In an abrupt move, interim U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid was replaced Friday with another interim chief prosecutor for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Magid, a Republican appointment from the Bush Administration, has been overseeing the office since the departure of former U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan last summer.
Magid, her spokeswoman, and a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington all declined to discuss the switch beyond what was stated in a news release issued late this afternoon.
She will, however, remain in the office in the appeals division.
Her replacement is Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy, who previously served as an interim U.S. Attorney between April and September 2001, the early months of the Bush administration. He was most recently chief of the unit that prosecutes computer crimes, child exploitation and intellectual property.
Levy's appointment is expected to be approved by the board of judges of the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
Magid, 48, had been set to remain as interim chief at least until next month, when the board of judges is scheduled to approve any interim choice that would hold the office until President Obama makes an official appointment.
Because U.S. Attorneys work for the President, the next appointment in Philadelphia is expected to be a Democrat.
The office, with about 140 prosecutors, handles federal prosecutions in a nine-county area. The crimes range from white-collar to guns and drugs to public corruption, such as the investigation and successful prosecution of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo.
Magid has drawn criticism within the office, which recently was the focus of a Justice Department evaluation.
She drew complaints last year when she tried to fold the Organized Crime Strike Force, a unit within the office with a 20-year record of success against the Philadelphia mob, into a larger unit focusing on drug dealing and gang violence. The Justice Department ultimately overruled her and strike force remains in place.
In addition, the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General is examining a $250-a-person political fund-raiser that was held at her home and hosted by her husband, Jeffrey A. Miller, a well-known caterer.
The fund-raiser was held earlier this year for her former boss Meehan, a Republican who has been mulling whether to run for governor next year, and as many as 20 prosecutors from the office were invited.
Magid worked for Meehan when he was the district attorney in Delaware County. Prior to that, she served as a prosecutor in Philadelphia for nine years.
People close to her said she had cleared the fund-raiser with the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that provides guidance on activities prohibited by the Hatch Act.
"It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve as United States Attorney and to lead this extraordinary office," Magid said in a statement.
Levy, who has spent most of his legal career as a federal prosecutor, served as interim U.S. Attorney before Meehan took office in September 2001.
Levy spent many years as a prosecutor in the organized-crime strike force, and is well-regarded by his colleagues in the office and by federal judges. He is expected to be approved by the District Court board of judges.
"We expect that the transition will be seamless and we will continue our daily routine of working for justice," Levy said in a statement. "I want to thank Laurie Magid for her dedicated service and for her gracious assistant in the transition."
Reached by phone, Levy declined to comment this evening about what led to his appointment.