U.S. Attorney Nick Klinefeldt stepping down, not running in IA-03

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After six years as U.S. attorney for Iowa’s Southern District, Nick Klinefeldt will leave that position next month to go back to private law practice. I enclose below the full press release on his departure. Among other things, the former defense attorney highlighted his work on national committees “to update and expand discovery policies to ensure defendants [in federal courts] receive all of the information they need to adequately defend themselves, and revamp sentencing practices to ensure the end result of a prosecution is fair.” He also

developed a comprehensive discovery policy for the Southern District of Iowa that ensures criminal defendants receive even more information about the case against them than is required by the rules and that they receive it quickly. This policy included the development of a Stipulated Discovery and Protective Order that is now universally used in all criminal cases across the district. United States Attorney Klinefeldt also changed the way the office utilized mandatory minimum sentences, to ensure that they were only used when absolutely necessary.

U.S. House race-watchers had their eye on Klinefeldt earlier this year as a possible Democratic candidate in Iowa’s third Congressional district, but I have never heard of Klinefeldt signaling any intention to run. In recent weeks, the local Democratic establishment has been consolidating around Jim Mowrer, one of two declared challengers to first-term Representative David Young. Today Klinefeldt confirmed that he is not planning to run for Congress, Grant Rodgers reported for the Des Moines Register.

UPDATE: Michael Gartner wrote an excellent commentary on Klinefeldt’s record for the Des Moines-based weekly Cityview. Scroll to the end of this post for excerpts.

October 21 press release:

U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt To Step Down

DES MOINES, IA—Nicholas A. Klinefeldt announced today that he will step down as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, effective November 15, 2015. After leaving office, Mr. Klinefeldt will become a partner in the Des Moines office of an international law firm.

“Serving as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa has been the greatest honor and privilege of my career,” United States Attorney Klinefeldt said today. “I am grateful for the trust placed in me by President Obama and appreciate the opportunity I have had to work with Attorneys General Holder and Lynch and the other dedicated professionals across the Department of Justice. I have been inspired by the ongoing commitment to justice displayed by the lawyers and staff in the Southern District of Iowa. They work hard every day to protect the communities across Iowa, and vigorously represent the United States.”

On September 25, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Mr. Klinefeldt to be the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. The United States Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination on November 21, 2009, and he was sworn into office on November 25, 2009. Prior to his appointment as United States Attorney, Mr. Klinefeldt practiced white collar criminal defense in Boston, Massachusetts, and then both civil and criminal law in Des Moines, Iowa. Mr. Klinefeldt received his B.A. with honors and his J.D. with distinction from the University of Iowa. He clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Pratt of the Southern District of Iowa and Chief Justice Christopher J. Armstrong and Justice Benjamin Kaplan of the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

As United States Attorney, Mr. Klinefeldt has been a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on White Collar Crime and co-chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Criminal Practice. As co-chair of the Subcommittee on Criminal Practice, United States Attorney Klinefeldt worked with other leaders in the Department of Justice, on a national basis, to update and expand discovery policies to ensure defendants receive all of the information they need to adequately defend themselves, and revamp sentencing practices to ensure the end result of a prosecution is fair.

Locally, United States Attorney Klinefeldt developed a comprehensive discovery policy for the Southern District of Iowa that ensures criminal defendants receive even more information about the case against them than is required by the rules and that they receive it quickly. This policy included the development of a Stipulated Discovery and Protective Order that is now universally used in all criminal cases across the district. United States Attorney Klinefeldt also changed the way the office utilized mandatory minimum sentences, to ensure that they were only used when absolutely necessary.

As United States Attorney, Mr. Klinefeldt has served as the chief federal law enforcement officer for the Southern District of Iowa. He has taken great pride in the relationships he and the office have developed with their federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. United States Attorney Klinefeldt emphasized and expanded white collar crime enforcement in the Southern District of Iowa. Under United States Attorney Klinefeldt’s leadership, the office also brought two major civil rights cases against Des Moines Police Officers for excessive force.

Mr. Klinefeldt’s leadership of the United States Attorney’s Office included not only being extensively involved in each of the cases brought by his office, but also personally handling and trying to juries several prosecutions himself.

The Southern District of Iowa covers 47 of Iowa’s 99 counties, and includes Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Ames, Iowa City, Davenport, and Burlington. The United States Attorney’s Office, with staffed offices in Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and Davenport, has 26 Assistant United States Attorneys and is responsible for conducting all criminal and civil litigation in the district involving the United States government.

From Michael Gartner’s commentary on Klinefeldt for the October 28 edition of the Des Moines-based weekly Cityview.

Klinefeldt was an unusual choice for the job. For one thing, he was just 35 years old. For another, his father was in federal prison at the time for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, a felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. Indeed, early in the job, when he would go to Yankton to visit his dad he’d run into families visiting men he himself had prosecuted.

So he had an unusual perspective for a prosecutor, perhaps an unusual compassion as well. And he had strong feelings about mandatory minimums for drug crimes.

Those strong feelings presaged the Justice Department’s eventual conclusion that prosecutors should tailor charges in some instances to avoid triggering those Congressionally mandated minimums, a conclusion Klinefeldt helped seek — and a conclusion he embraced. As a result, some Iowa men and women who otherwise would have been stashed in federal prisons for way too many years now are leading productive lives. That is a good thing. […]

One notable conviction under Klinefeldt: Former Bauder’s pharmacist Mark Graziano, who was charged with selling pills out the back door of the pharmacy, cheating his sister and mother out of profits at the drugstore, and lying on his tax returns. He now is in prison in Leavenworth. Another: Des Moines developer Bob Knapp, who ignored federal laws on asbestos removal as he renovated the Equitable Building in Des Moines; he was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison.

A prosecutor has great leeway in deciding what cases to bring. Klinefeldt, unlike some predecessors, went after white-collar crime. Those are often the most difficult and the least sensational cases, but they’re often also the most important to a community. It’s harder to convict a wealthy man cheating on the asbestos laws than a poor man selling drugs on a street corner.

Klinefeldt also made a gutsy decision to twice bring civil-rights cases alleging police brutality, This year, a federal jury convicted a former Des Moines police officer of kicking a man in the head in 2013 while other officers held him down. The policeman was sentenced to five years in prison. Earlier, another policeman was convicted of severely beating a man during a traffic stop.

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