Andrew Birge Appointed By The Court To Continue Serving As United States Attorney
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - Andrew Byerly Birge, who has led the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the last 14 months, has been appointed by the U.S. District Court to continue leading the Office. In an order signed yesterday afternoon, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker announced:
"Upon the unanimous vote of the Court, the Court exercises its authority . . . and appoints Andrew Byerly Birge to be United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, effective immediately upon expiration of Mr. Birge's existing appointment . . . and continuing until the President fills the position with a nominee confirmed by the United States Senate."
Mr. Birge initially assumed the duties of Acting U.S. Attorney by operation of law following Patrick Miles, Jr.’s resignation in January of 2017. Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions appointed Mr. Birge interim U.S. Attorney in November for a period of 120 days or until the President nominates and the Senate confirms a successor, whichever is shorter—which is the limit of the Attorney General’s authority. That 120-day period expires this week. Whenever an Attorney General’s authority expires, the Court must appoint a U.S. Attorney.
Mr. Birge’s job has been to carry out effectively the priorities of the Department of Justice in West Michigan. Today, he vowed to continue the efforts he began last year. "Attorney General Sessions has identified violent crime, the opioid epidemic and the enforcement of criminal immigration law as our prime concerns. I am pleased to report that last year my office increased the number of firearm cases and defendants prosecuted by over 65%, increased drug cases prosecuted by 30% and increased the overall number of cases prosecuted by over 12%." Mr. Birge noted that the Attorney General in December awarded his office an additional full time prosecutor position to address violent crime in the district. "Federal, state, local and Tribal law enforcement agencies work very well together in West Michigan, which allows us to be particularly effective." He explained that criminal immigration prosecutions, which typically involve aliens with prior records and those involved in document fraud, historically comprise about 25% of the office’s caseload. He expects his office will bring about the same number of those cases this year as last year. "But these focus areas obviously don’t mean a holiday for those who commit other crimes. For example, we will continue to actively pursue white collar criminal activity as well as all manner of crimes arising on Tribal lands."
Among many outreach efforts, the office is advancing a public information campaign to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic. "When we prosecute, we are addressing the supply of drugs. But we also need to address the demand. And we do that through these public information campaigns to hopefully prevent future addiction and help those who are already addicted." Mr. Birge identified other outreach activities as well. "I meet as often as I can with community leaders to facilitate mutual understanding and build trust in law enforcement. If residents don’t trust law enforcement, we can’t succeed in making their community safer."
Mr. Birge knows his office well. He previously served for over nine years as the First Assistant, the senior-most management position in the office. A First Assistant functions as the chief advisor to the U.S. Attorney and oversees the office’s civil and criminal litigation as well as its administrative operations. U.S. Attorney Charles Gross first tapped him for the role in May of 2007, under then-President George W. Bush’s administration. U.S. Attorneys Donald A. Davis and Patrick Miles each subsequently asked him to continue serving in that capacity. Mr. Birge has been with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for over 17 years and an attorney for over 23 years. Before he served as the First Assistant, he oversaw the office’s appellate practice and handled all manner of criminal cases.
"When I assumed leadership of the office last year, I noted that I take great pride in what we do. This office has remarkably dedicated and talented attorneys and staff. They are the story behind this office’s success."
Mr. Birge began his legal career as a law clerk to the late Chief U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Enslen, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He obtained his law degree from the Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton College, where he graduated cum laude and with Distinction as a history major.