Michael Mukasey was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1941 and graduated from Columbia College and Yale Law School, where he was on the Board of Editors of the Yale Law Journal. Prior to becoming Attorney General, he had a lengthy career as an attorney, including service as an Assistant United States Attorney from 1972 to 1976 in New York. From 1975 to 1976 he also served as chief of his district's Official Corruption Unit. From 1976 to 1987 he was an associate, and then member, of the firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler.
Mukasey was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and served until 2006, the last six years as chief judge. During that time, Judge Mukasey presided over hundreds of cases, including the trial of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 co-defendants charged with conspiring to blow up numerous sites in New York. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he was widely praised for the speed with which the federal courthouse, located just blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, returned to normal operation.
Upon his retirement from the bench, Mukasey returned to Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, in the firm's litigation group.
Judge Mukasey has received numerous awards over the years, including the Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence from the Federal Bar Council, the William Tendy Award from the Fiske Association, awards from the Seymour Association, the Respect for Law Alliance, and the Ari Halberstam Award from the Jewish Children's Museum. He also received an honorary degree from the Brooklyn Law School.
Mukasey's professional and civic activities have included service as a director of the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation and as a director of the Jewish Children's Museum. He has also been a lecturer in law at the Columbia Law School. He was a member of the Automation and Technology Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States; was chairman of the Committee on Public Access to Information and Proceedings of the New York State Bar Association; was a member of the Federal Courts Committee and the Communications Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York; and was a member of the American Bar Association.
Judge Mukasey was nominated to be Attorney General by President George W. Bush on September 17, 2007, and confirmed by the United States Senate on November 8. He entered duty on November 9.