Updated March 12
The U.S. Justice Department announced today new leadership in its embattled Public Integrity Section, which came under fire for mishandling of the prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. Career federal prosecutor John L. "Jack" Smith will take over as the chief of the Public Integrity Section.
The current acting chief, Raymond Hulser, will become Smith’s principal deputy. Hulser took over for William Welch II after he relocated to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts last year following the collapse of the Stevens trial. Welch’s former principal deputy, Brenda Morris, has also since moved from the section.
Smith, a member of the New York bar since 1995, has held a number of supervisory roles as a prosecutor. He is a former deputy chief in the criminal division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Smith was promoted in 2007 to chief of criminal litigation, supervising about 100 prosecutors.
In 2008, Smith went to work for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. Justice officials said Smith is currently the investigation coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC. Smith supervises the teams that investigate foreign government officials for alleged war crimes.
“When we made calls, the youngest lawyers to the most senior attorneys uniformly referred to Jack as a dynamic leader,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division, which include the Public Integrity Section. “I look for leaders, great leaders.”
Breuer said there were dozens of applicants for both the section chief and principal deputy post.
Smith was a lead prosecutor in a number of high-profile cases during his time in Brooklyn. He prosecuted the police officers charged in the sodomy of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. He was on the team that prosecuted the gang murder of two New York City police officers. He’s worked racketeering cases.
Two former federal prosecutors, Michael Beys and Morris Fodeman, say that Smith’s a good pick for the Public Integrity job. Beys and Fodeman, who are both on the criminal defense side now, prosecuted cases with Smith and say he brings a solid reputation to Main Justice.
“There are probably about a dozen people he has made into greater lawyers just from being around him and watching him work,” said Beys, a solo practitioner in New York who also has a civil practice.
Beys said Smith has a “great courtroom awareness, a down-to-earth demeanor in front of the jury.”
Fodeman, of counsel to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in New York, called Smith a “brilliant prosecutor and fantastic lawyer. He has a reputation as being one of the fairest people you can imagine. He’s in it for the right reasons.”
Criminal defense lawyer Ephraim Savitt in New York, who has been on the opposite side of Smith in court, praised Smith -- calling him "entirely above board" and quick on his feet. Savitt said Smith's one of the best cross-examiners he's seen.
“Jack is a very fair but aggressive prosecutor," Savitt said. "In terms of somebody who’s going to head the Public Integrity Section, the Justice Department couldn’t find someone with greater integrity than Jack.”
Savitt said he wished there were a “universal rule” in which federal prosecutors were cut in Smith’s mold.