U.S. Attorney Breon Peace Appoints new leadership for Eastern District’s key divisions

July 9, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
Richard K. Hayes, Alixandra E. Smith and John J. Durham (not pictured), newly appointed leaders in the Eastern District of New York's U.S. Attorney's Office. Photos courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York
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The Eastern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney Breon Peace announced changes to his office’s leadership, appointing Alixandra Smith as chief of the Criminal Division and John Durham as chief of the Long Island Division, as well as chief of the division’s Criminal Section. 

This follows the appointment of Richard K. Hayes as Chief of the Civil Division last September.

In his announcement, U.S. Attorney Peace expressed strong confidence in the new leaders.

“I make these announcements with tremendous pride and excitement. Alix, John and Rich are brilliant legal minds with vast expertise in serving the office through both impressive casework and leadership positions,” U.S. Attorney Peace said. “I have the utmost confidence they will continue to do what they do best – inspire and lead their teams in the pursuit of equal justice.”

Smith, who has been with the Eastern District since 2012, takes on the role of chief of the Criminal Division. Smith’s tenure in the office has been marked by significant prosecutions in white-collar crime. Notably, she co-led the prosecution in United States v. Shkreli and Greebel, securing convictions in a high-profile case involving fraud and stock manipulation. Her work on the Odebrecht and Braskem cases further underscored her capabilities, resulting in multibillion-dollar penalties for bribery and corruption.

Smith has degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and she started her legal career at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, and Jenner & Block LLP, with clerkships under federal Judges Faith Hochberg and Julio Fuentes. Her contributions to the office extend to her roles in hiring and litigation committees and as a co-teacher at New York University Law School.

Durham, now leading the Long Island Division and its Criminal Section, has been with the office since 2005. Durham’s career is distinguished by his aggressive pursuit of gang-related crimes, particularly against MS-13. His leadership of the Joint Task Force Vulcan under the Department of Justice has led to significant indictments against MS-13’s top hierarchy.

Durham’s educational background includes a degree from the College of the Holy Cross and a law degree from the University of Connecticut. His early career included a clerkship with Judge Stephen Robinson in the SDNY. Durham’s prosecution record spans from violent crimes and terrorism to public corruption.

Hayes, the chief of the Civil Division since September 2023, has been a stalwart of the Eastern District since 1991. Hayes has been instrumental in major financial fraud cases, including those related to the 2008 Financial Crisis. His leadership in the National Mortgage Settlement and the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities investigations has brought substantial financial recoveries and systemic reforms.

Hayes graduated from Fordham University School of Law and holds a summa cum laude degree from Fordham University. His legal acumen has earned him multiple prestigious awards, recognizing his exceptional service and contributions to the Department of Justice.

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