With Staff Writer Randy Furst:
Twin Cities trial lawyer Andrew Luger was recommended Tuesday to become the next U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, replacing B. Todd Jones, who has been named by President Obama to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Luger’s recommendation comes as Senate Republicans signaled that they might not block Jones, whose management style and views on gun control came under sharp GOP questioning in congressional hearings.
Luger, a former assistant U.S. attorney and DFL candidate for Hennepin County Attorney, was recommended by U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, the state’s senior Democratic senator. He specializes in business litigation and white collar crime.
Like Jones, who serves simultaneously as U.S. attorney and acting ATF chief, Luger faces a potentially lengthy Senate confirmation process. Jones also still faces a possible GOP filibuster, which could raise questions about when he might vacate his post in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Luger, a graduate of Amherst College and Georgetown University Law Center, was an assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y. from 1989 to 1992 and an assistant U.S. Attorney in Minnesota from 1992 to 1995.
He capped his tenure in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minnesota with a major prosecution of Gary Lefkowitz in connection with a $150 million tax and real estate fraud. Lefkowitz received a prison sentence of 23 years without parole, the longest white collar sentence in the United States at that time.
Luger also had a leading role in a probe that led to the downfall of the troubled Metro Gang Strike Force, a multijurisdictional law enforcement agency that was beset by rampant wrongdoing. Working with former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, he also took part in an investigation of the security that led to mass arrests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
Luger is currently a partner at the Greene Espel law firm in Minneapolis, where he specializes in civil litigation and white collar criminal defense.
His wife, Ellen Luger, is a vice president of General Mills and executive director of the General Mills Foundation.
Luger ran for Hennepin County attorney in 2006, winning the DFL endorsement. He lost to Mike Freeman in the general election. He also was a contender for the U.S. attorney post in 2009. But Jones, who had previously been U.S. Attorney in the Clinton administration, won the appointment.
By tradition, as the state’s senior senator, Klobuchar has primary responsibility for recommending a new U.S. Attorney to the Obama administration, which must formally make the nomination. However she and Franken formed a bipartisan advisory committee to review candidates and assist them in making a recommendation.
Klobuchar issued a statement praising Luger’s “experience, character, and drive.” She added that he has “earned the respect of the legal and law enforcement community and has proven to be a tireless advocate for the people of Minnesota.”
Franken’s statement cited the “breadth” of Luger’s experience in government and private practice. “Andy’s invaluable experience serving in both the public and private sectors make him an exceptional candidate for the job,” he said.
Luger has been selected one of Minnesota’s Top 100 “Super Lawyers” for the past ten years. He has been listed as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” for the past four.
In a statement accompanying the announcement, Luger said the U.S. Attorney “plays a critical role in ensuring justice for and protecting the safety of all Minnesotans,” and vowed to work closely with local and state officials.
Klobuchar and Franken’s advisory committee was led by Judge Timothy O’Malley. Members included: Heffelfinger; Annamarie Daley, a Minneapolis attorney in private practice; Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall; Donald Lewis, Dean of Hamline Law School; retired St. Louis County Judge Carol Person; and Chief Thomas Smith of the St. Paul Police Department.
Heffelfinger, who was the Minnesota U.S. Attorney under both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, gave the recommendation an imprimatur of bipartisanship. He called Luger a “team player” with the necessary “qualifications and skills necessary to excel in this position.”
Heffelfinger also has defended Jones against GOP attacks in the Senate. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has questioned Jones’ handling of a whistleblower complaint brought against him by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Paulsen.
On Monday, Grassley said that despite his reservations he is unlikely to try to block Jones nomination. Under Senate rules, however, any senator could object, possibly forcing a filibuster.
The U.S. Attorney is the chief federal law enforcement official in the state, responsible for the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the federal government as well as the prosecution and defense of civil cases involving the federal government.