President Joe Biden nominated a veteran federal prosecutor with expertise in national security to be the U.S. attorney in the Atlanta-based Northern District of Georgia.
Ryan Buchanan would succeed Byung “BJay” Pak, a former Republican legislator appointed by then-President Donald Trump. Pak stepped down in January rather than heed demands from the White House to investigate false claims of widespread voter fraud.
Buchanan was recommended by U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The two Georgia Democrats touted his experience as an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta since 2013 and as deputy chief of the office’s Violent Crime and National Security division. Warnock called him a “stellar nominee for this important post.”
“Mr. Buchanan has dealt with everything from organized crime to foreign terrorist organizations over the course of his accomplished career, and few people in our state can match the scope of his legal expertise in securing justice and keeping Americans safe,” Warnock said.
The position had been filled by Kurt Erskine, a veteran prosecutor who served as acting U.S. attorney while the Biden administration vetted potential nominees.
Among the other candidates for the post was DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston, who has earned acclaim in legal circles for her approach to rethinking long-standing criminal justice practices.
While Boston was said to have impressed the selection committee, people familiar with the process said they were concerned tapping her would give Republican Gov. Brian Kemp a chance to select the top prosecutor in the state’s most important Democratic stronghold.
Buchanan has more than a decade of experience as a federal prosecutor. Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, Buchanan served as a federal prosecutor in Alabama from 2010 to 2013. He started his legal career as a clerk for a federal judge in Alabama and an associate at the McGuireWoods law firm, where he focused on labor and employment litigation.
Buchanan would inherit a wide-ranging portfolio. As the chief federal law enforcement in a territory that stretches across the northern third of Georgia, he would oversee an office of roughly 110 prosecutors and 135 other staffers who handle the investigation and litigation of all civil and criminal cases brought in the district on behalf of the federal government.
Biden has now nominated 37 people to serve as U.S. attorneys, but some legal experts have been frustrated by the slow pace of federal appointments. In Georgia, Biden also recently tapped Victoria Marie Calvert and Sarah Elisabeth Geraghty to fill long-vacant federal judgeships.
Pak was one of several high-profile Georgia figures under pressure from Trump to bolster his false claims of election fraud. He stepped down on Jan. 4 after a high-ranking Justice Department official relayed to him that Trump considered him a “Never Trumper” and wanted to fire him, Pak recently told congressional lawmakers.
His immediate successor, Bobby Christine, soon told the office’s attorneys that he dismissed two election fraud cases on his first day in office because “there’s just nothing to them.”
Credit: Curtis Compton
Credit: Curtis Compton
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Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com