Barring complication, Dakota County District Judge Erica MacDonald is expected to be nominated as U.S. attorney for Minnesota, according to sources with knowledge of the nearly year-old search.
Sources said MacDonald, who previously applied for one of two U.S. District Court vacancies, emerged alongside Minneapolis attorney John Marti late last year as a leading candidate to become the state's top law enforcement official in charge of prosecuting cases ranging from terrorism to complex white-collar fraud conspiracies. Both candidates interviewed with senior Justice Department officials and sources say MacDonald underwent an FBI background check, seen as the final stage before a presidential nomination.
The U.S. attorney's office has been led on an interim basis by Greg Brooker, former first assistant to Andrew Luger, who was among 46 Obama holdovers ordered by the White House to resign last March. Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Brooker as interim U.S. attorney after Brooker reached a statutory maximum of 300 days of leading the office on an acting basis.
If MacDonald, or any other presidentially appointed nominee, is not sworn in by May, the district's federal judges must sign off on another extension for Brooker as interim U.S. attorney.
It is unclear when the White House will announce nominations for U.S. attorney, two federal judgeships and U.S. marshal in Minnesota. The latter three positions have been vacant even longer than U.S. attorney, and sources have identified candidates expected to be named for each of the roles.
A White House spokeswoman said Wednesday that the administration did not have any personnel announcements to make at this time.
In a statement Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said: "Based on my discussions with the Department of Justice, I believe they are close to a final decision on appointments for U.S. attorney, U.S. marshal and district court judge. I would like to get these positions filled with qualified people as soon as possible and they know that."
Hennepin County District Judge Nancy Brasel and Minneapolis attorney and law professor Eric Tostrud are expected to fill openings left in 2016 by the decision by federal judges Ann Montgomery and Donovan Frank to take senior status.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed MacDonald as a Dakota County judge in 2010, and she won re-election two years later.
She previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota from 2001 to 2009. If appointed, MacDonald would return to an office at which she spent the last three years of her tenure helping lead efforts against human trafficking as a point of contact and co-chair of the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force from 2006 to 2009. The Justice Department has made combatting trafficking a priority, and Brooker went to Washington, D.C., last Friday to speak at an all-day seminar on the subject.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and DePaul University College of Law, MacDonald spent a year as a federal prosecutor in Chicago before coming to Minnesota to clerk for Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Harriet Lansing.
MacDonald could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Marti, a former federal prosecutor and Marine Corps officer, had apparently emerged in December from a group of three candidates recommended by Klobuchar and former Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. But sources said intervention by former U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose may have ended his chances of being nominated.
A decade ago, Marti reached a financial settlement with the Justice Department and an independent federal probe found that Paulose retaliated against Marti after he filed a complaint over her mishandling of classified materials.
Paulose did not return messages seeking comment.
Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755