As expected, President Barack Obama nominated Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Melinda Haag on Thursday to be the next U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.
Should the U.S. Senate confirm Haag, she would succeed Joseph Russoniello, a Bush appointee. While some Republican incumbents have resigned once their successor is nominated, it doesn't appear that will be the case in San Francisco.
DOJ spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said Russoniello hasn't been asked to resign. Responding to an email about whether he would stay until Haag was confirmed, Russoniello wrote: "That's my plan, yes."
Considered a frontrunner for the job ever since Obama's election, Haag's nomination moved into the realm of virtual certainty in the past several weeks as the FBI began its background check.
The defense bar has consistently complained that Obama did not move sooner. One of their chief criticisms about Russoniello involved the relative lack of large-scale corporate indictments during his tenure. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who recommended Haag for the job, picked up on that issue Thursday.
"She is well-respected in the California legal community and will bring more than two decades of experience handling white-collar crime cases to the U.S. Attorney's Office," Boxer said in a statement.
Haag did not respond to an e-mail late Thursday afternoon.
Boxer's vetting committee produced three names last year: Haag, McDermott Will & Emery partner Matthew Jacobs and Kathryn Ruemmler, who was a top Justice Department staffer at the time. Boxer forwarded those names to Obama, but Ruemmler left the mix late last year when she agreed to become deputy White House counsel.
Russoniello has received some credit for rebuilding staffing and caseloads in the aftermath of Kevin Ryan's troubled tenure at the top of the office. However, critics, in the defense bar and on the political left, lambaste Russoniello for ramping up mandatory minimum sentences faced by low-level drug defendants, as well as vigorous immigration enforcement.
Before joining Orrick in 2003, Haag worked as a federal prosecutor in the Northern and Central districts of California. She was white-collar chief in San Francisco and prosecuted civil rights cases, securing the conviction of two California prison guards for soliciting inmate stabbings.
In private practice, Haag represented several general counsel accused of improperly backdating stock options, and helped win an acquittal for the former chief financial officer of McKesson Corp.