New U.S. attorney for Utah knows his Plato, law and '30 Rock'

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2011 7:03 p.m. MST

David B. Barlow, left, takes the oath of office with Chief Judge Ted Stewart, right, and his wife Crystal Barlow, center, during Barlow's U.S. Attorney investiture ceremony at the Frank E. Moss Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Besides being able to quote the world's great philosophers without breaking a sweat, the new U.S. attorney for Utah apparently knows quite a bit about a popular TV sitcom.

"He can quote any and every episode of "30 Rock" ever made, and can do so in a way that is relevant," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said at the swearing-in ceremony Friday for David B. Barlow.

After making the comment, Lee challenged his former Senate staffer to see if he could find a way use his knowledge of the show in a legal argument. "I'm convinced he could do it in a persuasive way," he said.

President Barack Obama nominated and the Senate confirmed Barlow as Utah's new U.S. attorney earlier this year. Barlow took the oath of office Friday. The U.S Attorney's Office defends the United States in legal matters, recovers damages in civil and criminal cases and prosecutes federal crimes.

Barlow earned an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree from Yale. He worked for the highly regarded Chicago law firm Sidley Austin, the same firm where Michelle and Barack Obama worked and met. Barlow most recently served as chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee for Lee.

Lee said the most often used refrain in his Senate office the past year was, "Ask Barlow." He described Barlow as someone who knows what he's talking about but doesn't take himself too seriously.

Mike Davis, who worked closely with Barlow at Sidley Austin, said he initially thought Barlow might be a know-it-all, but found the opposite to be true. He's not just smart but brilliant and unassuming, he said.

"He can cite chapter and verse on Plato and Aristotle and in fact 'The Princess Bride,'" Davis said.

Barlow, he said, will take the trust placed in him seriously. He said he's thoughtful, fair and willing to learn from others.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who recommended Barlow to the president, said, "Boy, are we glad to see you."

Utah went 20 months without a presidentially appointed U.S. attorney. Several names were advanced and vetted before Obama settled on Barlow. Carlie Christensen served as acting U.S. attorney during that time.

Hatch, R-Utah, said he knows Barlow will see that justice is served in the cases he oversees. "It's not always important to win. It's important to do justice."

Barlow echoed those sentiments during his remarks. He said he is committed to the rule of law and the Constitution. A U.S. attorney's role is to enforce the law impartially, to see that the guilty not escape and the innocent not suffer, he said.

"Keeping an open mind and hearing the other side plays an important role," Barlow said. Listening, he said, may or may not result in a change of direction or outcome, but "a better answer, a better approach may come from unexpected sources."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com Twitter: dennisromboy

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