Page last updated at 07:44 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Profile: Eric Holder

Eric Holder
Mr Holder was number two in the justice department under Bill Clinton

Eric Holder is no stranger to the US Department of Justice, having served for four years under former President Bill Clinton as deputy attorney general.

He has now returned to his former department as its head, having been confirmed by the US Senate on 2 February, and is the first African-American in the post.

Despite - or perhaps because of - his earlier tenure in the justice department, Mr Holder's appointment caused more opposition than most of President Barack Obama's other nominations.

Republican lawmakers expressed concern at some of the decisions Mr Holder made when he served as deputy attorney general, in particular his recommendation that fugitive businessman Marc Rich should receive a presidential pardon.

Mr Holder has said during his confirmation hearings that he made a mistake in that case.

In the end, the initial opposition mostly fell away and senators voted 75 to 21 to approve him.

Corruption fighter

Born in 1951, in New York City, Mr Holder was brought up in the city's Queens neighbourhood.

He went to Stuyvesant High School, one of the most successful public schools in the US, before attending Columbia University to study history.

He stayed on at Columbia to study for his law degree, which he received in 1976.

1951: Born in New York City
1976-88: Justice department's public integrity section
1988-93: Superior Court judge
1993-97: US Attorney for District of Columbia
1997-2001: Deputy attorney general
2001-2009: Private legal practice

From 1976 until 1988 he worked in the justice department's public integrity section, which specialised in cracking down on political corruption.

He served as a Superior Court judge in the District of Columbia from 1988 until 1993, when Mr Clinton picked him to be US Attorney for the District of Columbia. He was the first African-American to serve in that position.

In 1997, Mr Clinton promoted him to the number two position in the Department of Justice.

He later came under fire for a legal opinion he gave in the closing days of the Clinton administration on the advisability of issuing fugitive Marc Rich with a presidential pardon.

Mr Holder told the president that he was "neutral, leaning towards favourable" on the matter, and Mr Clinton decided to grant the pardon.

The decision was seen as suspicious by some observers, who highlighted the fact that Mr Rich's wife had donated money to Mr Clinton's presidential library fund. Mr Holder has said he was not aware of the donations.

Mr Holder was also involved in the case of Elian Gonzalez, a six-year-old Cuban boy who was returned to Cuba by US authorities in 2000 despite fierce opposition from the Cuban-American community.

After leaving the government, Mr Holder worked in private practice for the DC-based firm Covington and Burling. He acted as a legal adviser to Mr Obama's presidential campaign before being nominated by Mr Obama to be attorney general.

During his confirmation hearings, Republican senators asked Mr Holder a number of questions about his role in the Marc Rich and Elian Gonzalez cases - but in spite of the tough questioning, only two Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Mr Holder's nomination.

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