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Ormsby confirmed as U.S. attorney for E. Washington

Mike Ormsby (Courtesy Photo / The Spokesman-Review)
Mike Ormsby (Courtesy Photo / The Spokesman-Review)

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Spokane attorney Mike Ormsby as the next U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington.

Ormsby will replace James McDevitt, who has held the post since he was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

“I’m very pleased to have been recommended by the position by both of our U.S. Senators and very proud of the fact that I’m going to be able to serve the people of eastern Washington through this administration as U.S. Attorney,” Ormsby said.

He said he must wind down his practice at K & L Gates and coordinate with McDevitt about when to take over the post.

McDevitt, who landed a 22-inch trout on his fly rod in the Yakima river on Tuesday, said he plans to do more of the same very soon.

“I called Mike and said, ‘You want to come over this morning?’” he said. “It’s pretty much his call on when he can take over.”

McDevitt, who worked in the same law firm as Ormsby before his appointment as U.S. Attorney, said he has no particular plans for the future.

“I’m going to kick back and do nothing for a few months and just survey the landscape,” he said.

Ormsby said he was never called to a hearing before the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, but added that nominees rarely are called before the committee.

“I just received an e-mail this morning saying that I was confirmed,” he said of the process, which took more than a year to complete. “Anytime we have uncertainty in our lives, it creates a little bit of stress. It’s good to have the process completed.”

The selection generated letters of protest from some in the community who have laid a good portion of the River Park Square legal tangle at his feet. Former Spokane Mayor John Talbott and other critics of the public-private partnership last year sent a letter to the White House and members of Congress saying they believe Ormsby is the wrong person for the job because of his involvement in the controversial project involving the city and Cowles Co. development interests.

River Park Square is an affiliate of Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review. In the 1990s, Ormsby was the attorney for the Spokane Downtown Foundation, a nonprofit organization set up to sell bonds to purchase the River Park Square parking garage and pay investors back with proceeds from the city’s parking revenue.

“At a time when it’s vital that the Justice Department send a message that it will not tolerate private fraud and public corruption, Mr. Ormsby’s appointment would send the opposite message,” the critics wrote in a five-page letter that claimed the transaction was rife with fraud. When the Talbott letter was sent in March 2009, Ormsby called it an “effort to demonize me as part of this project.”

In the interview in March, Ormsby said he doesn’t hold a grudge against those who sent the letter.

“The project happened and it’s now behind us,” Ormsby said. “I guess I’ve let it go and tried not to think about it much. I understand that people develop very, very strong feelings about an issue. I may not agree with them, but I certainly respect … the vehemence in the way they hold their views and their rights to express their views.”