By Hon. Stacie F. Beckerman, U.S. Magistrate Judge
On September 8, 2022, the U.S. Senate confirmed the White House’s appointment of Natalie Wight as the District of Oregon’s new U.S. Attorney. Chief U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez administered the oath of office to Wight at the U.S. Courthouse surrounded by her colleagues. Wight replaced U.S. Attorney Scott Asphaug, who served in an acting and interim role after former U.S. Attorney Billy Williams resigned in 2021.
Wight has served as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice since 2003. She has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) in the District of Oregon since 2012, working in both the Criminal and Civil Divisions of the office. She previously worked as an AUSA in the Northern District of California and as an attorney for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She is the first Black and second Asian American to serve as the top federal law enforcement official in Oregon.
The news of Wight’s appointment was well-received by her colleagues, who helped her celebrate the appointment, one stating: “Natalie is at once both a breath of fresh air and a source of stability. She knows the office well, cares deeply about our mission, and works harder than anyone. We are busy, and her positive energy definitely helps fuel our work.”
Wight has collaborated with Oregon’s local and federal law enforcement on child exploitation and other violent crime prosecutions for many years. “Natalie has the prosecutorial acumen to examine cases on the weight of the evidence under the law but also the emotional intelligence to consider the unique characteristics of each defendant,” said a Department of Homeland Security agent who has worked on many cases with her. “She practices law with both her head and her heart and has been a zealous advocate for the protection of children,” added a Federal Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation Task Force Officer. They agreed that Wight’s professionalism and willingness to work closely with law enforcement is a testament to her desire to make our communities safer.
Law enforcement enthusiasm for Wight’s appointment is matched by that of the federal defense community, which is not surprising to anyone who knows Wight. A former AUSA, now local private attorney, who has worked closely with Wight, shared: “Natalie was a superstar the moment she arrived in this district—smart, hard-working, practical, thoughtful and fiercely dedicated to the important work performed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She quickly won the admiration of colleagues and respect from the bench and bar. She judiciously exercises the great responsibilities of the office with the appropriate respect for the rule of law balanced with compassion.”
Wight also serves the community in quiet ways that meaningfully impact the citizens of this District. She volunteers at her alma mater, Cleveland High School, where she and her husband have coached the mock trial team for ten years. Much of their time is spent mentoring students and helping seniors prepare for college or employment opportunities.
Wight has been a part of the district’s reentry court for many years, where she works daily with a team of professionals to assist individuals reenter the community after a prison sentence. She joins other team members on the weekends to gather groceries and household supplies for reentry court participants in need. One team member reflects: “I have worked side by side with Natalie for the past seven years on the Portland Reentry Court Team. Knowing her through that work assures me that Natalie brings true humanity to the position of the U.S. Attorney. She listens, she is thoughtful, and she can see situations from a variety of perspectives. That takes strength and awareness of the power of her position.”
Wight graduated from Cleveland High School in Portland, where she served as a Rose Festival princess in 1992. Wight received a master’s degree in Biology from California State University in 2000, and her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the College of Idaho in 1996. Wight graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 2003.