10 things about US attorney-general nominee Loretta Lynch

Ms Loretta Lynch, 55, won Senate approval as US attorney-general on Thursday (April 23), becoming the first black woman to occupy the post in the United States.

Her appointment comes at a time when deadly altercations between white police and unarmed black men are making headlines.

Here's what you should know about Ms Lynch:

1. She was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1959, the year before black students sat down at a whites-only lunch counter in the city and sparked protests around the nation. She is the daughter of a fourth-generation Baptist minister and a school librarian, and the middle of three children.

2. She attended an elementary school with mostly white students, and during a media interview, she recalled scoring high on a standardised test but school administrators demanded she retake the test. Her mother fought back, saying the score would not have been questioned if her daughter was white. Eventually the young Loretta took the test again and scored even higher.

3. She said in an interview that she should have been her high school's first African-American valedictorian. But after much hand-wringing, school administrators decided she had to share the honour with two other top-scoring students - one black and the other white. "We were all friends," she said, "and we all thought this is really dumb. But it became a huge deal."

4. She attended Harvard University in 1978 and Harvard Law School in 1982.

5. Ms Lynch is the only person to hold the title of US attorney for the Eastern District of New York twice. It is one of the country's premier US attorney's offices and handles everything from cybercrime to organised crime, public corruption, financial fraud and terrorism.

6. As a prosecutor in the US Attorney's office, she helped convict the white New York police officers who assaulted and sodomised black Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a broomstick, in one of the highest-profile police brutality cases of the 1990s. Though race was a bitter undercurrent of the entire case, she rarely focused on it - until the defence tried to. Then she and her team took the potentially explosive issue head on. The key accused was sentenced to 30 years in prison and Mr Louima won US$8.7 million (S$ 11.7 million) in settlement - the largest police brutality settlement in the city's history.

7. When announcing her nomination, President Barack Obama said: "Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent US attorney's offices in the country... Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists and still has the reputation for being a charming 'people person'."

Besides the Abner Louima case, her team also led a civil rights investigation into the police chokehold death of Eric Garner that occurred in Staten Island in July 2014. Her office also prosecuted the most terror suspects in the country since the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks.

8. She has a reputation for being a talented investigator and a trial attorney with excellent judgment. Mr Zachary Carter, former US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said: "She is just unflappable. I have never seen her outwardly manifest anger or extraordinary frustration. She's the person who keeps everyone else calm."

9. Ms Lynch also found time for pro bono work. In 2005, she travelled to Rwanda to teach a trial advocacy workshop for prosecutors at the Rwandan war crimes tribunal to help restore justice after the genocide. "I listened to the genocide survivors as they told me how they were forced to hide under the dead to avoid capture, and watched as they showed me the machete scars they still carried," she wrote in the Class Report. "But I learned the most as I saw how they carried on with life, reaching out to orphans to create new families, knitting together a future out of the scars of the past."

10. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two step-children.


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