Durkan at a recent press conference.
  • DH
  • Durkan at a recent press conference.

Jenny A. Durkan, an early appointee of the Obama administration, is leaving her post as US Attorney for the Western District of Washington at the end of September, according to a statement issued by her office today.

“I have been honored to serve the communities in Western Washington, to lead an office of extraordinary people and public servants, and to work with dedicated federal, state" and blah, blah, blah her platitudinous statement said (posted in full after the jump).

Boilerplate press releases aside, Durkan has spent the last five years being unflappably professional, consummately polite, and frightfully intelligent—all while while using her office to kick the butts of rotten organized crime rings.

Durkan comes from a family entrenched in the Democratic Party. Her father is the the esteemed state senator Martin Durkan, who chaired the senate's powerful ways and means committee. That pedigree and the younger Durkan's calculated ladder-climing has led people in the chattering class to speculate on her political ambitions—specifically that she's jockeying to become the first lesbian in the president's cabinet, perhaps under a possible Hillary Clinton Administration.

Durkan's office did not immediately respond to questions about any White House hope, but in the past—as is typical of people with ambitions of reaching higher office—she's always dismissed rumors of a specific political goal while refusing to rule anything out.

In the past few years, Durkan investigated the Seattle Police Department and ultimately charged it with a pattern or practice of excessive use of force and troubling signs of racial bias, eventually pushing the SPD into a landmark reform settlement. However, during the reform process Durkan has shown a tendency to political gamesmanship and divisive behavior with a community board trying to implement reform. Durkan was also took a leading hand in empaneling a grand jury inquiry into activists, an investigation that appeared to be more of a social mapping project based on people's anarchist political orientations rather than a bona fide crime-fighting operation.

Whatever Durkan does next, she'll be a bad-ass about it, even when it leaves us feeling a little queasy.

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Jenny A. Durkan announced today that she will step down as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington at the end of the month, after serving five years in office. She has informed the President, Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Senators Murray and Cantwell of her decision. Durkan, known nationally for her trial and legal work, was in the first group of six U.S. Attorneys nominated by President Obama in May 2009; she was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in September 2009.

“I have been honored to serve the communities in Western Washington, to lead an office of extraordinary people and public servants, and to work with dedicated federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement. Together we have taken on a range of challenges, threats and bad actors. We have made our nation and communities safer, while also making our civil rights stronger,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
“As United States Attorney for Western Washington, Jenny has served as a tireless advocate for the American people, for the citizens of Washington State, and for the cause of justice,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Jenny has been an exceptional leader in the Justice Department’s fight against cyber-crime… Jenny Durkan exemplifies the highest standards of personal integrity and professional excellence. For the past five years, I have been grateful for Jenny’s dedicated service and her wise counsel. I am certain that the people of Western Washington will continue to benefit from her service for years to come. And although I wish her the very best as she takes the next step in her career, I will miss her leadership, her contributions, and her friendship.”

Durkan served for two years on Attorney General Holder’s original Attorney General Advisory Committee, and has chaired his advisory Subcommittee on Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement since 2009.

Durkan is known for her national role in fighting cybercrime, and for increasing the federal capabilities to meet cyber-based national security threats. She helped craft the Department of Justice’s cyber strategy, and has worked with international partners to increase cyber security. At the same time, Durkan served on the Terrorism and National Security subcommittee. Durkan faced the reality of such a terrorist threat when authorities discovered a plot to bomb a military recruiting office in Seattle. The building also housed a daycare. The plot was disrupted and the men convicted.

During her tenure, Durkan moved the U.S. Attorney’s office to more proactive enforcement efforts, leading “hot spot” initiatives in areas of persistent crime and by targeting armed criminals and gun crimes. Under Durkan, these initiatives and other prosecutions were often coupled with forfeiture actions to recover money for taxpayers and strip criminals of their assets. In January of this year, the office announced that its work with DOJ and other U.S. Attorneys’ offices led to the recovery of over $800 million, while the office’s independent work recovered an additional $22 million.

Durkan’s office has received national recognition for its work against cartel-related drug trafficking organizations — cases notable for their use of wiretaps and sophisticated financial analyses. Assuming her position in the wake of the financial meltdown, Durkan took a hard line on “white collar” financial fraud, resulting in a number of convictions and significant prison terms for defendants. Durkan also formed a civil rights section in the U.S. Attorney’s office that has increased enforcement of civil rights laws, including the employment rights of returning military personnel.

Her office also joined with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division to investigate the Seattle Police Department’s use of force and concerns of biased policing. This led to broad reforms in the SPD and ongoing monitoring of a consent decree by the federal court. The team from the U.S. Attorney’s office that worked on the case will receive an award for their work from the DOJ next week in Washington, D.C.

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