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LOS ANGELES � More than a dozen federal prosecutors, faced with maturing government careers and low salaries, have left the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California � the largest exodus out of the office in years. Many of the departures come after U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang resigned on Oct. 17 to become a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles. Many of the departing prosecutors are seasoned deputy chiefs and have taken jobs at firms including Foley & Lardner; O’Melveny & Myers; Jones Day; McDermott, Will & Emery; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; and Los Angeles-based Musick, Peeler & Garrett. Despite the timing of the departures, several prosecutors said their decision to leave the office had little to do with Yang’s resignation and more to do with government salaries that haven’t kept up in recent years with the region’s soaring housing prices. “My family grew faster than my income,” said Jaime Guerrero, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles who joined Foley & Lardner’s Los Angeles office as senior counsel this month. “Unfortunately, my government salary wasn’t increasing in any shape or form,” Guerrero said. THE HOUSING FACTOR Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, attributed the departures to the average career span of a prosecutor � between six and nine years � and the large number of hires that were made in the late 1990s. But he also said government salaries present challenges. “In terms of the overall problem of being a government servant in a city that has very high housing prices, that has been a problem for years,” he said. “But I think it’s certainly been exacerbated over the past few years with a huge run-up in housing prices in Southern California.” He said the office, which is headed by Acting U.S. Attorney George Cardona, expects to hire a dozen new prosecutors. Many of the departing prosecutors had served in senior positions at the U.S. attorney’s office. In addition to Yang, John Hueston, a lead prosecutor in the criminal case against Enron Corp.’s Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay, joined Irell & Manella of Los Angeles as partner. Adam Kamenstein, former deputy chief of the public corruption section, left to become a partner in the Los Angeles office of McDermott, Will & Emery. “Many are very senior people who have in excess of seven to 10 years in the office,” said William Carter, who joined Musick, Peeler & Garrett in November after 12 years at the U.S. attorney’s office, where he was chief of the environmental crimes section. THE FAMILY FACTOR Many of the departing prosecutors said they are in their late 30s with growing families. Law firms in Los Angeles pay up to four times the salaries of the U.S. attorney’s office, said Douglas Fuchs, former deputy chief of the major frauds section who joined Gibson as of counsel this month. “We have kids who are going into private schools, or worry about funding colleges, and it’s just in L.A. something you can’t afford if you’re the primary breadwinner on a government salary,” said Brian Hershman, former deputy chief of the public corruption section at the U.S. attorney’s office. Hershman recently joined Jones Day’s Los Angeles office, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Hoffstadt plans to join in February. James Asperger, chairman of the global enforcement and criminal defense group at O’Melveny & Myers, which former Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Shallman joined this month, said federal prosecutors bring courtroom experience. “When you’re dealing with the types of issues that major companies and corporate officers are facing today, that experience and judgment and skill set is important,” Asperger said. SOME BECOME JUDGES Not all the prosecutors jumped for law firms. Bruce Riordan, former deputy chief for the Los Angeles organized crime and terrorism section, joined the Los Angeles city attorney’s office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kwan was appointed a U.S. bankruptcy court judge for the Central District of California. Others have been appointed judges in San Diego County and Los Angeles County superior courts. Amanda Bronstad is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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