By any measure, the turnaround in the Northern District of California’s U.S. attorney’s office has been astonishing since Robert Mueller III took over in late 1998. The numbers are up — the office filed 915 criminal cases last year, an increase of more than one-third from just two years ago. Office morale is up, too: Mueller is convincing big-firm lawyers to come work for him, despite big pay cuts. About 100 federal prosecutors work full-time in the Northern District of California now, ten more prosecutors than Mueller’s predecessor was ever allocated.
The increase is a testament to Mueller’s connections in Main Justice: He has added the attorneys mostly by “borrowing.” Just two years ago, the office under then-U.S. attorney Michael Yamaguchi was in the midst of an exodus. Some 15 lawyers left, mostly for big firms, over an 18-month period. Criminal filings declined repeatedly, culminating in a record low of 651 in 1997. Finally, in August 1998, Yamaguchi was forced to resign after five rocky years known more for missteps than accomplishments. (In fact, Yamaguchi’s published comments about a pending murder case had caused more than a mistrial — they cost him a district court judgeship, and he had to settle for appointment as an immigration judge.)
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