President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Georgia prosecutor Sally Quillian Yates to the office of deputy attorney general, weeks after he tapped New York prosecutor Loretta Lynch to replace Attorney General Eric Holder.
If both Lynch and Yates are confirmed by the Senate, it would be the first time two women led the attorney general’s office since the mid-1990s.
Yates, 54, started working for the Northern District of Georgia since 1989 and was nominated and confirmed as a U.S. attorney in 2010. Holder has praised Yates for her handling of high-profile cases and fighting public corruption, as Yates was chief of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section for years.
Holder visited Atlanta to call for calm on Dec. 1, in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner protests. He headlined a town hall meeting called The Community Speaks. In an early sign of her favor with the Obama administration, Yates entered with him and gave a speech of her own, calling for nonviolence and for justice. Holder introduced her as “Atlanta’s very own Sally Yates, our outstanding U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.”
“Her successful prosecution of Eric Rudolph for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing cemented her sterling reputation as a tough, and extremely talented, attorney,” Holder said in a statement. Yates also prosecuted two Georgia men who were planning a ricin and gun and bomb attack on Atlanta, who were sentenced to 10 years in prison last month.
In 2009, noted civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) attempted to block Yates’s nomination to U.S. attorney after Yates successfully prosecuted dozens of public officials in Georgia, including former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Earlier this year, Yates testified before the United States Sentencing Commission in support of an amendment that retroactively changed the sentencing guideline for federal drug offenders, but called for a cap on sentencing modifications to prevent straining criminal justice resources.
Yates’s husband Comer unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 1994 and 1996. He is director of the private Atlanta Speech School.
Yates graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia School of law in 1986, and has a journalism degree from the University of Georgia.