Michael A. Battle will become the new liaison between U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and federal prosecutors in 94 districts all over the nation.
Battle's promotion to the position of director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys was announced Saturday by Gonzales.
Battle said he will leave his post as U.S. attorney for Western New York and begin working in Washington in June. His promotion does not require Senate confirmation.
"I feel deeply honored for this opportunity," Battle said. "I'm grateful. I've had a wonderful career here in Western New York, capped off by this job as U.S. attorney. I couldn't be more blessed and thankful." Battle has held his current post since January 2002.
The office he will lead beginning June 6 provides administrative oversight to U.S. attorneys' offices across the country. It also serves as a link between the U.S. attorneys and other federal agencies and justice department offices.
"Throughout his career as a prosecutor, civil attorney, judge, and public defender, Michael has served with distinction," Gonzales said in a news release. In the new post, "he will bring with him a high degree of legal expertise and practical experience."
"It's a big responsibility," Battle said. "I know with my office here, almost everything we do, from the hiring of personnel and acquisition of information technology to security and background investigations, that all comes from the executive office. I looked at the list of responsibilities for that office, and it's about six pages long."
Battle said he is grateful to many people, including President Bush, Gonzales, Gov. George E. Pataki and Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence.
Battle, who said he met Gonzales for the first time a month ago, has been a member of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys since January 2004, serving on the subcommittees on civil rights, sentencing guidelines and white collar fraud. Former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft appointed Battle to the advisory committee.
Battle said he does not know who will succeed him as U.S. attorney.
A former public defender and Erie County Family Court judge, the 49-year-old Battle received national prominence during litigation of the "Lackawanna Six" case, which involved a group of Lackawanna men who were sentenced to prison in 2003 after admitting they traveled to Afghanistan to train with al-Qaida. Bush has spoken highly of Battle's work on the case.
Battle's status as a prominent, highly respected African-American Republican has caused many in the legal community to predict he eventually will wind up back in Buffalo as a federal judge.
"It all depends on the political future, but I see the odds of a federal judgeship being very high for Michael Battle," said Lee A. Albert, a professor at the University at Buffalo Law School.
"He's a genuine, nice man who is well-regarded in the legal community. People in Buffalo had respect for him long before the Lackawanna case . . . He's also a man with aspirations, and he is pursuing them with vigor."
Battle said he is not looking at his promotion as a possible stepping stone to a judgeship. But he said he and his wife, Sheila, will keep their home in Buffalo for at least the next two years, while their son, Michael II, finishes school at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute.