Sally Yates joined the U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta with the idea that she would stay a few years, get some courtroom experience and then return to private practice.
But she spent the next 27 years with the U.S. Justice Department, staying on until President Trump showed her the door on Jan. 30. As acting attorney general, Yates had just refused to defend Trump's executive order closing the U.S. to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries.
“She should have resigned if she felt that strongly, not wait to be fired and get a bunch of headlines,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. Kennedy was perhaps Yates’ most hostile inquisitor during the subcommittee hearing last week in which Yates spoke publicly for the frist time since her firing.
An AJC profile of Yates finds that she did learn a thing or two about being a trial lawyer in her nearly three decades as a federal prosecutor.
“Her cross-examinations were so good,” said Atlanta defense attorney Jerry Froelich, who has faced Yates in court. “She’d destroy people on the stand. Brutal. Just brutal.”
Bill Rankin has been an AJC reporter for more than 30 years. His father, Jim Rankin, worked as an editor for the newspaper for 26 years, retiring in 1986. Bill has primarily covered the state’s court system, doing all he can do to keep the scales of justice on an even keel. Since 2015, he has been the host of the newspaper’s Breakdown podcast.