice Department.
For the Eastern District, which includes Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, Schumer nominated Breon Peace, 49, who was an Assistant United States Attorney in Brooklyn for three years, and is a longtime partner and member of the executive committee of the law firm Cleary Gottlieb in Manhattan.
"Despite his considerable legal success, Breon Peace is a Brooklyn boy at heart; he is the son of a pastor and proud product of Crown Heights and Clara Barton High School," Schumer said.
Colleagues who worked with Peace in the Eastern District shared Schumer’s enthusiasm.
"Breon was a terrific prosecutor during his time in the EDNY: energetic, analytical, and fair, with a great presence in the courtroom," said Kelly Currie, a former Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District. "In private practice Breon has represented clients facing the most complex legal challenges while also devoting much time to pro bono matters and community service. Breon is whip-smart but you won’t finder a nicer, humbler guy."
Peace was an undergraduate of the University of California, Berkley and the New York University School of Law.
The office’s most prominent case at the moment is a criminal investigation into New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration's handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes, according to sources. Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing.
The Eastern District has 175 prosecutors in offices in Brooklyn and Central Islip that, as with all United States Attorneys’ offices, work with federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and DEA, to investigate and prosecute crimes, as well as defend the United States government in civil court.
In the Southern District, Schumer nominated Damian Williams, 40, who has worked there for nine years, currently as the Chief of the Securities and Commodities Task Force. The Southern District includes Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess and Sullivan counties.
Of the Williams nomination, Schumer said: "I am particularly proud to recommend the first African American to lead what many consider the most consequential prosecutorial office in America, the Southern District."
Among Williams' major cases have been prosecutions of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for bribery, extortion and money laundering and that of former upstate Rep. Christopher Collins for insider trading.
A Harvard undergraduate, Williams got a law degree from Yale and was an associate law firm Paul, Weiss in Manhattan. He has clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court and Merrick Garland, the current United States Attorney General, when he was a Judge on the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
For the Upstate Western District, Schumer nominated Trini Ross, who he said "would be the first African American woman to hold that position."
Ross, who spent 20 years as a prosecutor in the Western District, is currently the head of the Inspector General’s office of the National Science Foundation, Schumer said.
She graduated from SUNY Fredonia, and got a master's from Rutgers University, and a law degree from SUNY Buffalo, Schumer said.
"All three of these superb and accomplished attorneys have dedicated their careers to equal justice under the law and will bring a passion for the rule of law, civil rights and justice to their respective posts, as well as profound integrity and expertise to their offices, " Schumer said. "I am confident that the lives of all New Yorkers will be made better."
The three have to be appointed by the President Joe Biden and approved by the U.S. Senate.