A veteran federal prosecutor originally from Gary was nominated Monday by Democratic President Joe Biden to serve as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana.
If confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, Clifford Johnson would make history as the first black U.S. attorney in the district, which includes all of Northwest Indiana and 32 counties altogether.
In a sense, Johnson already holds that distinction. He was acting U.S. attorney for six months in 2017 following the resignation of U.S. Attorney David Capp and prior to the appointment of U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch II.
During that period, Johnson oversaw the prosecution and conviction of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich on public corruption charges.
But Johnson’s experience as a federal prosecutor dates back to 1986 when he left the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division after five years to join the U.S. attorney’s office in Hammond as a civil assistant U.S. attorney.
The graduate of Gary’s Emerson High School and Valparaiso University Law School then served as chief of the local civil division before becoming first assistant U.S. attorney in 2010. He left the office in 2020.
The White House said the president selected Johnson for U.S. attorney because of his devotion to enforcing the law, professionalism, experience, dedication to pursuing equal justice for all, and his commitment to the independence of the Department of Justice.
In addition to directing the office’s criminal prosecutions, Johnson will be expected to cooperate with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and promote public safety throughout the Northern District of Indiana.
The president on Monday also nominated Zachary Myers to serve as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
If confirmed, Myers — the son of 2020 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dr. Woody Myers — also will be the first black person to lead that office, which is based in Indianapolis.
Indiana’s two Democratic congressmen, U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, and U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, issued a joint statement praising both U.S. attorney selections.
“We thank President Biden for taking the delegation’s recommendation and nominating these two exemplary public servants to help lead the justice system in our state,” Mrvan and Carson said.
“Zachary Myers and Clifford Johnson bring decades of experience in the legal profession and a strong commitment to public service. We look forward to working with both Senators Young and Braun for prompt confirmations of these extremely qualified nominees for their continued service to Indiana.”
The two Indiana U.S. attorneys are likely to be central to federal efforts to combat violent crime since many guns used in Chicago originate in the Hoosier State.
U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and routinely are replaced following a change in administrations.
Kirsch, a Schererville native who became U.S. attorney in 2017 under Republican President Donald Trump, resigned in December after the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment as a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Tina Nommay has been acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana since June 7 when she succeeded Gary Bell who resigned as acting U.S. attorney to become the district’s clerk of court.