Gross Serves With Pride

August 20, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Charles Gross, interim U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, has spent his entire career in public service at the federal level, and the thrill he gets out of being able to say he represents the interests of the United States of America has never diminished.

Gross will serve as the U.S. Attorney for this district until a presidential appointee is nominated. If there is no presidential appointee on board by mid-October, then the chief judge of the Western District will appoint a U.S. Attorney.

Gross majored in math in college, but in his senior year came to the realization that there were only a handful of things he could do with a math degree, and none of them were all that interesting to him. He pursued law instead, and between his first and second year in law school went through the U.S. Marine Corps OfficerCandidatesSchool.

After graduating cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School, Gross went on active duty as a Marine judge advocate. He spent seven years on active duty and then joined the Marine Reserves and began a civilian career with the U.S. Department of Justice in 1985. He held a variety of positions in the 22 years he worked for the Department of Justice, serving as an attorney in the department’s Office of Legal Education, as a trial attorney with the department’s commercial litigation and torts branches, and, briefly, as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. He transferred to the Western District of Michigan in 1999.

“I moved around a lot in the Department of Justice,” Gross recalled. “I found that I liked to be challenged by new things, and that the best way for me to stay invigorated and interested was to learn something new.”

Gross was sworn in as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan in April following a seven-month stint of active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In Iraq he served as the principal U.S. Marine liaison between the governor of AnbarProvince and the coalition forces. He retired from his position as a Marine colonel July 1.

“I think my experience in the Marines has been helpful in this position, mostly because in the Marine Corps you learn how to be a leader — you either have those skills or they develop them in you,” Gross remarked.

“The U.S. Attorney’s job, in large measure, is to lead the office. I think the Marine Corps prepared me well for that part of the job.”

The function of the U.S. Attorney’s office is to represent the United States in both criminal and civil cases. Gross sets prosecutive priorities and oversees the work of nearly 100 employees.

Although Gross did some criminal work in the Marines, most of his experience has been in civil prosecution. The bulk of the work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office is in criminal prosecution, and he said it has been “challenging, exciting and interesting” to get more involved on the criminal side.

It has also been somewhat frustrating in the wake of the resignation of Margaret Chiara, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, in March. What’s frustrating to Gross and others in the office is the fact that, over the last six months, they’ve been on the front page of the newspapers for reasons that have nothing to do with their work.

“I’d like people to realize that our office has almost 100 employees, including more than 40 assistant U.S. attorneys, who come to work every day on behalf of the people of Michigan to enforce both civil and criminal laws,” Gross said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the quality of our attorneys and support staff, and I couldn’t be prouder of the quality of the work we do,” Gross said. “What I want to do is provide a measure of stability to an office that has been through a bit of turmoil in the last year. I also want to move the office forward so that when my successor arrives, it’s moving in the right direction.”

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office primarily prosecute felony offenses, and in many instances are involved in the investigation and ferreting out of criminal activity.

The Criminal Division includes the Drug Unit and the General Crimes Unit, which handles federal felony offenses such as murder, armed bank robbery, health care fraud, counterfeiting and environmental crimes. The Criminal Division enforces more than 900 federal statutes that provide criminal sanctions for unethical, immoral or harmful conduct.

The U.S Attorney Civil Division protects U.S. interests by defending against claims for money damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. Attorneys and staff in the Civil Division litigate on behalf of the United States of America in the federal and state courts in the Western District of Michigan. Most felony cases reach the court via indictment by a federal grand jury. There are three grand juries in Grand Rapids and one in Marquette

The Western District of Michigan is different from other districts in a couple of respects, Gross said. A huge chunk of West Michigan — 3 million acres of forest land — is federal property, and when crimes are committed on federal land, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for their prosecution.

This district is also home to 11 federally recognized Native American Indian tribes whose reservations also fall under the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges.     

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