Saturday, December 12, 2009

Karen Loeffler Sworn in as U.S. Attorney for Alaska


The District of Alaska got a new top lawyer yesterday, as Karen Loeffler shed the “interim” tag at a ceremony featuring several figures in the Alaska public corruption investigation.

It was odd to see Bill Allen’s lawyer Bob Bundy and Frank Prewitt’s attorney Mike Spaan sitting in places of honor in the jury box in the jam-packed federal courtroom, but their prominent roles showed how our system works. People like Allen and Prewitt in big trouble with federal prosecutors often reach for former U.S. Attorneys if they can afford those pricey counsel, particularly if they want to make deals.

Spaan hired Loeffler more than 20 years ago, and Bundy also served as her boss in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the 1990s. I have apparently known her even longer, as she and I worked together in 1986-87 in the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office.

Another person I met while working at the D.A.’s Office spoke at length in what is formally known as an “investiture.” Joe Bottini long ago left his post as a law clerk to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and yesterday he read the remarks by two other former U.S. Attorneys who would not make the ceremony. Bottini is better known to readers of this blog as one of the prosecutors in the “POLAR PEN” federal investigation into Alaska public corruption, most notably on the trial team in the five-week trial against then-U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. Standing at a lectern saying nice things about his boss was certainly a more pleasant experience than spending hours and hours with his Washington, D.C. attorney defending him in the ongoing probes of prosecutorial misconduct in the Ted Stevens case.

As noted by the speakers, intelligence, hard work, and practical instincts helped Karen Loeffler reach a long-held goal. Some observers also mentioned her fanatic interest in the outdoors, but it worth teasing out how the lifelong dedication to physical activity helped this former Dartmouth College tennis captain and varsity downhill skier become such a trial lawyer and litigator.

Litigation has been called a blend of sports, theatre, and politics, and it seems to help in litigation to have a background in playing sports. A lot of good trial prosecutors, in particular, have backgrounds in football, hockey, or other physically aggressive activities.

To succeed consistently at any regulated contest, you’ve got to want to win, know how to win, and understand how to win within the rules. Participation in competitive sports imparts these lessons in memorable ways at an early age.

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