Assistant U.S. Attorney Stewart Walz won't be crossing an ocean, as some of his colleagues have, to teach the finer points of the American criminal justice system when he leaves the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah next month.
Instead, he'll be on the East Coast instructing other federal prosecutors and U.S. Department of Justice attorneys at the department's training center in Columbia, S.C.
A veteran prosecutor, Walz will spend a year as an assistant director at the government's National Advocacy Center. He will take charge of a group of courses designed to help attorneys stay up-to-date on criminal evidence and federal grand jury procedures, as well as classes introducing them to cases involving the federal income tax system and corporate fraud, two issues with which Walz has special expertise.
For Walz, who just wrapped up a complicated five-week fraud trial in Utah's federal court, the time was right for a change of pace.
"I need a break from casework, I've been doing this for 24 years," Walz said. "Plus, it's a good opportunity for me to spend some time refining my knowledge of certain subject areas and refining my teaching a little bit."
Although Walz has taught for the Justice Department since 1982, this will be his longest assignment to date.
Walz joins a group of Utah prosecutors who have accepted temporary assignments through the Justice Department. Some have traveled overseas to exotic locales to teach American principles of criminal justice while others stay inside U.S. borders.
For nearly a year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman has been in the nation's capital serving as an attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee and its chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
The assignment was a distinct shift from the daily rigors of prosecuting cases, said Tolman, who focused on the enforcement of federal firearms laws in Utah. He went from applying laws on a very small scale to participating in the passage and refinement of those laws on a national level. "It's been really an eye-opener to see how law is made, to see how oversight is done in Congress," said Tolman, who said he previously had only a "textbook awareness" of the origination of the laws he dealt with on a daily basis.
That newfound understanding, Tolman said, will make him a better prosecutor when he returns to Utah next year.
"It has given me better than a working knowledge of criminal laws," he said. "I've been able to see a bigger picture, and it gives me a better context so that I understand a little bit more how the laws interact with each other, and what can and cannot be done."
And that is the benefit to allowing prosecutors to leave their Utah posts for extended periods of time, said U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner.
"They learn the intangibles that aren't taught in law school," he said.
Each person who serves in the temporary posts comes back to the U.S. Attorney's Office with a perspective slightly different than before, Warner said. That unique outlook increases the office's overall experience, and, in turn, produces better prosecutors.
Still, Tolman expects to undergo a slight period of culture shock when he leaves behind his 12-hour days in Washington, D.C."I think there definitely will be a transition time where I feel like, 'Am I making as big a difference? Am I involved in as important of issues?' " he said. "But I'll be making a difference where I live, making a difference in an area where I really care about. And that I miss."
E-mail: [email protected]