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Senate OKs Judge Debra Yang as L.A.'s Top U.S. Prosecutor


WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday unanimously confirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Debra W. Yang as the top federal prosecutor in Southern California, making her apparently the first Asian American woman in the nation to become a U.S. attorney.

President Bush nominated Yang for the job less than three weeks ago. Unlike other law enforcement and judicial posts that have been slowed by bickering between Democrats and Republicans, her appointment sailed through the Senate without opposition.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) praised the selection, citing Yang's five years of service as a judge in Los Angeles municipal and superior courts and her six years as a federal prosecutor.

Yang, 42, could not be reached for comment Monday after the Senate vote. In an interview this month, she said she was eager to begin assessing the needs of the U.S. attorney's office, although she added that she had no immediate changes in mind.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, the U.S. attorney's office prosecutes federal crimes referred by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and numerous other law enforcement agencies in a seven-county area that includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. With 15.4 million people, it is the most populous region served by any U.S. attorney's office.

Yang will assume leadership of the office at a time of profound change in federal law enforcement.

The office traditionally has prosecuted a range of federal crimes, including drug trafficking, bank robberies, white-collar crime, kidnapping, murder and other violent crimes. But since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, federal authorities have sought to train their resources more squarely on counter-terrorism to bolster the nation's security, and officials acknowledge that they may have to back off other investigations as a result.

Yang, active in Republican affairs, was chosen to succeed former U.S. Atty. Alejandro N. Mayorkas, a Democrat, who resigned last April. The office, with 245 lawyers, has been headed on an interim basis by John S. Gordon, a career prosecutor.

Yang, whose grandfather emigrated from China, is a 1985 graduate of Boston College Law School. She is the first Asian American woman to lead the Southern Californian prosecutor's office.

Feinstein's staff said that, based on what they have been told by the Asian American Bar Assn., Yang also is believed to be the first Asian American woman to hold the post of U.S. attorney in the country.

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