Institute of Politics

Sally Yates

Former Deputy U.S. Attorney General & Acting U.S. Attorney General

  • Spring 2021 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminar Series: “‘And Justice for All’: The Rule of Law & Our Endeavor to Fulfill Our Nation’s Promise of Equal Justice”


Sally Q. Yates served as Deputy Attorney General in the Obama administration from January 8, 2015 until January 20, 2017, and then as Acting Attorney General from January 20, 2017 through January 30, 2017. As Deputy Attorney General, Ms. Yates oversaw the Department’s 113,000 employees and the day-to-day operations of the Department of Justice. Her responsibilities included oversight of all facets of the Department’s work, including its four law enforcement agencies (the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, and United States Marshals Service), its prosecutorial, litigating, and national security components, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Department’s various grant-making and legal services offices. During her tenure as Deputy Attorney General, Ms. Yates focused on advancing criminal justice reform, ensuring individual accountability for corporate wrongdoers, strengthening public safety, and reforming our prison system for the 21st century.

A native of Atlanta, Ms. Yates served in the Department of Justice for over 27 years. She began her public service career in September 1989 as an Assistant U. S. Attorney in the U. S. Attorney ’s office in Atlanta. Over the next two decades, she prosecuted a wide variety of cases, specializing in public corruption cases, and served as the lead prosecutor of Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph. Ms. Yates held several supervisory positions within the office until 2010, when she was appointed by President Obama to lead that office as its first female United States Attorney. Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Ms. Yates practiced commercial litigation with King and Spalding law firm in Atlanta. She recently served as a Distinguished Lecturer from Government at Georgetown University Law Center and has returned to King and Spalding to practice in their Special Matters and Government Investigations division.


“‘And Justice for All’: The Rule of Law & Our Endeavor to Fulfill Our Nation’s Promise of Equal Justice”

From the time we were children, we have pledged allegiance to a country dedicated to “liberty and justice for all.” Indeed, our justice system is the cornerstone of our democracy. John Adams famously declared, “We are a government of laws, not of men.” It is our country’s foundational promise, enshrined in our Constitution and inscribed above the doors of the Supreme Court, that all are promised “Equal Justice Under the Law.” Yet from the days of our founding, we have not fully lived up to that promise. Racial and socioeconomic inequities continue to plague our criminal justice system, and some have attempted to pervert the system by using it as a cudgel to go after political enemies or a shield to protect friends. Yet, every day, thousands of men and women across our country, both inside and outside of government, dedicate themselves to working to achieve that “more perfect” justice system.

This seminar will examine some of the current challenges to our system of justice and how lawyers and non-lawyers alike can make a difference.

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