President Biden nominates Ison, Totten for Michigan U.S. attorney jobs
President Joe Biden has named Dawn Ison a US attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan.
In the Western District, based in Grand Rapids, Biden has selected Mark Totten, Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s current Chief Counsel and the 2014 Democratic nominee for Attorney General. The governor called Totten “invaluable” and one of her closest advisers.
Their nominations, announced by the White House on Friday night, will be sent to the U.S. Senate, where they will submit responses to questionnaires about their education, legal career, attorney affiliation, awards, published articles and statements, political affiliations, major cases, and litigation , Sources of income, wealth, potential conflicts of interest, and pro bono work. They are scheduled for hearings before the Judiciary Committee.
US Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township applauded the nominations. Stabenow expressed his confidence in the nominees and called Ison “highly qualified” and Totten “a highly respected lawyer”. Stabenow and Peters submitted applications recommending candidates for the next US attorneys in Detroit and Grand Rapids.
“Dawn Ison and Mark Totten are exceptional attorneys who represent the best of Michigan and I am delighted that the Biden administration announced their nominations today,” Peters said in a statement Friday. “I am confident that these dedicated officials will represent our state and country with honor in making decisions that directly affect the lives of Michigan people.”
Ison, 57, of Farmington Hills, emerged as one of two finalists for the Eastern District after serving as US assistant attorney for more than 19 years in a career that touched on notable cases of drug dealing, electoral integrity and public corruption.
Early in her career, she worked as a defense attorney, an unconventional background trait for a federal attorney that made her an attractive candidate for Biden.
Ison was among a diverse field of current and former federal attorneys who signaled an interest in becoming the next U.S. attorney in Detroit, replacing Matthew Schneider, who resigned in January after President Donald Trump lost his re-election offer.
A board of lawyers is believed to have narrowed the field earlier on Ison and U.S. Assistant Attorney Mark Chutkov, the bureau’s chief criminal who made his name on the indictment of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The incumbent US attorney Saima Mohsin, the first Muslim US attorney with a migrant background in American history, did not pursue the nomination.
The Eastern District of Michigan spans a vast geographic area spanning 34 counties and serving 6.5 million people in the eastern half of the Lower Peninsula. A team of approximately 120 federal attorneys oversees civil and criminal cases in Detroit, Flint, and Bay City.
Former US attorney Barb McQuade, selected for the position by the Obama administration, welcomed the nomination on Twitter on Friday and tweeted, “Congratulations to Dawn Ison as the next US attorney to be nominated for the Eastern District of Michigan became. Nice choice! Bravo! ”McQuade was the first woman to serve in this position.
The court processed more than 4,100 new case submissions last year, the third highest case figure behind courts in Ohio in a region that includes Kentucky and Tennessee. The Detroit-based district has distinguished itself in recent years for following up most of the country’s local corruption cases.
The Detroit attorneys welcomed the appointment of a seasoned Detroit attorney at Ison, a graduate of Wayne State Law School and Spelman College.
“I like Dawn, I’ve known her for years and get on with her,” said Detroit defense attorney Mike Rataj. “I have my job and she has hers. I am confident that she will do a good job as a US attorney. “
Ison’s nomination is well deserved, said Detroit attorney Todd Russell Perkins.
“Not only is she a seasoned, experienced, and conscientious attorney who has worked in all facets of the law, but she is also a mother, wife, and someone who knows and loves this community,” Perkins wrote in a text on The Detroit News. “She has earned the privilege of serving our community in this capacity. She ‘walks with kings (and queens) and has never lost common ground.’ “
Over the past few weeks, Ison has helped secure the conviction of a key figure in the public corruption trial against Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars. Downstream real estate entrepreneur Shady Awad pleaded guilty on October 22, admitting bribing Sollars with more than $ 53,000 in cash, appliances, home renovations and play money in Las Vegas.
One of their most notable cases is the charges against the Black Mafia Family drug lord Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory.
Flenory, 53, has received support from celebrities, politicians and the general public while serving a 30-year prison sentence for running one of the largest drug trafficking and money laundering rings in Detroit history. Ison has fought to keep Flenory in jail as he argues that he continues to pose a threat to the community and does not suffer from COVID-19 risk factors.
In a lawsuit, she showed blunt harshness and wrote that the drug lord had a “sham obligation to positively influence Detroit”.
“Flenory would do nothing to destroy the street credibility he still enjoys today,” Ison wrote. “Rather, as he is doing now, he would do anything to further promote it.”
Defense attorney Wade Fink, who previously represented Flenory, texted The News. “New US Attorney Ison and I have very different views on the criminal justice system. However, I admire anyone who has devoted their lives to the civil service, and I am sure she will give quality leadership to the citizens of this district.”
Some former colleagues praised Ison as an experienced, prudent prosecutor who knows his way around complex federal investigations.
“She’s tough but fair and would serve as the strong head of this office – an office filled with talented attorneys who have a track record in conducting some of the most significant federal criminal investigations in the country,” said the former US assistant Attorney Louis Gabel, a partner in Jones Day law firm in Detroit. “I expect she will add to this track record during her tenure.”
The news came as part of the Biden administration nominating its first U.S. marshals, including the first black man to serve as a U.S. marshal in Minnesota, along with a number of other historic firsts for U.S. legal posts across the country.
Eddie Frizell’s appointment as U.S. marshal in the District of Minnesota comes months after two sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a black man in Minneapolis while he was on a volatile Marshals Service task force, causing controversy over how the Justice Department is implemented his policy on body-worn cameras.
Biden has now nominated 37 US attorneys, positions that have been filled by incumbent US attorneys for months.
Totten, 47, from Kalamazoo has been Whitmer’s Chief Legal Counsel since taking office in January 2019. Previously, he was an associate professor in the College of Law at Michigan State University and an attorney with the US Department of Justice.
He stepped into the spotlight in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and provided legal guidance on how the governor’s unilateral executive orders to combat the spread of the virus across Michigan would be enforced. On October 2, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Whitmer had violated her constitutional authority by continuing to issue orders on COVID-19 without the consent of state lawmakers.
Totten “oversaw a team of great lawyers who have worked together to get big things done and make sure all the little things are done right,” Whitmer said Friday.
“As a former prosecutor, I can’t think of a more qualified leader serving as a US attorney for the Western District of Michigan – the place Mark calls home,” said Whitmer, a former Ingham County prosecutor. “I and everyone in the executive branch and throughout the state government will miss Mark’s wisdom and memos, wit and leadership, wise advice and unbeatable instinct.”
Totten was the Democratic nominee for Michigan attorney general in 2014, losing 8 percentage points to Republican Bill Schütte. At the time, Totten said he hoped to pursue proceedings against predatory lenders and advocate consumer protection laws.
He lives in the fourth generation of Michigan with family roots in the Mason and Macomb counties. He was raised in Kalamazoo by his mother, a single parent and first grade teacher who taught in public schools for more than 30 years, according to a statement from his former attorney general.
Totten attended Kalamazoo Public Schools and graduated from Yale University with a law degree.
The Associated Press helped.