The prestigious position of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California has gone to Ismail Ramsey of the Berkeley-based criminal law firm Ramsey & Ehrlich, and yes, he’s the same guy who defended Mohammed Nuru last year.
When you read news stories about “federal charges,” like the high-profile Elizabeth Holmes case, these are prosecuted by top-flight federal attorneys led by someone with the title “U.S. Attorney for [X] District.” These U.S Attorney jobs are highly esteemed, there are only 93 such positions in the country, and they’re broken down by geographic district.
And here in the Northern District of California, we’ve had a new U.S. Attorney named today, as the Chronicle reports that Ismail Ramsey, of the Berkeley-based criminal law firm Ramsey & Ehrlich, has been nominated as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.
If the name Ismail Ramsey is familiar, it's because he was the lead attorney for Mohammed Nurru’s failed fraud defense last year, and before that, the attorney for ex-Uber executive Anthony Levandowski in the Uber-Waymo stealing trade secrets trial. So it seems odd at first blush that a criminal defense lawyer will prosecute criminals in one of the most esteemed positions in that capacity. But Ramsey has both prosecuted and defended alleged white-collar criminals in his decorated 26-year legal career.
Prior to starting up the Berkeley firm Ramsey & Ehrlich, according to his new White House bio, “Mr. Ramsey previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California from 1999 to 2003. From 1997 to 1999 and 2003 to 2005, he was an associate at Keker & Van Nest LLP in San Francisco, California. Mr. Ramsey served as a law clerk for then-Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1996 to 1997.
The question is whether Ismail Ramsey can get confirmed, and the Democrats holding the Senate in the midterm elections certainly helps. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla gave a joint statement to the Chronicle saying, “Ismail Ramsey brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the job and he is extremely well qualified for the position.”
Biden also nominated Kate E. Brubacher to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas.
For their part, the White House says in a statement that “These individuals were chosen for their devotion to enforcing the law, their professionalism, their experience and credentials, their dedication to pursuing equal justice for all, and their commitment to the independence of the Department of Justice.” The White House adds, “The President has proposed a budget that would significantly increase funding for law enforcement as part of a comprehensive approach to tackling the rising crime rate this administration inherited last year.”
As the Chronicle notes, the U.S. Attorney's Office for California's Northern District has seen quite a bit of turnover since Obama left office — with four different people holding the top job since 2015. The job is currently held by Stephanie M. Hinds, who took the job as Acting U.S. Attorney in March 2021, replacing a Trump appointee, and was formally appointed just a year ago by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Image: Ramsey & Ehrlich