Washington — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has appointed the top deputy to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to be interim U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.
Matthew J. Schneider, a former federal prosecutor, currently oversees the AG office’s active caseload and a staff of 500. He previously was lead counsel representing Gov. Rick Snyder and the state of Michigan in the Detroit federal bankruptcy litigation.
Sessions, who may appoint federal prosecutors to vacancies, said Schneider brings a “broad range of invaluable experiences” to the role.
“His investigations of corrupt public officials and gangs have delivered results for the people of Eastern Michigan. In this new role, he’s going to continue that good work and help keep Michigan safe,” Sessions said in a statement.
For months, Schneider has been mentioned as a likely choice for the position, but the White House has not nominated anyone to serve as U.S. attorney for the Eastern or Western districts of Michigan.
Schuette praised the selection Wednesday, calling Schneider an “outstanding lawyer” and “superbly qualified.”
“He is a person of utmost integrity, high character and will reflect everything that is great about Michigan in his new position,” Schuette said in a statement.
Schneider’s appointment, effective Thursday, was among 17 federal prosecutors announced Wednesday as interim U.S. attorneys.
The U.S. Department of Justice says a number of first assistant U.S. attorneys across the country are serving in acting capacities as the top federal prosecutors in their districts. But as of Thursday, several acting U.S. attorneys will have served the maximum amount of time permitted under Vacancies Reform Act, prompting Sessions to fill the vacancies.
The group includes Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch, who took over Michigan’s Eastern District after the previous U.S. attorney, Barbara McQuade, resigned the post at President Donald Trump’s request in March.
Lemisch will resume his role as first assistant U.S. attorney, remaining part of the executive staff, according to the Justice Department.
“I expect Mr. Schneider will be nominated and his name will be sent to the Senate, so he’s not there as a placeholder, but it’s a means for the administration to get its people into the U.S. attorneys’ offices,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.
“Schneider is well-regarded. He was in that office, so it’s not like he’s going to have a difficult transition period. This lets him get in there and get a start on what he wants to do.”
Henning described Schneider’s appointment as just a step in the process.
“It was 10 months ago that Barb McQuade and the others were fired, so in a lot of ways, it’s about time,” he added.
McQuade, who had been appointed by President Barack Obama in January 2010, oversaw several corruption investigations of city and local governments during her tenure. She is now a professor at the University of Michigan School of Law and a contributor to MSNBC.
Schneider previously worked as general counsel and chief of staff for the Michigan Supreme Court and as assistant general counsel in the White House budget office under President George W. Bush during his first term.
He worked as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District from 2003-11, where his work included anti-terrorism cases as well as cases involving public corruption, organized crime, and street and motorcycle gangs.
Schneider graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2000 and from Michigan State University in 1996. He’s also an adjunct law professor at MSU.
The administration also reportedly considered Leonid Feller for the post of U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.
Feller is a partner in the Chicago office of the firm Kirkland & Ellis, where he defends corporations and individuals in criminal, civil and regulatory cases, including representing Volkswagen AG in relation to its diesel scandal and General Motors Co. for its ignition switch litigation.
Names mentioned for U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan include attorneys Victor Fitz and Adam Tountas.
Fitz has served as Cass County prosecutor since 2003 and is chairman of the Republicans’ 6th District committee.
Tountas works at the firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge in Grand Rapids and is former chair of the Ottawa County GOP.
At the AG’s Office, Schuette said Chief Legal Counsel Laura Moody will take over the role of chief deputy attorney general and Deputy Solicitor General Eric Restuccia would assume the role of chief legal counsel.
Staff Writer Robert Snell contributed.