For this one afternoon, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. owned the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in downtown Washington.
On the sixth floor, in the ceremonial courtroom, Machen's friends and family—and some 200 spectators—gathered for his formal installation as the top federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia.
The former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner was confirmed for the post in February, replacing Jeffrey Taylor, who joined Ernst & Young. In remarks, Machen talked about what he called the long road here, which included a stint as a federal prosecutor in D.C. under then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder Jr. Machen said he was struck back then by Holder's pride in representing D.C.—and, he joked, by the size of Holder’s office.
Holder canceled his planned appearance at the investiture to attend a meeting at the White House. Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia joked that Holder had a “higher calling” and therefore couldn’t make the ceremony. Machen said Holder had telephoned him this morning.
Machen (at left) thanked former Wilmer partner John Payton, who is now the director and general counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, for his guidance. And he thanked Wilmer managing partner William Perlstein for instructing him on the business of law—i.e., budgets and the allocation of resources. Machen will be managing the largest prosecutor’s office in the country, with more than 350 assistant U.S. attorneys.
Payton, in his remarks, spoke about the power of the prosecutor in the criminal justice arena and the need for sound judgment. Seeking justice and not convictions should be the goal of all prosecutors, Payton said. He said Machen brings a “spectacular” set of credentials, and he noted what he called an “optimistic” time in the criminal justice arena in the District.
D.C. Superior Court Judge James Boasberg read the White House commission after a few remarks about working with Machen at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Senior Judge Damon Keith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, for whom Machen was a clerk in 1995, delivered the oath of office. Keith said he thinks he took a little of the swagger out of Machen after his years at Stanford and then Harvard Law School. “Ron, I salute you, my dear friend and son,” Keith said.
After the hour-long ceremony, Machen greeted well-wishers, who included the trial judges of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and several federal appellate judges. Also in attendance were local D.C. judges and numerous Justice Department officials.
More photos of the investiture after the jump.
Photos by Diego M. Radzinschi / The National Law Journal