Senate confirms Dawn Ison to be U.S. attorney for Detroit

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday night confirmed by voice vote attorney Dawn Ison to be the next U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. 

Ison is set to become the first Black woman to hold the position, which serves as the top federal law enforcement officer in the Detroit area in a district covering 34 counties and 6.5 million people.

The vote came less than a week after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Ison's nomination on a bipartisan basis. 

Dawn Ison

Ison, 57, of Farmington Hills, has served as an assistant U.S. attorney since 2002 and worked earlier in her career as a defense attorney.

"She easily won confirmation because she was a well-qualified, mainstream nominee, who had strong support from the Michigan senators," said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

President Joe Biden nominated her for the post last month, along with Mark Totten to be U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan.

Totten, who has not yet been considered by the Judiciary Committee, has been Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's chief legal counsel and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for attorney general.

Among Ison's notable cases was the prosecution of Black Mafia Family drug lord Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory in 2012 as part of a larger investigation that involved 66 defendants charged with drug trafficking and money laundering offenses related to the organization. Ison supervised and directed the investigation, according to a questionnaire she submitted to the Judiciary committee. 

In her questionnaire, Ison also said she was a volunteer lawyer for election protection for the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, and she also volunteered with the Oakland County Democrats’ phone bank for the Biden campaign in 2020.

Ison is a graduate of Wayne State University Law School (1989) and Spelman College (1986). 

Ison would replace Matthew Schneider, who resigned in January after President Donald Trump left office. 

The Senate has not yet taken up the pending nominations of two Biden picks for the federal bench in Michigan — Judges Shalina Kumar and Jane Beckering.