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DOJ Honors Longest Serving Prosecutor
By Andrew Ramonas | September 24, 2022 6:07 pm

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Former Justice Department officials, Obama administration members and dozens of past and present government lawyers on Friday paid tribute at DOJ headquarters to the longest serving federal prosecutor who is retiring next week.

Senior DOJ officials at a ceremony praised Deputy Assistant Attorney General John “Jack” Keeney for his 59 years of service. Keeney, 88, will leave the DOJ on Sept. 30.

“You will continue to be a role model and you will always be a legend to lawyers, paralegals, support staff and Attorneys General who served our nation’s Department of Justice,” said Attorney General Eric Holder as more than 100 people looked on. He added that it was a “privilege” to work with and learn from the veteran prosecutor, who started at the DOJ during the Dwight Eisenhower administration.

Holder and several of Keeney’s colleagues described him as one of the most revered and trusted career prosecutors at the DOJ. He served under dozens of Deputy Attorneys General and more than 20 Attorneys General, including George W. Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who attended the ceremony.

Keeney joined the DOJ Criminal Division in 1951. Three years later, he ascended to chief of the unit that prosecuted Smith Act cases, involving conspiracies to overthrow the U.S. government.

He moved to Organized Crime and Racketeering Section in 1960, serving as Deputy Chief. The prosecutor then served as chief of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section from 1969 to 1973, before becoming Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Keeney was a member of the U.S. team that negotiated the mutual legal assistance treaty in criminal matters with Switzerland. He also served as acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division on several occasions.

He has received numerous honors for his service, including a building named for him. At the ceremony, he was given a commemorative plaque from the Criminal Division, a letter of gratitude from President Barack Obama, a framed copy of a statement in the Congressional Record honoring him and the Claudia J. Flynn Award for Professional Responsibility, which was handed out for the first time on Friday. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer also unveiled a photograph of Keeney that will be on permanent display in the Criminal Division.

“Throughout his long tenure, Mr. Keeney has passed judgment on some of the most sensitive and high-profile prosecutions by this department,” Breuer said. “And for the last 59 years no one – no reporter, no op-ed writer, no defense attorney, no politician – has ever been able to credibly claim that any decision by Mr. Keeney was based on anything but the facts and the law.”

Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis joked about Keeney, a close friend, who interviewed him for a job at DOJ in 1969. Margolis said he and Keeney were recently sitting on a bench in DOJ chatting when someone had an observation to share with the two.

“You two guys look like you would be more at home sitting on a bench in front of the building feeding the pigeons,” the man said, according to Margolis. “At least, I think that’s what he said. Jack’s hearing aid and my hearing aid [had problems].”

Keeney smiled from a seat behind the podium as his colleagues shared their stories and paid tribute to him. He said he was “overwhelmed” by the praise.

“All I can say to you is thanks for everything you have done for me and thanks for coming,” Keeney said.



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  2. [...] will replace Jack Keeney, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General who retired last month after 59 years with the [...]

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