New U.S. Attorney takes tough stand on neighborhood crime

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David J. Hickton wasted no time letting people know that he intends to apply the resources and power of his office to rid neighborhoods of gun violence, protect all citizens from consumer and bank fraud, support environmental law and protect civil rights.

Immediately after being sworn in Sept. 7 as the new U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Hickton laid down the law.

JoiningTheBattleHickton
JOINING THE BATTLE—As his wife Dawne looks on, David J. Hickton is sworn in as western Pennsylvania’s new U.S. Attorney by Senior U.S. Justice Gustav Diamond.

“Freedom from fear is a basic right. The violent criminals who terrorize our neighborhoods and towns will feel the full force of the law as it can be marshaled by this office,” he said. “We must limit and then end the mad cycle of killing and revenge. We must bring back the law to places where it has been forgotten.”

Hickton added that people cannot be free if their assets can be stolen by fraud, and unless justice is applied to government corruption, environmental pollution and health care fraud.

“We are not free unless justice is brought to those who tear out our social fabric by violating civil rights or committing hate crimes,” he said.

He said he does not agree with those who say enforcing the law “vigorously, intensely and thoroughly means trampling our basic freedoms.”

“On the contrary,” he said. “I believe that not enforcing the law is the surest way to see those freedoms disappear in practice.”

Those words were welcomed by Jay Gilmer, attorney and coordinator for the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime.

“Yes, those were certainly PIRC-friendly comments. Federal assistance is a huge component and we don’t want to be working at cross purposes,” said Gilmer. I have a request in to meet with him and we’ll discuss it then.”

Hickton was given the oath by Senior U.S. Justice Gustav Diamond, for whom he clerked as a young attorney. He then thanked President Obama for nominating him to the position.

“The president has shown me great honor, and given me great responsibility by nominating me for this very important job,” he said. “I am grateful for the confidence expressed by Attorney General Eric Holder and I look forward to working with him and his leadership in the Department of Justice.”

He also thanked U.S. Justice Gary Lancaster, U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Robert Casey, law partners and old friends, and his eldest son Conner, his predecessor Bob Cesser, who helped him through the transition, and his wife Dawne, who helped him through the ceremony.

Casey said Hickton was an easy choice for the position because he exemplifies “honor, character, integrity and commitment.”

Specter said he was sure Hickton’s investiture would please the court.

“He clerked for Judge Diamond. He started his own firm which now has 100 lawyers, so he’s obviously a good administrator—that’s a good quality for a U.S. attorney,” he said.

In addition to being joined by Specter and Casey, who recommended Hickton to President Obama, others present included former Coroner and Allegheny County Commissioner Cyril Wecht, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, former city councilman Sala Udin and attorney Eddie Edwards Jr.

Eddie Edwards Jr., who joined the (now) Burns, White law firm to work with Hickton, said he is a perfect fit for the job and will do what he said.

“Dave is a man of his word, and I believe that he intends to do everything he said in his remarks,” said Edwards. “He’s perfect for the job because he’s a brilliant legal mind and knows the political landscape as well.”

Spokeswoman Margaret Philbin said Hickton would make himself available to various media outlets, and fleshing out his goals and plans in the coming weeks.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburgh­courier.com.)

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