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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington William Hyslop will resign Feb. 28 after request from Justice Department

U.S. Attorney Bill Hyslop speaks at a press conference Oct. 21 at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Spokane about a new campaign aimed at educating the public about illicit fentanyl. Hyslop said Wednesday he would step down as the district’s top lawyer by the end of the month, complying with a request made by the Biden administration.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

William Hyslop will step down as U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington at the end of the month, following a request by President Joe Biden’s Justice Department.

“I intend to stay active and do everything I can to continue to advocate for and support law enforcement, and the hard work they do for us every day,” said Hyslop, who served two terms as the district’s chief attorney under two Republican presidents.

The resignation will allow the formal nomination process by Biden to continue. U.S. attorney nominations require Senate confirmation , and Hyslop was confirmed to his post in July 2019 after a nomination by then President Donald Trump.

In recent months, Hyslop, who has been practicing law in the state for more than 40 years, has prioritized prosecution and public awareness of the illicit opioid trade in the district. The 69-year-old graduate of Gonzaga Law School said he intended to continue that work through the end of the month, and would encourage his successor to also emphasize the fight against the trafficking of fentanyl, a synthetic pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, and has become a popular and dangerous street drug.

“It absolutely is a scourge on our community,” Hyslop said. “It’s so important that people know about it.”

U.S. Assistant Attorney Joseph Harrington, who served as acting U.S. attorney from March 2017 until Hyslop’s confirmation more than two years later, will fill that acting role once again following Hyslop’s departure, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office. The two-year wait set a record for the longest vacancy in the position, which is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have asked Biden to nominate Vanessa Waldref, a former U.S. assistant attorney and Gonzaga Law professor, to the position. If nominated and confirmed, she will be the first woman to hold the office.

Hyslop said he was requested to step down by the end of the month in a conference phone call with Acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson on Tuesday. Prior to his first appointment to the office by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, Hyslop served at the firm Lukins & Annis, and returned there after leaving office in 1993. He is also a past president of the Washington State Bar Association.

Multiple law enforcement agents in Eastern Washington praised Hyslop in statements released Wednesday.

“U.S. Attorney Hyslop has been a constant partner with SPD in our efforts to keep Spokane the safe community that we all long to live in and raise our families,” Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said. “His engagement with local law enforcement, and commitment to safety first through prevention, education and enforcement, is second to none.”

Hyslop said he hadn’t yet decided whether to return to private law practice, but said he’d remain involved in the community. He planned to take a trip with his wife when it’s safe to do so, he said, and would decide on his next steps in the coming weeks.