KNOXVILLE (press release)—The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee celebrated the 225th Birthday of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Tennessee, by holding a reception in the Knoxville headquarters office. Early history of the office dates back to 1790. Tennessee remained a unified district until 1805 when the state was divided into three districts, the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts.
The Judiciary Act of 1789, created the position of the U.S. Attorney. This Act, created by Congress, directed the President of the United States to appoint “a meet person learned in the law to act as an attorney for the United States” in each federal district. The U.S. Attorney was “to prosecute in (each) district all delinquents for crimes and offenses cognizable under the authority of the United States, and all civil actions in which the United States shall be concerned.”
Within a few days of passage of the Judiciary Act, President George Washington appointed thirteen distinguished individuals to fill the offices of U.S. Attorneys in the newly created federal judicial districts. Among those first appointed were John Marshall, U.S. Attorney for Virginia, later the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and Christopher Gore of Massachusetts, later governor of that state. Those selected for the Office of U.S. Attorney represented the best from their states.
Many other familiar names have served as U.S. Attorney including two Presidents of the United States. Andrew Jackson was the first U.S. Attorney for the District of Tennessee and Franklin Pierce served the District of New Hampshire.
Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama have appointed individuals to serve as U.S. Attorney who are committed to honor, courage, and justice. Holding the position reflects the honor of which George Washington spoke two hundred years ago when he wrote to Richard Harrison about accepting the appointment as U.S. Attorney for the District of New York, “The high importance of the judicial system in our national government makes it an indispensable duty to select such characters to fill the several offices in it as would discharge their respective duties in honor to themselves and advantage to their country.”
Currently, there are 94 federal districts with 93 U.S. Attorneys serving in those districts. Caseloads involve issues ranging from the brutal to the compassionate. The U.S. Attorney is the one responsible for translating the concept of justice into the everyday lives of its citizens.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee is the largest in the state, encompassing 41 of the 95 counties, spanning 420 miles, and serving over 2.6 million people.
Despite the importance of the U.S. Attorney’s offices people may still find themselves asking the question, “What does a U.S. Attorney do?”
The mission of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice for the people of East Tennessee; and, to serve as effective financial stewards for the American people, by defending the financial interests of, and collecting debts owed to the United States.
Our office prosecutes those individuals and organizations that violate federal criminal statutes. This includes offenses such as domestic and foreign terrorism; child pornography and exploitation; civil rights violations; bank robbery and other violent crimes; firearms offenses; drug trafficking; health care fraud; immigration violations; public corruption; tax evasion; mail, bank and wire fraud; environmental offenses; and identity theft.
We also represent the United States in civil litigation, affirmative and defensive. As such, we sue individuals or entities who have violated federal civil laws. We also defend the interests of the United States when it, or one of its departments, agencies, or employees is sued, and we defend federal programs and agency actions.
Additionally, we collect monies owed to the United States from forfeiture, restitution, and fines imposed as a part of the judgment in federal cases. We also pursue collection of civil debts owed to the United States, including student, small business, housing, and farm loans. Finally, we represent the interests of federal agencies in bankruptcy court.
In carrying out our mission, the U.S. Attorney’s Office works with a multitude of federal, state, and local agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Energy, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Park Service, U.S. Marshal’s Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, 15 Tennessee District Attorneys Generals, 11 Tennessee Judicial District Drug Task Forces, 41 County Sheriff’s offices, and 117 Chiefs of Police and their departments.
Current U.S. Attorney William C. “Bill” Killian added, “Throughout history, this office has exhibited Justice through their work, dedication, and accomplishments. Long after I leave this position, this office will continue to exhibit the pride that comes from representing the United States of America. As an attorney, you will have no greater client. Justice is not a nebulous concept. It is applied to the matters and cases every hour of every day by the Assistant U.S. Attorneys and the staff. As so aptly put by Mr. Justice Sutherland in the case of Berger v. United States (1935), ‘The U.S. Attorney is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest therefore in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape nor innocence suffer. She may prosecute with earnestness and vigor – indeed she should do so. But while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much her duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.’”