John McKay (attorney)

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John McKay
John McKay.jpg
Born (1956-06-19) June 19, 1956 (age 60)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Education University of Washington
Creighton University
Occupation Lawyer

John Larkin McKay (born 19 June 1956) is a former United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington. John Larkin McKay, a member of a prominent Republican family in the state, attended the University of Washington, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1978. After working as an aide to Congressman Joel Pritchard (R-WA) in 1978–79, McKay earned his law degree at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska in 1982. He was admitted to the Washington State Bar and joined the Seattle law firm of Lane Powell Spears Lubersky in 1982, eventually becoming a litigation partner with that firm. He then joined Cairncross & Hempelmann in Seattle, leading its litigation group and serving as a member of its management committee. He was admitted to practice before the United States District Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.

Career as U.S. Attorney and dismissal[edit]

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy
( )
G. W. Bush administration officials involved
Involved administration officials who resigned
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
110th Congress
U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary
110th Congress

McKay was one of eight U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration in 2006 which were, after the fact, publicly described as being for performance-related issues related to "policy, priorities and management." Major Bush administration officials resigned in the fallout over this scandal.[citation needed]

Appointment as U.S. Attorney[edit]

McKay was appointed United States Attorney by President George W. Bush in October 2001. He had received a positive evaluation seven months before he was dismissed. Among his noteworthy achievements the successful prosecution of terrorist Ahmed Ressam. Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey gave McKay the additional responsibility of overseeing a pilot program for a computer system (called Law Enforcement Information Exchange, or LInX);[1] for his success he earned the United States Navy's highest civilian honor.[2]

McKay was widely considered a likely candidate for elevation to the Federal bench when the seat held by Seattle U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour opened up in 2006. He had been a top litigator, was popular with law enforcement, and a supporter of the Patriot Act. Nonetheless, he received no support from the Republicans on the judicial selection commission and soon found himself removed from his job as U.S. Attorney as well.

The Seattle Times noted in February 2007 that "One of the most persistent rumors in Seattle legal circles is that the Justice Department forced McKay, a Republican, to resign to appease Washington state Republicans angry over the 2004 governor's race. Some believe McKay's dismissal was retribution for his failure to convene a federal grand jury to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the race."[3]

On March 17, 2007, the Seattle Times reported, "Former Republican congressman Rick White, one of three candidates the Republicans have submitted to replace John McKay as U.S. attorney for Western Washington, cannot practice law in the state. White's license was suspended by the state Supreme Court in August 2003 for failure to pay his bar dues. He was reinstated to the bar in 2005 after paying a small fee, but currently holds an 'inactive' status", which is common for attorneys that are not actively practicing law.[4]

In congressional testimony, Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, testified that McKay may have been fired at least in part because of his advocacy for a more-aggressive investigation into the murder of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas C. Wales of Seattle. His pursuit of the case and subsequent firing were the subjects of an article by Jeffrey Toobin in the August 6, 2007 issue of The New Yorker. Toobin noted that Gonzales assured Wales's family that the investigation was still a top priority of the Justice Department.

Post-U.S. Attorney career[edit]

On May 21, 2007, Getty Images announced that McKay would join the corporation as senior vice president and general counsel, based in their headquarters in Seattle.[5]

On September 17, 2007, Jonathan Klein, CEO of Getty Images, announced that John McKay would be stepping down as general counsel to return to the law faculty at Seattle University where he will teach full-time.

McKay is currently a full-time professor of law at Seattle University School of Law.

During his career as a U.S. Attorney, McKay was the prosecutor of Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery for marijuana seed distribution from Canada. Since that time, McKay has called for reform of marijuana laws such that its sale be legally regulated and taxed.[6]

More recently McKay has agreed to work as a rule of law coordinator in the West Bank with Palestinian officials in order to help establish an effective judicial system in preparation for the eventual Palestinian State. In a 2013 interview with the Seattle Times the former Republican acknowledged the "tremendous opportunity", but also stated that he was "stunned" at the nature of the Israeli settlements.[7]


  1. ^ Gene Johnson (March 24, 2007). "Political whodunit: The curious downfall of John McKay". The Columbian (AP). 
  2. ^ David Bowermaster (February 7, 2007). "McKay got good review 7 months before ouster". Seattle Times. 
  3. ^ David Bowermaster (February 16, 2007). "Was McKay ousted over 2004 election?". Seattle Times. 
  4. ^ Mike Carter (March 17, 2007). "U.S. attorney candidate can't practice law". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  5. ^ John Cook (May 21, 2007). "Fired federal attorney to join Getty Images". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  6. ^ McKay, John (3 September 2010). "Marijuana's true potency and why the law should change". Seattle Times. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  7. ^

External links[edit]