Feds to open U.S. Attorney's office in Juneau

Permanent federal prosecutor position may be a first for city

Posted: Sunday, November 15, 2009

The U.S. Department of Justice has created a new federal prosecutor position in Juneau and plans to open a U.S. Attorney's office in the capital next month.

Former Juneau Assistant District Attorney Jack Schmidt, 38, was hired recently as the new assistant U.S. attorney.

"He's already working, we just don't physically have the space yet," said Karen Loeffler, U.S. attorney for the Alaska district.

The office in the Juneau Federal Building is expected to open sometime at the end of next month. In the mean time, Schmidt is working out of the FBI office in the Federal Building.

Loeffler is unaware of Juneau ever previously having a U.S. Attorney's office, and said Southeast Alaska cases are routinely handled out of Anchorage.

"I think it's a wonderful thing," she said. "We've worked it out of Anchorage but it certainly is better for the area to have an actual assistant U.S. attorney down there."

The U.S. Department of Justice now has 24 assistant attorneys working in Alaska. The Juneau office will be third office in the district, which includes the main office in Anchorage and a one-person office in Fairbanks.

"I think the main focus will be on narcotics," Schmidt said. "We pursue whatever comes across our desk as long as we can prove it to a jury. Whether it be (drugs) through the mail, whether or not it's being shipped here through aircraft or whatever."

Schmidt will also pursue cases involving everything from environmental offenses to child pornography, he said.

"The same gamut of cases that we do (in Anchorage)," Loeffler said. "We have white-collar fraud and bank robberies and commercial fishing criminal violations, drugs, guns. We're an all-service office."

The DOJ is in the process of hiring one additional staff person to work at the new office. Federal prosecutors will continue to work on some cases out of Anchorage, too, Loeffler said.

"Obviously there is more work that can be done in Juneau than can be done by just Jack," she said. "We'll continue to service the area out of Anchorage. It's part of our responsibility overall for the District of Alaska, but it's just very thrilling to finally have somebody down there full time."

Schmidt saw the new job posting and decided it would be a good career move.

"I've been a prosecutor for eight years with the state," he said. "My plan is always to be a career prosecutor, whether or not it be with the state or any other agency."

Staying in Juneau also factored into his decision to take the position.

"Being born and raised in Juneau, I wasn't really looking to move anywhere else," Schmidt said. "So the job opened up here and I applied for it. Now I'm here."

Working as a federal prosecutor is quite different from working as a state prosecutor, Schmidt said.

"It's a pretty substantial transition," he said. "It's a very different practice."

Once the new office is completed, there will be an open house for the public, likely to be held in January, Loeffler said. There will also be a separate open house for local law enforcement, she added.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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