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Penn Law alumni, lecturer are leaders in the Eastern District of PA’s U.S. Attorney’s Office

December 09, 2019

Three University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School alumni and a former Law School senior lecturer occupy four of the top seven leadership roles in the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPA). The Office is one of the nation’s largest USAOs, covering about 4,700 square miles and over five million people residing within its nine counties. Alumni Gregory B. David L’04, Clare Putnam Pozos L’07, Jennifer Arbittier Williams C’92 L’95, and former Senior Lecturer Alison Donahue Kehner have been working in their executive roles in the EDPA since Spring 2018.

The USAO for the EDPA is divided into three divisions: Criminal, Civil, and Administrative, whose respective chiefs report to the United States Attorney William M. McSwain. Covering such a large area and population means working on complex cases with a range of subject matter in both civil and criminal proceedings: healthcare, national security, crimes on the dark web, drug crimes, and everything in between. The four Penn Law alumni manage the administrative affairs of the EDPA and act as representatives of the Office to other agencies, the private sector, and the community.

“One of the most satisfying parts of my job is working daily with Jennifer, Clare, Greg, and Alison,” said United States Attorney William M. McSwain. He continued, “They are true professionals who are tirelessly dedicated to our mission of pursuing justice. Moreover, they set the tone for the Office and the culture of excellence that guides everything that we do. I could not lead the Office without them and am very grateful for their service.”

With over a year in their new roles, Williams, Pozos, David, and Kehner took a moment to reflect on their positions, including the time they spent at the Law School and the connections to their cohort and faculty who help keep their strong connection with Penn Law.

Gregory B. David L’04

Assistant U.S. Attorney, Chief, Civil Division

Gregory B. David L’04Gregory B. David L’04

David joined the USAO as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) in 2010 and has been Chief of the Civil Division since April 2018.  The EDPA Civil Division consists of about 50 people, with 30 AUSAs who represent the government, its agencies, and government employees in civil actions. 

EDPA’s Civil Division is known as a major originator of affirmative civil enforcement actions to address fraud on the United States under the False Claims Act. “We regularly collaborate with investigative agencies like the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate and litigate complex fraud schemes perpetrated on the United States,” David said.  Through their work,” David continued, “our investigations often return millions – and sometimes billions – to the Federal Treasury.”

The Civil Division also enforces a variety of other federal statutes such as the Controlled Substances Act and civil rights laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.  And, the Civil Division defends the government when it is sued across a variety of subject matters including tort, discrimination, and challenges under the Administrative Procedure Act.

As Civil Chief, David supervises the Civil Division, carries his own case load, meets daily with the U.S. Attorney and executive team, and participates in a national civil chief’s working group that addresses issues impacting DOJ. Recently, David has been increasing the use of data analytics to generate and support fraud investigations. David said, “It’s satisfying when an investigation substantiates a fraud scheme that we detected in the data. We’re basically starting from ones and zeros and ending with holding an actual person or company accountable.”

David credits his time at Penn Law for inspiring his interest in public law.

“When I was at Penn, I participated in the Civil Practice Clinic with [Practice Professor] Lou Rulli. This was one of my best experiences in law school, and Lou and the other faculty at that time were mentors.”

This hands-on experience with clients, court work, and running cases as a student inspired David to embrace the opportunity to supervise 3L externs within his division. He found them so capable that he worked with First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams to create a Civil AUSA Fellowship program at the USAO that gives candidates with as little as one year’s experience (as opposed to the usual four or five) the opportunity to become an AUSA.

After Law School, David clerked with the Honorable Anthony J. Scirica, then-Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (and currently a Senior Fellow at Penn Law). David urges recent graduates to clerk if possible.  “The substantive responsibility is awesome, and, beyond that, you learn so much from your judge and co-clerks,” David said.  “From Judge Scirica, I learned how powerful humility and kindness can be, and I worked with brilliant and supportive co-clerks including Matt Duncan (L’03 and current Legal Practice Skills Senior Lecturer), who remains among my best friends.”

After clerking, David worked at the Philadelphia law firm Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller for five years. He had many mentors there, including Mark Aronchick, whose sage words of advice David has held close: “In the life of a case, there will be an important, but difficult and painful task. Maybe it’ll be managing a large batch of documents or teasing out a complex and unfamiliar area of the law. Volunteer for that task and master it,” David said, citing Aronchick. “That’s a particularly good piece of advice for a young attorney because it’s a way to become an important part of the team,” he added.

Clare Putnam Pozos L’07

Senior Advisor to William M. McSwain, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of PA

Clare Putnam Pozos L’07Clare Putnam Pozos L’07

 As a member of the Executive Team, Pozos advises U.S. Attorney McSwain on all policy and case-related matters. She also manages the Office of Public Affairs and External Engagement along with Alison Kehner.  Together they “work on strengthening the Office’s relationships with law enforcement and community partners, as well as oversee communications with the Department of Justice, the public, and the press.”

In addition to her executive responsibilities, Pozos continues to prosecute criminal cases, focusing on complex dark web narcotics investigations and public corruption cases. In September, she indicted three Chinese nationals for allegedly conspiring to ship and distribute deadly fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to a former Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff, who then redistributed those drugs on thousands of occasions, with multiple people overdosing and dying as a result.

“These kinds of cases are incredibly difficult, but also very rewarding,” she stated. “They remind me why I chose this line of work.”

Pozos found her calling while a student at the Law School.

“While providing me with the necessary fundamentals of a legal education, the Law School also encouraged me to pursue subjects that interested me intellectually and personally even if they didn’t fit into a traditional academic curriculum.”

These opportunities helped her to figure out her professional passions. During law school, Pozos interned at the U.S Attorney’s Office that she now helps lead, and also took Adjunct Professor Mike Levy’s cybercrime seminar, both of which would prove to be formative.

Prior to joining the USAO in Philadelphia, Pozos served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., which helped her “learn to think on my feet and make decisions in fast-paced and hectic situations.” She first-chaired over 40 trials in a matter of a few years and recalls that she “slept very little as a result.” And though the work was challenging, her reward is that she now feels “ready for anything that could come up in a workday, inside or outside of the courtroom.”

One of many issues that Pozos has tackled in the last year is creating better accommodations for working parents at the USAO. “I am proud that we have worked to put in place a robust parental leave policy that expands and extends the period of approved parental leave beyond the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act. We have also opened a nursing mothers’ room for any employee or guest of the Office who would like to use it,” she said. “As a working parent of two young children, I know that support like this can really make all the difference.”

Jennifer Arbittier Williams C’92, L’95

First Assistant to William M. McSwain U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Jennifer Arbittier Williams C’92 L’95Jennifer Arbittier Williams C’92 L’95

 

Williams joined the Criminal Division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2002 and, after working on a variety of different cases as a generalist prosecutor, it became clear that she had a “passion for and a skill with national security cases.” After a decade on such cases, she became the Chief of the National Security and Cybercrime Unit at the USAO.

In April 2018, Williams was asked to take on her current role as First Assistant U.S. Attorney, second-in-command of the office, through which she supervises the Criminal, Civil, and Administrative Divisions of the USAO and takes on a huge amount of administrative management. She also serves in the supervisory chain of National Security and Cybercrime Unit and as the Crisis Management Coordinator, which allows her to use her experience as a “terrorism prosecutor to help this office prepare for and respond to large-scale emergencies in coordination with our agency partners.”

According to Williams, her current role requires her to be a juggler.

“I must be able to work on many different matters throughout any given day,” she said, “from editing significant case documents in both civil and criminal matters to assisting with case strategy decisions to participating in hiring decisions to dealing with personnel challenges. In addition,” she added, “I have grown very comfortable making difficult decisions, sometimes quite quickly, which is a necessary part of this job.”

She relies heavily on being organized and efficient to keep on top of her “ever-evolving to-do list.”

Williams’ time at Penn Law prepared her for her career by instilling a love of the law and by teaching her the power of collaboration.

According to Williams, “I studied with a small group of students throughout my time there – people who remain my friends to this day – and I still find that I work best when working collaboratively with my colleagues, many of whom also graduated from Penn Law.”

Williams credits her success largely to her mentors and is grateful for her professional career.

“My mentors taught me the importance of courage, confidence, and intense preparation, all of which serve me well in my current role,” she said. “This is an incredible office, full of honorable people working hard to make the world a safer place. I cannot be prouder to serve them in this role.”

Williams encourages students considering a career in law and government.

“Being a federal prosecutor is the best job in the world,” she said. “My work is fascinating and challenging, and I am making a difference in my community. I spend my days focused on doing the right thing and pursuing justice,” she added, “and I cannot envision another legal job as fully satisfying as this one.”

Williams’ advice to future lawyers, along with being diligent and organized is as follows: “Be a nice person, even when life is stressful or frustrating, and you will be able to go home every day proud of what you do and who you are.”

Alison Donahue Kehner

Counsel for William M. McSwain, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Senior Lecturer Alison Donahue KehnerSenior Lecturer Alison Donahue Kehner

Alison Donahue Kehner works as AUSA and Counsel to U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain and was a Senior Lecturer at Penn Law, teaching Legal Practice Skills and an upper-level writing class, Writing for Practice. In her role at the EDPA, she splits her time between casework in the Criminal Division of the USAO and administrative management of the Office as a member of Bill’s McSwain’s Executive Team and as a supervisor of the Office of Public Affairs and External Engagement.

“A typical day is hard to describe because every day is different, but that is exactly what makes this job exciting and fulfilling,” Kehner said. “There are constants though – we have an Executive Team meeting most mornings, and I spend a lot of time collaborating with my colleagues and agency partners on cases and policy matters.”

Kehner’s leadership skills were cultivated through her teaching experience at the Law School.

“In every interaction I had with my students, I worked hard to foster a culture of professionalism, to engage in difficult conversations with students, collectively and individually, and to provide honest feedback to help develop students’ legal skills and judgment,” she said. “These are all skills that I use in my role at the US Attorney’s Office every day.”

Kehner was also lucky to have experience working with William M. McSwain in previous roles – first as co-clerks in the chambers of Judge O. Marjorie Rendell of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and later at a private law firm in Philadelphia.  She and McSwain remained in contact over the years, and when he approached her to join the Office, she jumped at the chance to work with him again. 

Kehner said that this previous experience of working with McSwain “gave me a solid understanding of how he thinks, how he approaches and analyzes problems, and how he communicates his ideas. It also helped me sense how I could add value to his team.” She added, “We work well together because we maintain an open and honest dialogue on issues that come up every day.”

Kehner looks forward to working with McSwain this spring as they co-teach an upper-level course together at Penn Law titled Federal Prosecution and Practice, with Antonio Pozos at Drinker Biddle. “It will be great to be back in the classroom, and I look forward to working with students again. I’ve missed it a lot.”

Kehner adds that the best advice she could give to someone aspiring to work in a similar position in public practice is to get professional experience at both a private law firm and in a prosecutor’s office or other government post, as it is the best way to be sure a career in public service is the right fit.

For those looking to work in public interest law, Kehner said, “Don’t give up! It might take some patience and tenacity, especially when funding freezes stymie hiring,” she said, “but eventually things work out and you land exactly where you always wanted to go.”

Public Service at Penn Law

“Penn Law’s Leo Model Foundation Government Service and Public Affairs Initiative strives to connect students and alumni to careers in government service, and leaders such as Williams, Pozos, David, and Kehner serve as excellent role models for the varied roles and increasing responsibilities that government lawyers can take on as they navigate their careers,” said Neta Borshansky, Director of Public Sector Careers and Government Programs. The initiative invited Kehner to speak at last year’s annual initiative dinner, where she described her transition into government service and her enthusiasm for her high-impact leadership role at EDPA.

Each summer and academic term, students participate in internships and externships at the office, where they contribute to the varied work of the office. “These experiences often lay the foundation for students who are planning on dedicating themselves to government service during their career, and we are thrilled that our students have the opportunity to work with the incredibly dedicated leadership team at EDPA,” said Borshansky.