Rosenstein takes office as top U.S. prosecutor

Kenneth Starr commends appointment in ceremony filled with pomp, humor

August 12, 2005|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN STAFF

Kings have coronations. Presidents have inaugurations. And, as seen yesterday afternoon in the federal court in downtown Baltimore, U.S. attorneys have investitures.

Amid pomp, circumstance and a healthy dose of humor from a bench filled with 13 judges, Rod J. Rosenstein formally, and quite possibly officially, became the state's top federal prosecutor.

That's because Chief Judge Benson E. Legg jokingly admitted that the oath of office he administered about a month ago to the former Justice Department official came without knowing the script.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly referred to a ceremony performed by U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg in which he joked about not following the script while swearing in the new U.S. attorney for Maryland. The judge was referring to a swearing-in ceremony he had done for a federal court judge.
The Sun regrets the error.

"I stood up, and I simply made one up," Legg said before using the correct oath at yesterday's ceremony.

Rosenstein reiterated his priorities of combating terrorism, gun-related violence, white-collar fraud and public corruption in his speech before more than 100 family members, colleagues, judges and lawyers in the Lombard Street courthouse. He spent most of his time thanking his supporters and his family, whom he credited for instilling a belief in hard work and humility.

Among the speakers at the ceremony was Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Ginsburg had been selected by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the Supreme Court, but his nomination was withdrawn in 1987 when Ginsburg admitted smoking marijuana in the 1970s.

Rosenstein was Ginsberg's law clerk after graduating from Harvard University.

"You can't keep a good man down," Ginsburg said, referring to Rosenstein's ability to land plum jobs with some of the most important figures in the Department of Justice.

Rosenstein, 40, of Bethesda has spent almost his entire legal career as a prosecutor, most recently as a supervisor of the Justice Department's criminal tax cases. This summer he returned to Maryland, where he had spent four years from 1997 until 2001 as a federal prosecutor, mostly in the Greenbelt office.

Other speakers yesterday included Maryland U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte; Assistant U.S. Attorney General Eileen J. O'Connor; and U.S. Attorney Jan Paul Miller of the Central District of Illinois.

But the granddaddy of the boldface names had to be Kenneth W. Starr, referred to in a news release only as dean of Pepperdine University School of Law.

"Man, you know a lot of big shots," Miller quipped before recounting Rosenstein's halcyon days as an assistant U.S. attorney in Greenbelt.

Most of the country knows Starr as President Bill Clinton's nemesis, the independent counsel appointed to investigate the Whitewater land deal. His probe led to several convictions handled, in part, by Rosenstein, who left the office before the investigation delved into Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Yesterday, Starr started with a history lesson on the creation of the American judiciary in 1789 and quoted both the Magna Carta and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from a Birmingham jail. But he moved quickly to 1995, when Rosenstein worked as an attorney for him.

Calling Rosenstein "brilliant, hardworking [with] rock-ribbed integrity," Starr concluded with "as we might have said on the banks of the Arkansas River years ago, you do us proud."

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