Grand Rapids legal community celebrates Miles appointment as U.S. Attorney

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– Legal News photos by Cynthia Price

Patrick Miles, (left) new U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan. Guests, (right) from judges to municipal employees, enjoyed themselves at the B.O.B.

By Cynthia Price
Legal News

“Eve,” at downtown’s B.O.B., was vibrant with over 200 well-wishers there to congratulate Patrick A. Miles, Jr., on being named the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan on Aug. 16.

The Grand Rapids Bar Association and its Young Lawyers Section, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, the Federal Bar Association, and the Floyd Skinner Bar Association hosted the reception to congratulate the well-known Mr. Miles on his recent appointment.

President Barack Obama nominated Miles, after a process that transpired as Miles was practicing business and corporate law at Dickinson Wright.

As Miles explains it, “The whole process took 11 months, which I didn’t think was too bad.”

In August of 2011, Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow formed a local review and selection committee, chaired by Gary McInerney, and comprising approximately two dozen attorneys from the Western District.  “They took applicants, interviewed candidates, and made a recommendation to the senators, then Senators Levin and Stabenow passed my name on to the White House,” Miles continues. After President Obama’s nomination in March 2012, the Department of Justice interviewed him and did an FBI check. Finally the Senate voted to accept the nomination in June 2012.

Miles, who was installed at the beginning of July, replaces Acting U.S. Attorney Don Davis. The previous appointed U.S. Attorney was Margaret Chiara, a former Cass County Prosecutor who was in office from 2001 to 2007.

The U.S. Attorney position serves at the pleasure of the president, so Miles’s appointment is coming late in the presidential term. He notes that it is not unprecedented for a president of the opposite party to retain any given U.S. Attorney, but “it’s not common.”

However, he adds, “I was well aware of the situation in August 2011.  I’m very happy to be in this position even for a short duration. It’s an incredible opportunity and a great way to serve the people.”

It has not been any secret that Miles is a Democrat, since, in 2010, he ran to represent the 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives against Republican Justin Amash. Miles lost, despite having the support of many prominent Republicans.

Miles is a native of Grand Rapids whose father was a senior buyer for Steelcase, and whose mother taught in the Grand Rapids Public Schools for 30 years. He graduated from Ottawa Hills High School when he was only 16, and received a degree in business administration and economics from Aquinas College at the age of 20.

His career, both in education and in the legal profession,  has been one of impressive firsts and notable accomplishment.

When he was at Harvard Law School, he was the first African-American to serve as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Record. He received his Juris Doctor at the age of 23, graduating in 1991 along with the same Barack Obama who has now appointed him, along with many other well-known Americans, including former Republican National Committee Chairman Kenneth Mehlman.

Following Harvard, Miles began his career at Varnum, where he again made history by becoming the firm’s first African-American partner in 1997 at the “ripe old age” of 29. There, he focused on cable and telecommunications law, as well as general business.

He became a partner at Dickinson Wright in 2006, working at the Grand Rapids office. In a promotional video for Dickinson, he says one word that comes to mind when thinking about the firm is “diversity.”
All the while, Miles has given of his time to serve both the community and the profession.

He has been a trustee on the Aquinas College Board of Trustees since 1993, including serving as chair for four years. He has been an officer on such boards as the DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation Board, the Inner-City Christian Federation, Hope Network, Spectrum Health Hospitals board, and the Greater Grand Rapids Area YMCA board.

He was also president of the Grand Rapids Bar Association in 2004-2005, having previously served as chair of the bar’s Diversity Committee (1998-2002). During his chairmanship, the GRBA committee created a Diversity Strategic Plan and held a diversity summit, partnering with the Grand Rapids

Area Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Rapids Economic Club.

And now, Miles has become the first person of color to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District.

There are 93 U.S. Attorneys, with some states having only one and others three or four. All of them report to the United States Attorney General, currently Eric Holder, and to the Deputy AG James Cole. Though there are many areas where he has discretion, Miles explains, “Our priorities are for the most part in alignment with the federal agencies and their investigative units.” These include the FBI, the Drug Enforcement  Administration, Homeland Security, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and Housing and Urban Development, among others.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has three divisions, criminal, civil, and appellate. Specific types of cases and indictments brought are up to Miles. “Of course, we’ll continue to pursue cases in all areas; it’s a collaborative process with the investigative agencies,” Miles adds. “I do intend to focus, more than we’ve been doing, on civil rights law enforcement, official corruption, and,” he say, “even though we’re already working on health care fraud, I’m looking at increasing our resources for health care fraud investigations and enforcement.”

Miles is humbled and honored by the appointment, and excited by the opportunity to work with the existing team of 35 assistant U.S. attorneys. “They’re fantastic, very hard-working, high caliber people with high ethical standards.”

Though his 21 years in practice have afforded him substantial experience as an attorney, Miles says, “In this position there’s such a broad range of legal issues, so I’m learning a lot. I’m finding it really fascinating,  and enjoying it very much.”