Mukasey, Michael B.

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MUKASEY, MICHAEL B.

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey was born on July 28, 1941 in the Bronx borough of New York City. He graduated from the Ramaz School, an Orthodox yeshiva on Manhattan's Upper East Side, in 1959 and then received an undergraduate degree from Columbia University in 1963. In 1967, he was awarded a law degree from Yale University before heading back to New York to enter the private practice of law. Mukasey's first job as an attorney was with the firm of Webster Sheffield. He moved on to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan in 1972. During his four-year tenure there, he developed a friendship with another young prosecutor named Rudolph W. Giuliani. Giuliani would go on to become mayor of New York City and, in 2007, a Republican presidential hopeful. The two reportedly retained a close relationship throughout the years.

In 1976, Mukasey joined the New York firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. His notable clients there included socialite Claus von Bulow, the Daily News, and the Wall Street Journal. Successful as his legal career had been thus far however, it was to reach still greater heights.

Mukasey was appointed to the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by then-President RONALD REAGAN in 1987. The Manhattan federal court was so famously independent that it had acquired the moniker “Sovereign District of New York,” and Mukasey promptly fit right in, quickly gaining a reputation as a tough and objective jurist. Indeed, while there was little doubt about his conservative character—he later endorsed provisions of the controversial Patriot Act, for instance, and supported Giuliani's presidential bid—his sense of fairness and adherence to the law garnered him many fans from the defense bar as well as the prosecutors. Good examples of this duality lay in Mukasey's rulings in the 2002/2003 trial of alleged terrorist Jose Padilla—on

Michael B. Mukasey

1967Awarded law degree from
Yale University
1976Joined law firm of Patterson
Belknap Webb & Tyler
1987Appointed to bench of
U.S District Court
2006Retired from federal bench
2007Appointed and confirmed as
U.S attorney general

the one hand, he agreed with the government's view that Americans could be held indefinitely as enemy combatants. On the other hand, he ruled against the government's contention that such prisoners should be denied access to legal counsel and was considerably less than pleased when prosecutors continued to drag their feet in the matter. The Economist quoted the judge's response as, “Lest any confusion remain, this is not a suggestion or a request that Padilla be permitted to consult with counsel, and it is certainly not an invitation to conduct a further ‘dialogue’ about whether he will be permitted to do so. It is a ruling—a determination—that he will be permitted to do so.”

Mukasey retired from the federal bench in 2006 and returned to his partnership position at Patterson Belknap. In September of the following year, he was again called to public service when President GEORGE W. BUSH nominated him for the position of U.S. attorney general following the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. The U.S. Senate confirmed him on November 8, 2007 in a 53–40 vote and sworn in the next day.

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