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Saima Mohsin to be 1st Muslim US attorney next month

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 1/27/2021 Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press
a person posing for the camera: After Feb 1, 2021, Saima Mohsin will become Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She has been the First Assistant United States Attorney, a non-political position, since March 2018. She is a career prosecutor, having served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2002. Prior to that, she was a Deputy New Jersey Attorney General and an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan. An immigrant from Pakistan, she is the first Muslim to lead the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Michigan. She is believed to be the first U.S. Attorney nationally to be Muslim, said the U.S. Attorney's office in Eastern Michigan and Muslim advocates © U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan After Feb 1, 2021, Saima Mohsin will become Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She has been the First Assistant United States Attorney, a non-political position, since March 2018. She is a career prosecutor, having served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2002. Prior to that, she was a Deputy New Jersey Attorney General and an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan. An immigrant from Pakistan, she is the first Muslim to lead the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Michigan. She is believed to be the first U.S. Attorney nationally to be Muslim, said the U.S. Attorney's office in Eastern Michigan and Muslim advocates

Starting next month, the new top federal prosecutor in Detroit will be Saima Mohsin, the first Muslim to be a U.S. attorney in Michigan and the country, according to federal officials and Muslim advocates. 

On Feb. 2, Mohsin, 52, is to become the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan after the current U.S. attorney for the district, Matthew Schneider, steps down on Feb. 1. Serving for three years, Schneider announced his resignation on Thursday and said Mohsin, currently the first assistant U.S. attorney for eastern Michigan, will replace him. 

Born in Pakistan, Mohsin has been a federal prosecutor for decades, working since 2002 in the U.S. Attorney's Office. As an immigrant of Asian descent who is Muslim, she will bring diversity to an important position that is the chief federal law enforcement officer in the eastern part of the state. 

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Mohsin is the first Muslim to be a U.S. Attorney in Michigan and also the country, said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office of Eastern District of Michigan.  Mohsin is also believed to be the first U.S. attorney who is Pakistani-American. 

Mohsin has served in the U.S. Attorney's Office Violent and Organized Crime Unit, the Drug Task Force and the General Crimes Unit, the Department of Justice said in a news release. 

"I’m extremely pleased to leave this office in the hands of one of the finest federal prosecutors I’ve ever known, Saima Mohsin," Schneider said. "Saima is a dynamic trial lawyer and a talented manager.  And, as the first woman, immigrant, Muslim United States Attorney in American history, her service is truly historic. Saima will be an outstanding representative and defender of our community as the Acting United States Attorney."

Two leaders with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy and civil rights group, told the Free Press they were not aware of any U.S. attorney or acting U.S. attorney who has been Muslim.

"I do not believe that there has ever been a Muslim U.S. Attorney," said Gaider Abbas, an attorney with CAIR.

Michigan has a sizable number of Muslims and also a Pakistani-American population with several mosques across the region.

Some Muslims have been attorneys working for prosecutor's offices in Michigan. Michigan's Solicitor General, Fadwa Hammoud, who was appointed by Attorney General Dana Nessel to lead the Flint water investigation, is Muslim. But there hasn't yet been a top federal prosecutor who is Muslim.

The position of Acting U.S. Attorney is not a permanent one and judges could select later an interim U.S. Attorney. President Joe Biden could then nominate someone to fill the position, which would have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Then-President Donald Trump had nominated Schneider in 2018 and the U.S. Senate confirmed him in 2019.

Mohsin graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey, earning  a bachelor's degree and law degree.

She became an assistant district attorney in New York City and then worked for the state of New Jersey's Division of Criminal Justice, serving as a deputy attorney general in organized crime and racketeering.

She started working for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Michigan in 2002.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Matthew Schneider, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, is stepping down on Feb. 1 and will be replaced by Saima Mohsin, who is to become Acting U.S. Attorney. © U.S. Department of Justice Matthew Schneider, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, is stepping down on Feb. 1 and will be replaced by Saima Mohsin, who is to become Acting U.S. Attorney.

In March 2018, Mohsin assumed the position of first assistant  U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, a nonpolitical position, said the Justice Department.

She has "significant experience handling a broad variety of cases," said the Justice Department.

"It is a great honor to serve the citizens of the Eastern District of Michigan as Acting United States Attorney," Mohsin said in a statement. "I am deeply committed to fulfilling our core mission to faithfully enforce the law and seek justice for all."

Schneider said in his statement: “It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve the people of Eastern Michigan, alongside the incredibly hard-working team at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In the last three years, this team has overcome tremendous challenges, from the longest federal government shutdown in American history, to an enormous rise in violent crime, the greatest increase in civil unrest since 1967, and a global pandemic. ...  I could not be more proud of the work that they have accomplished."

Contact Niraj Warikoo:nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792. Twitter @nwarikoo

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Saima Mohsin to be 1st Muslim US attorney next month

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