This just in: Scott Schools — the interim San Francisco U.S. attorney who’s somehow managed, in less than five months, to reverse the office’s sagging morale and regain the favor of a bench miffed by his predecessor, Kevin Ryan — is on his way out. Early today, he notified prosecutors that he’ll be taking off in two weeks to take the position of Charleston, S.C. solicitor (analagous to district attorney).
"Today was a hard day for me personally," Schools, a Charleston native, said this afternoon.
"I thought long and hard about it because I really have enjoyed this office and the people in this office, and I've enjoyed the district judges and the AUSAs," he added.
Sadly, Schools said, the Charleston position opened three weeks ago when the last solicitor, Ralph Hoisington, died of pancreatic cancer with one year left in his four-year term. Hoisington and Schools were friends from their time in private practice in Charleston.
"It's quite an honor to be able to step into the shoes of my friend," he said.
Schools has a long history there: He did two stints in the South Carolina U.S. attorney’s office — separated by about five years doing criminal defense and plaintiff-side P.I. work — before leaving for Washington to head the Executive Office of the U.S. attorney.
Assistant U.S. attorneys in San Francisco have little to say about Schools other than high praise for the effect he’s had on morale. Schools came in after Ryan became the one member of the nationwide U.S. attorney purge to be fired for poor job performance. Shortly after Schools’ appointment in February, Ryan’s top deputy, the polarizing Eumi Choi, took a leave of absence. But overall, Schools kept office leadership in place while at the same time decentralizing the ongoing stock option backdating investigations so prosecutors wouldn’t have to run case decisions through the “options task force” set up by Ryan. In May, Schools sealed his good-guy reputation in the federal building by making a speech at the Northern District Judicial Conference in Santa Cruz — an event that Ryan last year failed to attend, much to the dismay of the bench.
Also, the office’s criminal section chief, Mark Krotoski, announced last week that he’s leaving for a computer crimes detail in Washington.
That may have been a smart move given that a new political appointee seems likely to take over the office in the next month or so, and will likely feel inclined to install his own people in top positions. Joseph Russoniello, who served as U.S. attorney here under Reagan, is far along in the vetting process, and several media outlets have reported that the FBI is completing its background check on him, which is one of the last steps before a nomination.
— Justin Scheck