The refusal by U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss to step down is blocking the rise of the first Black nominated to head SDNY. U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (YouTube/Fair Use)

Audrey Strauss still mum about stepping down, as Biden White House under increasing pressure to name reformers as U.S. Attorneys

Audrey Strauss, the Nation’s top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan, has avoided stepping down, despite reports predicting her ouster since at least February.

By Progress New York Staff

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, the top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan, declined to explain her refusal to step down following a report that the Biden administration is coming under increasing fire to appoint Federal prosecutors to advance criminal justice reform efforts. President Joseph Biden (D) is the target of advocacy groups, urging him to “pick a new breed” of U.S. Attorneys, according to a report published this week by the Hill news Web site. For this report, the press office supporting U.S. Attorney Strauss turned down a request to answer a press inquiry. The pressure on the Biden White House follows efforts in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco to elect a wave of progressive district attorneys, according to the report.

As reported by Progress New York, U.S. Attorney Strauss has thus far kept the prestigious U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district out of the contentious fray over criminal justice reform. Indeed, her office reportedly works closely with the New York Police Department, or NYPD, on many investigations, and they share sensibilities that inform law enforcement agency culture. In the recent past, U.S. Attorney Strauss has described the NYPD as a partner, who she commends, at times calling them “outstanding.” It’s that close working relationship that has permitted other prosecutors, like State Attorney General Letitia James (D-NY), to take the lead on issues like holding the NYPD accountable for a pattern or practise of Constitutional rights violations and systemic police brutality, despite those issues falling under U.S. Attorney Strauss’ jurisdiction.

The first Black to head SDNY is being blocked from rising to the top by U.S. Attorney Stauss’ refusal to step down.

U.S. Attorney Strauss is a former C-suite executive for a mining corporation. She rose to the position of the Nation’s top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan during the Trump administration. Shortly after President Biden’s inauguration, the Biden White House requested that Trump-era U.S. Attorneys step down, according to a report published by the Washington Post. One month after that, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Damian Williams to succeed U.S. Attorney Strauss as the top Federal prosecutor at SDNY, as U.S. Attorney’s Strauss’ office is sometimes referred. Yet, in the time since, U.S. Attorney Strauss has clung to her post.

When Ms. Strauss’s predecessor, Goeffrey Berman, was being forced out as the top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Mr. Barr alluded to a sensibility inside the U.S. Department of Justice, or DOJ, that top Government lawyers consider building a “book of business” in civil cases before making the profitable move back to the private sector. After Ms. Strauss’s first stint as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, she worked herself up into lucrative partnerships at prestegious law firms Fried Frank and Mudge Rose before eventually being named as general counsel for aluminum conglomerate Alcoa. After that turn through the revolving door between the SDNY and big business, Ms. Strauss has returned. Like others before her, she can position herself to profit handsomely from her time atop SDNY. She is married to a successful attorney, and, through her son, her family is married into the Cuomo administration.