AG Loretta Lynch moves into spotlight with NC bathroom law speech

Loretta Lynch's North Carolina bathroom bill statement
Loretta Lynch's North Carolina bathroom bill statement

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Loretta Lynch's North Carolina bathroom bill statement 07:03

Story highlights

  • Lynch grew up in North Carolina, the state her department is suing
  • She served as special counsel to prosecutor in International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2005

(CNN)Until Monday, Loretta Lynch's tenure as attorney general was notable mostly for what it hadn't been -- in a word, notable.

Sure, Lynch made history on becoming the first African-American attorney general in the 225-year history of the job, and she's done all that President Barack Obama has asked of her.
But since taking office, New York Magazine argued in January, she deserved another historical distinction, as well: "the lowest-profile attorney general in recent memory."
That perception seemed to shift suddenly Monday when Lynch took the podium at the Justice Department to announce a lawsuit against North Carolina officials over a state law restricting bathroom access based on a person's biological sex.
The speech drew immediate condemnation from supporters of North Carolina's law and similar policies, and enthusiastic support from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community outraged by the laws.
"The World's Most Powerful Advocate for Trans Rights," is how Slate described her in a headline.
Here's more about her:

Early life and career

A photograph of Loretta Lynch from her high school yearbook.
  • Born the daughter of a Baptist preacher in 1959, Lynch grew up in North Carolina -- the state her department just sued. There, according to media reports, she earned the top grades in her 1977 high school senior class. But administrators asked her to share the valedictorian honors with two others "to avoid the controversy they feared would follow having the first lone black valedictorian," the Washington Post reported.
  • She earned her bachelor's and law degrees at Harvard University and went to work at a New York law firm.
  • In 1990, she joined the U.S. District Attorney's office in New York, rising to chief assistant to the U.S. attorney in the office in 1998 before being appointed by President Bill Clinton to the post herself in 1999. She left government service for eight years in 2001 before President Barack Obama appointed her to once again lead the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Previous accomplishments

  • In 1999, she helped prosecute New York police officers for violating the civil rights of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
  • Lynch served as the special counsel to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2005.
  • While awaiting confirmation as attorney general, she was appointed to lead the Justice Department's 2014 civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner in New York.

What she's been up to as attorney general

Lynch compares visibility of police misconduct to '60s
Lynch compares visibility of police misconduct to '60s

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Lynch compares visibility of police misconduct to '60s 03:07
  • Much of her time has been spent on issues surrounding police misconduct, including overseeing efforts to reform the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, as well as investigations of police in Chicago and efforts to calm tensions in Baltimore after Freddy Gray's death in police custody.
  • She did make waves just weeks after taking over at the Justice Department in announcing the indictments of 16 officials at soccer's world governing body, FIFA. ESPN labeled her the "Fifa Slayer" in a profile, complete with a comic book illustration of Lynch holding a soccer ball in one hand and a sword in the other against the backdrop of Lady Justice and her scales.