AUSA - taking questions

AUSA anon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AUSA anon » Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:47 pm

Honestly, no; personally I had a pretty long lead time before my start date, for reasons, so I'm not sure that my background check timeline was typical (they didn't have to try to rush to get me in). And I think a lot of it depends on what you have in your background and how many other background checks are going on at the same time (which might not be great for you right now since I get the sense there's a lot of hiring going on).

If it's at all helpful, I think my FBI interview was in December, and I got a call about setting up my start date in mid-May. But they also told me that I couldn't get the results of my background check until I had a start date, and I also never did get any actual formal notice that I had "passed," I just got sent more employment documents. So frankly it's all kind of a black box.

ss108
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Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by ss108 » Sat Aug 11, 2018 5:38 pm

How important is a clerkship to getting hired as an AUSA? My limited understanding is that clerkships are becoming more and more important.

AUSA anon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AUSA anon » Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:56 am

Yeah, I think clerkships are pretty important. I would say that every AUSA I know who's been hired in the last 10 years either clerked or had a ton of trial experience (usually state court/JAG), or, very occasionally, had neither but had the right connections (which, to be fair, are usually through work rather than nepotism/family friend time stuff). But most have clerked.

TotesAnon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by TotesAnon » Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:07 pm

AUSA anon wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:56 am
Yeah, I think clerkships are pretty important. I would say that every AUSA I know who's been hired in the last 10 years either clerked or had a ton of trial experience (usually state court/JAG), or, very occasionally, had neither but had the right connections (which, to be fair, are usually through work rather than nepotism/family friend time stuff). But most have clerked.

In your experience, how much, if any, weight is given to a new hire’s desire of where they would like to begin working?
I’m about to start life as an AUSA and am incredibly excited for this opportunity. I’ve been told I will likely start in one of two different units. While I would of course threw myself enthusiastically into either, I do have a preference.
Would it be considered way out of line to speak with the crim chief or someone else ahead of time to express that preference? If I get the other unit, I don’t want to start with a bad rap. Truly, I’m just thrilled to be starting this career.

NewAnon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by NewAnon » Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:32 pm

Not to hijack but how long did your background check take? I’m just in month 4+ and wondering what to expect going forward.

NewAnon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by NewAnon » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:16 am

NewAnon wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:32 pm
Not to hijack but how long did your background check take? I’m just in month 4+ and wondering what to expect going forward.
Should’ve clarified that this was directed at TotesAnon — I know OP has answered this question

AUSA anon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AUSA anon » Mon Aug 13, 2018 10:10 am

TotesAnon wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:07 pm
In your experience, how much, if any, weight is given to a new hire’s desire of where they would like to begin working?
I’m about to start life as an AUSA and am incredibly excited for this opportunity. I’ve been told I will likely start in one of two different units. While I would of course threw myself enthusiastically into either, I do have a preference.
Would it be considered way out of line to speak with the crim chief or someone else ahead of time to express that preference? If I get the other unit, I don’t want to start with a bad rap. Truly, I’m just thrilled to be starting this career.
I think it’s completely fair to speak to the criminal chief and ask if they’ve determined which group they’re putting you in, and if they haven’t picked one, to express an interest in pretty much the same way you’ve gone so here (will happily do either but if picking would pick X). Assuming you can just walk in and pick one of the “top”/most prestigious groups wouldn’t go over well, but if you’re just expressing a preference between groups they’ve already mentioned I can’t see that applying here.

I say that with the caveat that I can’t imagine a criminal chief/group chief being upset by this if you handle it professionally, but of course I don’t know *your* criminal chief, so ymmv. The big thing to avoid is giving any impression that you think any particular kind of case is “beneath you,” I think.

Now, chances are good the decision will be made for you based on office needs, but if it’s a coin flip your preference could make a difference. Office needs are generally paramount so your wishes won’t carry *much* weight unless there are additional reasons for putting you in the preferred group (you have pertinent experience, they need someone there anyway). But it’s not a bad idea to express the interests, again, as long as you don’t look like you’re not willing to pitch in where most needed.

My experience has been that chiefs want to help new AUSAs develop as prosecutors and get experience in the kinds of cases that interest them, though there is definitely an element of “paying your dues” first where the office needs you (and how long you have to do that will depend a lot on the office and what you want to do).

TotesAnon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by TotesAnon » Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:48 am

NewAnon wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:32 pm
Not to hijack but how long did your background check take? I’m just in month 4+ and wondering what to expect going forward.
Damn. I’m still waiting on mine to go through, but I’ve been told to expect a far shorter timeline than that. My understanding is that I’d be able to start with the interim clearance/waiver within a couple of months of submitting my paperwork.

I can’t speak to how long each investigation may differ based on what’s in your background.

TotesAnon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by TotesAnon » Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:58 am

AUSA anon wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 10:10 am
TotesAnon wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 1:07 pm
In your experience, how much, if any, weight is given to a new hire’s desire of where they would like to begin working?
I’m about to start life as an AUSA and am incredibly excited for this opportunity. I’ve been told I will likely start in one of two different units. While I would of course throw myself enthusiastically into either, I do have a preference.
Would it be considered way out of line to speak with the crim chief or someone else ahead of time to express that preference? If I get the other unit, I don’t want to start with a bad rap. Truly, I’m just thrilled to be starting this career.
I think it’s completely fair to speak to the criminal chief and ask if they’ve determined which group they’re putting you in, and if they haven’t picked one, to express an interest in pretty much the same way you’ve gone so here (will happily do either but if picking would pick X). Assuming you can just walk in and pick one of the “top”/most prestigious groups wouldn’t go over well, but if you’re just expressing a preference between groups they’ve already mentioned I can’t see that applying here.

I say that with the caveat that I can’t imagine a criminal chief/group chief being upset by this if you handle it professionally, but of course I don’t know *your* criminal chief, so ymmv. The big thing to avoid is giving any impression that you think any particular kind of case is “beneath you,” I think.

Now, chances are good the decision will be made for you based on office needs, but if it’s a coin flip your preference could make a difference. Office needs are generally paramount so your wishes won’t carry *much* weight unless there are additional reasons for putting you in the preferred group (you have pertinent experience, they need someone there anyway). But it’s not a bad idea to express the interests, again, as long as you don’t look like you’re not willing to pitch in where most needed.

My experience has been that chiefs want to help new AUSAs develop as prosecutors and get experience in the kinds of cases that interest them, though there is definitely an element of “paying your dues” first where the office needs you (and how long you have to do that will depend a lot on the office and what you want to do).

Thank you for your answer! I’m definitely not asking to be placed into some super-specialized or unusual area, just one of the couple that were mentioned as places I’m likely to begin.

I don’t think there’s any such thing as cases being “below me” when I’ve yet to cut my teeth as an AUSA on a single file, and I certainly hope I didn’t give off that impression!

I’ve got one more question for you, if you don’t mind. What’s been the approach towards sending AUSAs to the NAC from the offices in which you’ve worked?

AUSA anon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AUSA anon » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:42 am

No, no, you definitely didn't come off as feeling above any cases! That's just the only thing that you would need to watch out for. But I don't think it's a real issue for you.

As for the NAC, the offices I've been in have been super supportive of going to any relevant classes. In fact, my first office required me to do Basic Trial Advocacy and Discovery Boot Camp within my first year (not sure if this was their policy or DOJ policy - I think Discovery was DOJ policy). I've since done at least half a dozen more and have never had a request to go turned down or even groused about. I can't say that every office everywhere feels this way, but I'd be surprised if there were issues as long as you're able to handle your caseload and the time away.

The only thing I'd note is that it is worth thinking about how the courses fit with your experience/caseload. I went to at least one class (Electronic Evidence) before I was really doing any cases for which it was pertinent, and I kind of wish I could do it again now when I'd actually use the information on a regular basis, because the first time around I lacked context to really grasp/retain the information. And I took the general Federal Criminal Practice course too late - by the time it fit my schedule and took it, I knew most of the material from experience; it's a decent course, but most helpful early on. Also spreading them out is a way to cover your CLEs each year. :)

Anonabove

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by Anonabove » Wed Sep 05, 2018 10:14 pm

TotesAnon wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:48 am
NewAnon wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 5:32 pm
Not to hijack but how long did your background check take? I’m just in month 4+ and wondering what to expect going forward.
Damn. I’m still waiting on mine to go through, but I’ve been told to expect a far shorter timeline than that. My understanding is that I’d be able to start with the interim clearance/waiver within a couple of months of submitting my paperwork.

I can’t speak to how long each investigation may differ based on what’s in your background.
Just in case someone comes looking for an answer later, I cleared. 4-5 months, basically.

Anonabove

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by Anonabove » Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:36 pm

Starting in two months. Anything I should do before hand in terms of prep just to hit the ground running (basically, just not look like an idiot). District court clerk and biglaw before but don’t know much re: grand jury, magistrate judge work, etc.

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Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by los_blancos_v2 » Mon Oct 01, 2018 1:47 am

Anonabove wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:36 pm
Starting in two months. Anything I should do before hand in terms of prep just to hit the ground running (basically, just not look like an idiot). District court clerk and biglaw before but don’t know much re: grand jury, magistrate judge work, etc.

This might sound a little funny, and it might be more applicable to state prosecution where you'd be in court from day one, but it really can't hurt to brush up on your basic evidence and crimpro rules. And do read up on Brady and its progeny.

One of the things you learn pretty quickly as a prosecutor is to stop thinking about cases merely in terms of "what happened" and to shift the way your brain works more toward "what can I prove happened, what is the evidence that's going to supply that proof, and how am I going to get that evidence in."

FWIW, though, I know former state prosecutors who've said they felt they had more discretion in the state than they do in the federal system, I think mostly because of the close supervision over things like accepting/declining and plea agreements. My impression is that state prosecutors often have a lot of flexibility to be creative with pleas in a way that you don't in the federal system, and to dismiss cases; personally this doesn't bother me, probably mostly because I've never been in that position so don't know any benefits I'm missing, but I also think the close supervision reduces charging/sentencing disparities.
Just to chime in... From my own experience in state-level prosecution and comparing it to what I've heard from talking to AUSAs (as well as AUSA Anon's input ITT), I agree with this characterization, with the caveat that it'll vary from place to place. But at least in my office I have almost total discretion over what I do with my cases. I mean, one AUSA who used to work in my office once told me that he sometimes missed the flexibility of being able to "negotiate facts" (reference the question earlier in this thread on page 1 about sentencing guideline applications).

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Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by Adso » Fri Oct 12, 2018 12:32 am

Have you had to criminally prosecute an asylum seeker for illegal entry and, if so, how did you manage it?

AUSA anon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AUSA anon » Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:04 am

My understanding of the process is that when an immigrant is apprehended, the immigrant must claim a credible fear of returning to their home country and that that claim has to be adjudicated and denied before any prosecution can take place (that is, if a credible fear exists, they get put in asylum proceedings, at which they may or may not succeed; credible fear is a much lower bar). Also I’m unaware of anyone who raises an asylum claim and has it denied being then presented for prosecution (mostly bc to be prosecuted for illegal reentry you need to have a previous deportation - that unsuccessful asylee would instead just be deported).

So no, I don’t knowingly prosecute defendants for showing up and claiming asylum. I probably have, in that I would imagine some that I prosecuted may have tried to submit an asylum claim later (I have no way of knowing that). Or someone who was deported after not being granted asylum comes back after that deportation and gets prosecuted.

(This is probably going to sound bad, but: the category “asylum seeker” is kind of nebulous and doesn’t mean very much to me in the context of prosecution. Many people come to the border claiming asylum who don’t have any legal basis for the claim, and many people come here who are escaping TERRIBLE situations who don’t claim/aren’t eligible for asylum. Factually speaking, if I have a problem with prosecuting a given individual for illegal reentry, it doesn’t really hinge on whether they’ve said the magic word “asylum.”)

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Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by Adso » Fri Oct 12, 2018 10:03 pm

AUSA anon wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:04 am
My understanding of the process is that when an immigrant is apprehended, the immigrant must claim a credible fear of returning to their home country and that that claim has to be adjudicated and denied before any prosecution can take place (that is, if a credible fear exists, they get put in asylum proceedings, at which they may or may not succeed; credible fear is a much lower bar). Also I’m unaware of anyone who raises an asylum claim and has it denied being then presented for prosecution (mostly bc to be prosecuted for illegal reentry you need to have a previous deportation - that unsuccessful asylee would instead just be deported).

So no, I don’t knowingly prosecute defendants for showing up and claiming asylum. I probably have, in that I would imagine some that I prosecuted may have tried to submit an asylum claim later (I have no way of knowing that). Or someone who was deported after not being granted asylum comes back after that deportation and gets prosecuted.

(This is probably going to sound bad, but: the category “asylum seeker” is kind of nebulous and doesn’t mean very much to me in the context of prosecution. Many people come to the border claiming asylum who don’t have any legal basis for the claim, and many people come here who are escaping TERRIBLE situations who don’t claim/aren’t eligible for asylum. Factually speaking, if I have a problem with prosecuting a given individual for illegal reentry, it doesn’t really hinge on whether they’ve said the magic word “asylum.”)
It may depend on district, but so far in my experience, it's exact opposite. Immigrants, including asylum seekers and regardless of their credibility, are routinely prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for criminal entry/reentry. I was so shocked and am still grappling with the situation. That's why I was wondering how AUSA's here deal with having to do this, but I guess it isn't entirely widespread.

AnonymousAnyMouse

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AnonymousAnyMouse » Fri Oct 26, 2018 3:10 pm

If any of the AUSA‘s are still around, I’d like to know what, if any, personal security precautions you take, given the high-risk nature a federal prosecution?

Anon AUSA

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by Anon AUSA » Fri Oct 26, 2018 6:26 pm

Honestly? Nothing really more than I normally would. My prosecutions are generally no higher risk than state prosecutions - probably less, depending on the state prosecution.

I don’t broadcast my job (except on LinkedIn lol) or post my address anywhere or anything. I have an unlisted phone number (I don’t actually have a landline, but have an actual number because the cable/internet is cheaper that way). I know prosecutors who’ve filed something with the state/county (I forget) to get their public records sealed (like deeds, that kind of thing) - I haven’t done that yet because I didn’t own a house until recently so there weren’t any real records out there. I need to figure out how/if I can do that now.

I did run a google search on myself and send in requests to get my info removed from like spokeo etc. I’m checking now to see how well that’s worked.

Otherwise it’s mostly a function of caseload. I had a colleague who prosecuted a bunch of seriously anti-government folks who holed up in a compound and broadcast threats against his life, and he had a marshal detail living in his house 24/7 for nearly a year. If I were doing that kind of case (or say serious gang/organized crime prosecutions) I’d probably feel take more action, but I haven’t had any cases like that.

Frankly many defendants are rational enough to realize that threatening/offing an individual prosecutor is NOT going to solve their problems. Of the ones who aren’t, defendants usually get way more pissed at defense counsel than at prosecutors. I have very little personal contact with most of them so it’s hard, I think, to work up much rage at the person you see briefly in court every now and then (as opposed to at the person who’s supposed to get you out of jail). Obviously that’s not going to cover everyone and there are some terrifying people out there, but I haven’t felt particularly at risk.

(Which may be the point and an implied commentary on our justice system and who the feds go after, which if so, totally fair.)

AnonymousAnyMouse

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AnonymousAnyMouse » Sat Oct 27, 2018 1:32 pm

Thanks for your answer! I started scrubbing Google as soon as I got my offer. I’ve heard of people buying homes through an LLC, but sealing records at the county/state sounds like a good idea as well.

I’ve heard that defendants can get violent with their own counsel, but I’d rather not be scrambling to take precautions once I’ve been made aware of a specific threat.

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Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:21 pm

Ever feel like your hands were tied and you had to prosecute someone for something you didn't believe in, like a non-violent drug crime with an excessive statutory mandatory minimum? Do you ever think about the theory of punishment justifying your prosecutions?

AUSA anon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AUSA anon » Sun Mar 17, 2019 8:07 pm

BlendedUnicorn wrote:
Sun Mar 17, 2019 5:21 pm
Ever feel like your hands were tied and you had to prosecute someone for something you didn't believe in, like a non-violent drug crime with an excessive statutory mandatory minimum? Do you ever think about the theory of punishment justifying your prosecutions?
1) Not really, because that's now how I think about it. I don't "not believe in" particular offenses and if I felt that way I probably wouldn't/shouldn't have become a prosecutor. There are some policies about what kinds of defendants are amenable to charging for certain offenses that I don't love (not usually the drug prosecutions though), but policies can/do change. There are more I agree with than disagree with, so overall it still works for me.

2) Yes.

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Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Sun Mar 17, 2019 9:06 pm

Fair, and thanks.

ANONAUSA

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by ANONAUSA » Tue Jan 19, 2021 11:44 pm

Are AUSA - Civil Lit Department hours almost as bad as Biglaw? From what I gather it seems like AUSA is not "government 9-5 job" by any means and it sounds like you might be overworked just like biglaw.

Would appreciate any insight into AUSA civil lit department.

prospectiveAUSA

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by prospectiveAUSA » Tue Feb 09, 2021 12:05 am

Hello, I guess I'm a "non-traditional" applicant for an AUSA position at one the more "prestigious" USAOs. Didn't go to a T-14 or get a clerkship, and my GPA was...well, not great. However, that was 5 years ago. Since then, I have gained lots of in court room experience--federal, state, and administrative--and have conducted a decent number of trials as defense counsel. I've gotten some great results (in my humble opinion) and have published several scholarly articles. I landed an interview with an [undisclosed] USAO. I know it's going to be an uphill battle because of my lackluster academics. How possible is it that the interviewers would be willing to overlook my school record in consideration of my substantive legal experience? Also, in the interview how will they drill into my academics, such as the law school transcripts and whether or not I made it onto a journal? It's interesting that I have to dig back to 5 years ago in my mind despite all the invaluable experiences I've gained since :lol: But I just want to be prepared.

Thanks! Also if I could PM someone in the loop with more details that would be awesome.

AUSA anon

Re: AUSA - taking questions

Post by AUSA anon » Tue Feb 09, 2021 3:07 am

I would worry about this way less than you are. If they’re interviewing you, they’ve decided your grades/school are fine; no one wastes time interviewing someone they know they won’t hire, and there are always enough candidates, there’s no need to pad out the interview pool with filler or anything like that. So the fact that they’re interviewing you means that you know they’re willing to overlook your school record in consideration of your substantive legal experience.

I have never seen grades or (lack of) journal come up in an interview. Obviously I can’t say it’ll never happen, but generally the questions are much more designed for you to show your strengths rather than defend weaknesses - so why do you want to be a federal prosecutor (or civil AUSA, I presume), why this office, what about your experience has prepared you to do this job (maybe not in so many words, but things like “tell us about your trial experience, how do you handle x, tell us about a time when...”).

The biggest “academic” issue is going to be your ability to write/research. Depending on your exact background you may get questions about that (your publications suggest that won’t be a major concern, although scholarly writing is different from practice). So I would anticipate getting asked about your comfort level/facility with writing. Beyond that, suppose someone might ask why you didn’t do a journal (although frankly I think it would be a boring question), but if so, just have an answer about how it let you do other things you were more interested in doing (rather than “I didn’t get onto one”). And I suppose you might in theory get a question about your grades, but I can’t even really come up with one. “Why didn’t you get better grades” (or the equivalent) isn’t really something I can imagine being asked. But if it did, I feel like the answer would be something about how you didn’t click with the artificial setting of law school exams but that you’ve thrived in practice. Maybe a question like “I see you got a [not great grade] in [law school class] - how have you handled that topic in practice?” but even that seems like a stretch.

Again, my experience has been that offices are much more interested in finding out what you actually can do, rather than probing your deficiencies. If they’re interviewing you, they’re interested in what you’ve done in your 5 years of practice. I’ll be honest, I can’t say that in the end, they won’t go with someone who has the classic academic pedigree (often this person will also have great experience), but they’re competitive jobs and no one is ever a shoo-in.

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