The Office of the United States Attorney was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789, which provided for the appointment in each judicial district of a “person learned in the law to act as attorney for the United States . . . whose duty it shall be to prosecute in each district all delinquents for crimes and offenses cognizable under the authority of the United States, and all civil actions in which the United States shall be concerned . . . .”
The United States Attorney is appointed by the President to a four-year term with the advice and consent of the Senate. Upon expiration of his or her term, the United States Attorney continues to perform the duties of the office until a successor is confirmed. By tradition, United States Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President and the Attorney General.
There are 93 United States Attorneys serving in the 94 federal judicial districts, including Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. In California, there are four United States Attorneys' Offices: the Southern District, headquartered in San Diego with an El Centro branch office located in the Imperial Valley; the Central District, headquartered in Los Angeles; the Northern District, headquartered in San Francisco; and the Eastern District, headquartered in Sacramento.
Laura E. Duffy was sworn in as the Presidentially-appointed United States Attorney for the Southern District of California on June 2, 2010, by the Honorable Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. U.S. Attorney Duffy is the chief federal law enforcement officer for San Diego and Imperial Counties.
Prior to 1966, San Diego and Imperial Counties were within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles United States Attorney, who established a one-attorney branch office here in the mid-1950s. The Office has since grown to be the sixth largest and to exercise responsibility for one of the most voluminous caseloads in the nation.
San Diego is a major urban center that is the second largest city in California and the eighth largest in the United States. As such, it experiences the array of criminal activities--violent, drug-related and white collar--present in any metropolitan area. The District, however, is affected substantially by its proximity to Mexico. Both San Diego County and Imperial County have large Mexican cities immediately to their south. Tijuana, directly adjacent to San Diego, has a population estimated at two million people, and is Mexico’s third largest and fastest growing city. San Diego and Tijuana taken together constitute the largest binational metropolis in the world. Similarly Mexicali, bordering Imperial County on the south, is the state capital of Baja California, and has a population estimated at more than one million people.
The Southern District of California is home to the largest concentration of Navy and Marine Corps installations in the world, involving more than a half-million persons with an economic impact nearing $10 billion a year. (These include Naval Station-San Diego, Sub Base-San Diego, Naval Air Station-North Island, Naval Air Station-El Centro, Marine Corps Air Station-Miramar, U.S. Marine Corp Base-Camp Pendleton, and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR).) In addition to military bases on which the State of California does not exercise jurisdiction, three are "pockets" of federal territorial jurisdiction on federal facilities throughout San Diego. For example, the District has exclusive jurisdiction over the old Customs House at the San Ysidro Port of Entry and concurrent jurisdiction with respect to the San Diego Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), which houses as many as 1,000 federal prisoners. Eighteen Native American Indian Tribes are also located in this District.
The entire southern boundary of the District borders the Republic of Mexico, with international ports of entry at San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Tecate, Calexico (two ports, East and West) and Andrade. The entire western boundary of the District lies on the Pacific Ocean. There is a major port in San Diego, and a harbor in Oceanside.
Independent of metropolitan area features, this District=s current situation and future development must be evaluated from the perspective of its unique role as the border gateway between Mexico and the rest of California. Because of its location, the Southern District of California continues to be a major corridor for both illegal immigration and illicit drug trafficking activities. Two of the three busiest land ports of entry on the Southwest Border are located in this District. The San Ysidro Port of Entry, 15 miles south of downtown San Diego, is the busiest land border crossing in the world--inspecting more than 40 million persons and 17 million vehicles annually. Three other ports of entry (Otay Mesa, Calexico/ Mexicali, and Imperial Valley) as well as two additional inspection points (Tecate and Andrade) are within the jurisdiction.