Mark Hulkower, a former federal prosecutor who went on to handle a series of high-profile white collar defense cases as a Steptoe & Johnson LLP partner, succumbed to colon cancer on Feb. 5 at Capital Hospice in Arlington, Va. He was 53.
Hulkower, who joined Williams & Connolly after graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia from 1989 to 1995 and handled a number of cases that received national attention.
In 1994, Hulkower led the prosecution of Aldrich Ames, the former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer and analyst who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. Ames is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
Plato Cacheris, a name partner at Washington-based Trout Cacheris who represented Ames, said, “Mark was a very meticulous and devoted prosecutor. In my negotiations with him, you could always tell he was on top of his cases and knew exactly where he wanted to go in them.”
After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Hulkower, a Bronx native, joined Steptoe & Johnson in Washington and quickly set about helping the firm expand its white collar practice with longtime Steptoe trial partner Reid Weingarten.
Together, Hulkower and Weingarten were known for taking on and winning some of the most difficult and noteworthy white collar investigations going. The list of clients Hulkower and Weingarten represented together includes Mark Belnick, the former Tyco International Ltd. general counsel; Ron Carey, the former president of the Teamsters Union; Richard Causey, former Enron chief accounting officer; and Riggs Bank.
Speaking for a 2004 article in The National Law Journal, Belnick, who was acquitted, said of the combination of Weingarten and Hulkower, “You don't find duos like that very frequently.”
For his part, Weingarten said, "Mark was the best trial lawyer I've ever seen. He was a brilliant examiner and persuasive advocate. He was the consummate professional, and an even better person."
Hulkower was known for his depth of knowledge of the law and the ease with which he spoke to fellow lawyers, judges, juries and the public, several white collar defense partners said. “That’s a rare combination for any one lawyer to have,” said Robert Ullman, a partner at Boston-based Nutter McClennen & Fish who worked with Hulkower as part of team defending several former AOL executives who had been charged with securities fraud.
The AOL case is one that is mentioned over and over again when speaking with lawyers who knew Hulkower. Mark Hopson, a Sidley Austin partner who went to law school with Hulkower and has worked with him on a number of cases, said that during the 2007 trial Hulkower suffered an appendicitis attack in the courtroom. The judge hearing the case granted a stay of a few days. After the recess, Hulkower came back to score a full acquittal for his client John Tuli, one of the former AOL executives.
“That really goes to show Mark’s tremendous strength and his dedication to his clients. It's not easy to win against the United States government under the best circumstances. But to do that was amazing,” Hopson said. “When it came to working with his clients, Mark was like a kid with his favorite toy. He was as happy as he could be.”
Most recently, Hulkower was part of a team of lawyers defending five former Blackwater contractors who were charged with the shooting deaths of several Iraqi civilians in 2007. In 2009, Hulkower and the rest of the defense team convinced the trial judge to throw the case out on the ground that the government misused protected statements from the guards who were allegedly involved in the gunfire.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments in that case this morning. As The National Law Journal reported earlier, Justice Department lawyers want the D.C. Circuit to revive the government’s case.
David Schertler, a name partner at D.C’s Schertler & Onorato who is part of the Blackwater defense team, said, “Even in the tensest situations, Mark always had an air of confidence and a little humor to put everyone at ease.”
Hulkower’s passing garnered a great deal of attention among Washington’s elite white collar attorneys and many responded to requests for comment on his death within minutes.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, a former white collar partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr who worked with Hulkower as a defense attorney and faced him as a prosecutor, said, “As an office, we are terrible sorry to hear of Mark’s passing. He was always a staunch and ethical advocate for his clients and was respected by both sides of the bar.
Michael Levy, who co-chairs Bingham McCutchen’s white collar investigations and enforcement group, said, “He was a great guy and a fabulous lawyer.”
Barry Pollack, a Miller & Chevalier litigation partner, said, “In an area of the law where the stakes could not be higher — Mark's cases were not about money, but about his client's freedom — Mark fought as hard and effectively for his clients as anyone in the profession, but he did so in a way that earned the respect of judges, juries and even his opposing counsel.”
Though they complimented his skills as a lawyer, Hulkower's colleagues at Steptoe said they will most remember his dedication to his family.
Stephen Fennell, chair of the firm's litigation practice, said, "Often you'll hear words like 'heroic' or 'inspiring' when people describe a lawyer. But in Mark's case it was really true. He didn't have time to talk about dying. He was more interested in living for his family."
Hulkower is survived by his wife of 22 years, Nancy Hulkower, and three children, Annie, Griffin and Maggie.
A visitation for Hulkower will be held tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 228 South Pitt St., Alexandria, Virginia. The funeral is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.