Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 23, 2015

U.S. Attorney’s Office celebrates 225th year

Current U.S. Attorney William C. Killian. - (Photo provided)

On Jan. 15, 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.

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 13 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. Holding the position reflects the honor of which George Washington spoke 200 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’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. Tennessee was a unified district until 1805, when the state was divided into the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts.

Current U.S. Attorney William C. “Bill” Killian said, “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.’”

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee