Yesterday our friend Rachel Paulose (above) was sworn in as the United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota. At age 33, Rachel is the first woman and youngest attorney to serve in the position of U.S. Attorney in Minnesota. Rachel has already been on the job for over a year, but was only confirmed (by unanimous consent) in the Senate’s last act before adjournment on December 9 at 3:00 a.m. thanks to the efforts of Senator Norm Coleman and an assist from outgoing Democratic Senator Mark Dayton. Her formal swearing-in yesterday took place in the atrium of the University of St. Thomas Law School in downtown Minneapolis.
John and I worked with Rachel when she spent the summer at Faegre & Benson after her second year of law school at Yale. Rachel has been a star since her student days, both academically and personally. She attended the University of Minnesota, won recognition as a Truman Scholar and graduated summa cum laude. When John and I met her during her participation in the Faegre & Benson summer associate program, Rachel was in the course of compiling a stellar record at Yale Law School. We knew she stood on the threshold of a great career.
After law school she served as a law clerk to our former partner James Loken, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Judge Loken swore Rachel in yesterday as Rachel’s mother held the Bible on which she took the oath. Also in attendance were the rest of Rachel’s large extended family. Among the dignitaries on hand were Minnesota Federal District Court Chief Judge James Rosenbaum, Senator Coleman, John French (also our former partner and the dean of Minnesota Democrats), former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Sandy Keith, and St. Thomas Law School Distinguished Fellow Henry Shea, who all sat on the dais and spoke briefly. Judge Rosenbaum is himself the former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, the youngest to hold the job before Rachel. Rachel’s Democratic predecessors David Lillehaug and Todd Jones were both in attendance, as were a panoply of Minnesota state and federal judges including Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Barry Anderson.
Two of Rachel’s Yale law professors flew out to attend the swearing-in. One of them I knew by reputation as a Dartmouth alum, Professor Kate Stith-Cabranes (above). She is the wife of Second Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes. I sought out Professor Stith last night to say how moved I was that she flew out to attend Rachel’s swearing-in. It turns out that we were classmates, she being among the small group of 33 in our class who were the first women to graduate from Dartmouth. She wanted it to be known how intensely proud Yale was of Rachel and asked me to note that Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh had written a letter of congratulations (read in part yesterday by Judge Rosenbaum) expressing Yale’s pride in her.
I spoke with Rachel last December just before she met with Senator Dayton to solicit his support for her confirmation. I told her that if things didn’t work out for her in the legal profession, she could always go into modelling. Rachel laughed and recalled her grandparents, who had fled persecution by the Communists in East Asia to come as immigrants to the United States with seven dollars in their pockets. She said she thought it would take a miracle for her confirmation to occur in the closing days of the session, but that her family (devout Christians) believes in miracles. Her grandparents cried tears of joy at the news of her confirmation last December. In her moving remarks after she took the oath, Rachel paid special tribute to her grandparents:
This day and my civic service are my very public expression of gratitude to the United States of America…As the grandchild of immigrants, I have a special appreciation for what America has represented over the course of our history.
From our nation’s birth, America has willingly undertaken the duty of preserving our freedom at home and defending it abroad. The prophet Ezekiel speaks of the search for a person of courage and integrity “who would…stand…in the gap on behalf of the land.” America is unique for its willingness to stand in the gap for the ideals that define our national character.
My grandfather arrived on American soil in the 1960’s and spent the next decade bringing over our family, many of whom are here today. One of the last to arrive was his eldest daughter, holding a baby during that journey. Today she was holding the Bible on which I took my oath, and we begin a new journey. We’ve come a long way together…and nothing means more to me than having you here to share this day so we collectively could say thank you for every opportunity we have been given in this country that so generously adopted us, and personally could say thank you for every sacrifice you endured so that I could grow up in a country where I would always be judged on the “content of my character.”
After paying tribute to her colleagues in the United States Attorney’s office, Rachel closed with a stirring quote from Churchill’s December 26, 1941 speech to Congress: “He must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below, of which we have the honor to be faithful servants.” She added: “I am honored to be a servant of the United States.”