Vincent H. Cohen Jr., a former federal prosecutor who moved to private practice in 2003, has rejoined the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office as Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney Ron Machen announced Monday.
Cohen, most recently a partner at the law firm of Schertler & Onorato LLP, previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in D.C. from 1997 to 2003.
“Vince Cohen is an extremely talented attorney who has the unique ability to assess a case from all the different angles,” Machen said in a statement. “He understands the gravity of the decisions we make and how they affect the lives of the residents of this city and he is committed to strengthening the bond between our office and the community. He will be a tremendous asset for the District of Columbia.”
Cohen replaces Channing Phillips, who served as Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney from 2004 through 2009. Phillips left the U.S. Attorney’s office in May to take a newly created position at Justice Department headquarters as Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity.
The 39-year-old Cohen, who attended Syracuse University for both undergrad and law school, was recently named one of the “Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40″ by the National Bar Association.
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At an event in the Great Hall Monday honoring the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is working to “[live] up to its responsibility to provide a work environment where every employee is respected and given an equal opportunity to thrive.”
Holder also pointed to the Obama administration’s accomplishments on LGBT issues including the new federal hate crimes law — the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act that the president signed into law in October — and the Justice Department’s recent decision that the Violence Against Women Act covers same-sex partners.
“We have much to celebrate today. In the year since we last gathered, our nation – and the Justice Department – have taken steps to address some of the unique challenges faced by members of our country’s LGBT community,” said Holder in remarks at the annual DOJ LGBT Pride Month event.
DOJ Pride was founded in 1994, and flourished when Janet Reno was Attorney General. Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales later banned the group from using Justice Department facilities. Attorney General Michael Mukasey welcomed DOJ Pride back to the Great Hall in 2008, and DOJ Pride President Chris Hook said the event has grown in size since the Obama administration took over in January 2009.
During his remarks, Holder also touted the DOJ’s new Diversity Management Plan — which calls for greater diversity in such areas as hiring, promotions and retention — and the appointment of former acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips to manage the implementation of the plan as Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity.
“With this initiative, and with Channing’s leadership, we’re working to ensure that the department can effectively recruit, hire, retain, and develop a workforce that reflects our nation’s rich diversity, a department that welcomes and encourages the contributions of its LGBT employees,” Holder said.
Holder did not address some of the controversies that LGBT advocates have raised with the Department of Justice, such as the DOJ’s defense of the Defense of Marriage Act and the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez introduced the keynote speaker, U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, the first openly gay federal prosecutor to head a U.S Attorney’s office.
“What a difference two years makes,” Durkan said. “Today I stand before you as the first openly gay U.S. Attorney. But I can promise you I’m not the last. In fact, today there are three Senate confirmed openly gay U.S. Attorneys in America.
“Two followed me. I started a trend. But I do want to point out, they’re all women. So guys, you need to step it up,” Durkan joked.
She also praised Holder’s work on the LGBT issues, saying that “there is nobody more committed to equality and justice across America than our Attorney General Eric Holder.”
Sharon Lubinski, the first openly gay U.S. Marshal, also spoke at the ceremony and was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Officials in attendance at the event included Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West; Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno of the Environment and Natural Resources Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten; U.S. Attorney for Minnesota B. Todd Jones; U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman; and Chris Dudley, Deputy Director of the U.S. Marshals Service.
DOJ Pride also gave out three awards, including to two local advocates for same-sex marriage. D.C. Councilmember David A. Catania, the force behind the law that made same-sex marriage legal in the District of Columbia, received the Gerald B. Roemer Community Service Award along with Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Gansler was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia under then-U.S. Attorney Holder.
Hook received the James R. Douglass Award for his leadership of DOJ Pride. He took over in 2006, when the group had shrank dramatically during the Bush administration, but it has since grown back to the size it was during the Clinton administration.
Hook made it clear when he took over the organization in 2006 that DOJ Pride “did not intend to go into hiding,” said Marc Salans, Assistant Director of the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, who presented the award.
The event was sponsored by the Department of Justice, the Justice Management Division’s Equal Employment Opportunity staff and DOJ Pride.
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This post has been corrected.
Howard Sklamberg, Deputy Chief of the Fraud & Public Corruption Section at the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s office, is leaving the office Friday to become the Director of the Office of Enforcement at the Food and Drug Administration.
Sklamberg previously prosecuted former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford. Crawford pleaded guilty in 2006 to charges of having a conflict of interest and false reporting of information about stocks owned by him and his wife. He was sentenced to three years of supervised probation and fines of roughly $90,000 for lying about stocks he owned in companies regulated the FDA.
Phillips has been appointed Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity, where he’ll oversee the Justice Department’s initiatives encouraging the hiring of employees from a wide range of backgrounds. He will start his new position on Monday.
During his tenure in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office, Sklamberg also prosecuted Russell James Caso Jr., the one-time top aide to former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), for not reporting income his wife made for doing work for a nonprofit company tied to Weldon. Caso was said to be cooperating with a wider investigation into Weldon. Caso pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in 2007 and was sentenced to two years probation, while Weldon has not been charged.
Sklamberg became a deputy chief in the office in 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile. Prior to that, he was a trial attorney in the Public Integrity Section at Main Justice. Sklamberg attended Harvard Law School and clerked for Chief Judge Richard S. Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. He is also currently an adjunct professor at the American University Washington College of Law.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the position Sklamberg will take at the FDA. He will be the Director of the Office of Enforcement.
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Channing Phillips, the number two official in the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s office, will take a newly created position at Main Justice concerning diversity in the ranks of the Justice Department.
Phillips has been appointed Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity, where he’ll oversee the Justice Department’s initiatives encouraging the hiring of employees from a wide range of backgrounds. He will report to Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli.
Phillips will start his new position on Monday, a DOJ official said.
WTOP reporter Mark Segraves first reported the news on Twitter, and Justice Department officials confirmed the appointment.
Phillips had often been the office’s public face on high profile cases, including the investigation into the 2001 death of intern Chandra Levy and the 2010 prosecution of Wizards basketball player Gilbert Arenas on gun charges.
“He is as steady as a rock, knowledgeable and calm,” said former D.C. U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard Jr., who served from 2001 to 2004.
Howard said Channing won the trust of the D.C. Assistant U.S. Attorneys over the almost 16 years Phillips has spent at the office.
Phillips started at the office in 1994 as a line attorney in the criminal division after a four-year stint as an attorney in the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. He also clerked for D.C. Superior Court Judge Shellie Bowers before becoming a prosecutor. Phillips received his undergraduate degree from University of Virginia in 1980 and law degree from Howard University in 1986.
Most recently, Phillips was acting U.S. Attorney. He followed former U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor in May 2009 and was replaced by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen in February 2010. He also served as Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney from 2004 to 2009, was a chief of staff to Howard from 2001 to 2004 and special counsel from 1997 to 2001.
In the 2000s, he often acted as the office spokesman and played a role in hiring decisions, including the 2003 appointment of Tejpal Singh, the first Sikh Assistant U.S. Attorney at the DOJ.
“He’s really part of the backbone of that office,” said Kenneth Wainstein, who represented Arenas and served as a D.C. Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1992 to 2001 and as U.S. Attorney from 2004 to 2006. “He has a keen understanding of how the office works.”
Colleagues noted the respect the D.C. community has for Phillips. In December 2009, the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, a voluntary bar association, named Phillips lawyer of the year. He is also the son of the late Rev. Channing E. Phillips, a civil rights leader. The elder Phillips led Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign in D.C. His name was placed in nomination at the Democratic convention in Chicago after Kennedy was assassinated.
This post has been updated since it was first published.
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Ronald Machen, the newly confirmed U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, took his oath of office Thursday evening in a private ceremony, a spokesman said.
Machen, a former partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, replaced Channing Phillips, now the office’s Principal Deputy, who had served as acting U.S. Attorney since May.
The Senate confirmed Machen by unanimous consent on Feb. 11. A former federal prosecutor in D.C., Machen returned to the nation’s largest U.S. Attorney’s office on Thursday, completed his paperwork, and later headed a few blocks south to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to take the oath.
Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, also a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in D.C., administered the oath in his courtroom. A group of judges, supervisors in the U.S. Attorney’s office and Machen’s friends and family were on hand.
A second, larger swearing-in ceremony is in the works, though a date has not been announced. One likely guest of honor: Attorney General Eric Holder. The commute is a breeze, and Holder is a former U.S. Attorney in the District.
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Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has made some pretty poor decisions in the past month, but selecting Ken Wainstein as his attorney is not one of them, according to Marisa M. Kashino at Washingtonian magazine.
Among the list of items that “Arenas isn’t scoring many points for good judgment” for are bringing handguns into the Wizards locker room and inappropriate Tweets, according to Kashino. Despite these less-than-stellar decisions, hiring Wainstein might help keep Arenas out of future trouble and help him avoid jail time. Wainstein spent 19 years at the Justice Department in a number of key roles, including U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 2004-2006.
Although the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia charged Arenas with with one count of carrying a pistol without a license, the Wizards star struck a deal with the office that Wainstein once headed. Under the plea agreement, Arenas pleaded guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment. However, the plea deal calls for a jail sentence of six to 24 months, with probation, a split sentence or incarceration possible, although the government has agreed to seek a sentence at the low end of that range. Sentencing is set for March 26.
Kashino praises Arenas’ decision to hire Wainstein, as he “certainly knows his way around the U.S. Attorney’s office.” In addition, Wainstein, who is now a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, “has been building a practice as a leader in the emerging subject of national-security law,” according to Kashino.
While Wainstein has never represented an athlete before, according to Kashino, he appears to be handling his first athlete-client well.
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Last week we asked the question, ” Can Ken Wainstein keep Gilbert Arenas under control?” Today, the answer appears to be, “Yes.”
The Washington Wizards guard has reached a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia, which Wainstein once headed, The Washington Post reports.
The agreement will keep Arenas out of jail following a well publicized incident in which he brought weapons into the locker room of the professional basketball team. Arenas was charged with one county of carrying a gun without a license.
Wainstein is a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and a former head of the National Security Division at DOJ.
After taking on Arenas as a client a couple of weeks ago, Wainstein had to conduct damage control, after a photo appeared of the guard pretending to shoot at his team mates with his fingers, and other incidetns.
Arenas this afternoon will plead guilty before D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin, who will decide on Arenas’s sentence, The Post reports.
The NBA has suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay until its own investigation is complete. He has four years left on his six-year, $111 million contract with the Wizards, according to The Post.
UPDATE: Arenas had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of carrying a pistol without a license. Although the charge carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, the plea deal calls for a jail sentence of six to 24 months, with probation, a split sentence or incarceration permissible, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Arenas will be sentenced March 6 at 2:30 p.m., according to the release.
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President Barack Obama has nominated criminal defense attorney Ron Machen to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, according to a Justice Department official.
The nomination was sent to the Senate late Wednesday and will be announced on Thursday, an administration official said.
Machen, 40, is a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he specializes in complex civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense and internal corporate investigations. He was among three candidates Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton submitted to the White House for the post in August.
Machen’s nomination had been expected for some time. He was interviewed at the Justice Department in late October. The other finalists were Anjali Chaturvedi, a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP; and Michael Bromwich, a partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.
An Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia from 1997 to 2001, Machen (Stanford, Harvard Law) worked in the office’s Fraud and Public Corruption and Homicide sections. At Wilmer, he has represented Boeing Co., CitiGroup Inc., and Mitchell Wade, the defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.).
The District’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, the largest in the nation with about 340 prosecutors, handles local and federal criminal cases. The office is currently overseen by acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips. Phillips, a career prosecutor, had been the office’s Principal Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney since 2004.
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Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton isn’t giving up her quest to get the feds to take a back-seat role in prosecuting local District of Columbia crimes. The non-voting Democratic delegate to Congress has reintroduced a bill to establish a District Attorney’s office for Washington.
As a federal enclave, Washington is ultimately governed by Congress. Norton’s bill, the proposed District of Columbia District Attorney Establishment Act, is part of a long-time push by Washingtonians to wield more control over local affairs.
Norton has introduced the measure in each of the past three sessions of Congress - in 2003, 2006, and 2007. The effort follows a 2002 referendum in which District residents voted to establish a locally elected D.A. Currently, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia prosecutes local crimes - from burglaries to murders. The D.C. U.S. Attorney also shoulders a weighty national security docket, including holding habeas hearings on motions from Guantanamo Bay prisoners challenging their detention.
Norton has picked up one co-sponsor for her bill, Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), this go around. Establishing an elected position of district attorney would require an act of Congress and presidential approval.
D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, told Main Justice he hasn’t spoken to Norton about the bill’s chances and didn’t want to speculate. Mendelson did say that historically Congress has been pre-occupied with federal issues and “just doesn’t get” the importance of home rule in the District. “It’s just hard to get their attention,” said Mendelson.
The size and scope of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District make it one of the most coveted positions in federal law enforcement. Attorney General Eric Holder was the first African-American to serve as U.S. attorney for the District at the recommendation of Norton. Norton spokeswoman Sonsyrea Montgomery didn’t say if Norton has spoken to Holder about her proposal, and said she would check with Norton to see if she believed she had enough support for the bill to move forward.
Channing D. Phillips is acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Main Justice reported that Ron Machen has interviewed with the Justice Department and is likely to be the next U.S. Attorney for the District.
Norton argues that the District U.S. Attorney “needs to be freed up to handle national security and other vital federal cases, particularly in the post-9/11 nation’s capital.” But a spokesman for the office seemed to think it was handling the caseload just fine.
“We put a huge amount of resources into local prosecutions,” Ben Friedman told Main Justice. “We are the local prosecutor and we act like it.”
Norton’s desire to have an elected district attorney is a legitimate issue, said Friedman. But he added that the U.S. Attorney’s Office “does everything that a local D.A. does and more.” There are over 350 assistant U.S. attorneys in the D.C. office, including 146 assistant U.S. attorneys divided into four main sections working on local crime and 76 on the federal side, according to Friedman.
All employees of the District U.S. attorney’s office are federal employees. Asked what would happen if the bill actually made its way through Congress and was signed into law, Friedman said he wasn’t sure.
“I honestly wouldn’t even speculate, I couldn’t imagine how it would work,” said Friedman.
Holder served as U.S. Attorney for D.C. from 1993 until 1997 and embraced his role in the prosecution of local crime, “paying nightly visits to churches and advisory neighborhood commissions, he focused attention on raising the office’s community profile and on beefing up local law enforcement,” according to a 1997 article in Washington City Paper. He does not appear to have an opinion on record as to whether the District needs a D.A.
Norton introduced Holder at his Senate confirmation hearing in January, stating that he ”created a new gold standard” by “localizing the district’s part of his jurisdiction by, for example, placing assistant U.S. attorneys in communities for the very first time while strenuously carrying forward significant federal prosecutions.”
“Eric wore two very different high-profile hats at the same time with remarkable skill,” said Norton.
Despite the innovations Norton credited to Holder, she still would like to see the way local cases are handled overhauled.
Mendelson said the recent case of Tony Hunter, a gay man who was killed on his way to a gay bar whose killer was charged with manslaughter, shows that federal prosecutors aren’t always as in touch with the local community as an elected district attorney would be.
“I don’t want to convey that [the U.S. attorney] was insensitive, but a local prosecutor would be more sensitive to the local community’s feelings,” said Mendelson.
“There is no law enforcement issue of greater importance to our residents, or on which we have less say, than the prosecution of local crimes here,” said Norton. “A U.S. Attorney has no business in the local criminal affairs of a local jurisdiction. This bill simply would make the District’s prosecutor accountable to the people by electing him or her, as elsewhere in the nation.”
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Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday announced nine appointees to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.
In August, Holder tapped Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones to chair the committee, an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at Main Justice.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, of Illinois’ Northern District, served as interim chairman before Jones was confirmed. Chicago’s top prosecutor, a Republican appointee who has been recommended for a second tour of duty, will remain on the committee.
The nine new members are listed below. Click on their names for a summary of their Senate questionnaires.
- Preet Bharara, of the Southern District of New York
- Dennis Burke, of Arizona
- Jenny Durkan, of the Western District of Washington
- Paul Fishman, of New Jersey
- Neil MacBride, of the Eastern District of Virginia
- Peter Neronha, of Rhode Island
- Joyce Vance, of the Northern District of Alabama
- Channing Phillips, acting U.S attorney in the District of Columbia
- John Davis, chief of the criminal division of the federal prosecutors’ office in Alexandria, will represent the views of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
They will each serve two-year terms.
The Senate so far has confirmed 18 of 93 U.S. Attorneys. One nominee is waiting for approval by the full Senate, and 11 more await a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Holder, in a statement, said he would rely heavily on the the AGAC as the department works to curb violent crime and gang violence, promote civil rights, police the marketplace and protect national security.
The AGAC’s other members, who were appointed during the Bush administration, include U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, of Middle District of Alabama; Rod Rosenstein, of Maryland; Brett Tolman, of Utah; and Gretchen Witt, the civil chief in the District of New Hampshire.
Regulations require only that the committee have an “appropriate” number of members.
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