Diaspora

Lapointe sworn in as first Haitian-American to serve as U.S. attorney in South Florida – AOL

Markenzy Lapointe was sworn in Monday as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, making him the first Haitian-American lawyer to serve in the region’s top federal law enforcement job.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga called Lapointe’s nomination “historic” in a small private ceremony in her courtroom attended by family, friends and colleagues.
Lapointe thanked many people who made his nomination by President Joseph Biden possible. He also highlighted the support of his wife and his mother, to whom he spoke briefly in Creole.
“I am deeply honored to serve my country and community as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida,” Lapointe, 55, said in a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office after his swearing-in ceremony in Miami federal court. “The proud history of this office stems from decades of commitment to justice, fairness, integrity, and community service.”
Lapointe, a former U.S. Marine who served as a federal prosecutor two decades ago, was raised in Haiti and Miami. He was nominated as the U.S. attorney in September by Biden and confirmed by the Senate in December. The high-profile position is responsible for directing about 250 prosecutors in a district extending from Key West to Fort Pierce; the office is considered one of the busiest districts in the country because of the region’s steady stream of financial fraud, drug trafficking and internet crimes.
Of late, the Miami-based U.S. Attorney’s Office has worked with the Justice Department and FBI in an investigation of former President Donald Trump and his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also prosecuting a conspiracy case involving the assassination of Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse, who was killed at his home in Port-au-Prince in 2021.
The Southern District of Florida position had been held by career federal prosecutor Tony Gonzalez since the resignation of Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, in April 2021. It took an inordinate amount of time to fill because of the politics of presidential nominations for top federal prosecutors as well as district and appellate judges in a Senate that is sharply divided by Democrats and Republicans.
Among those present at Lapointe’s investiture Monday: Outgoing U.S. Attorney Gonzalez; assistant U.S. attorneys Joan Silverstein, Randy Katz and Marlene Rodriguez; former U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer; lawyer Don Horn, a senior prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office; defense attorney Larry Handfield; lawyers Jon Sale and Jayne Weintraub; lobbyist Ron Book; and lawyer Manny Kadre, who heads a federal judicial nominating committee in South Florida. Also present was a handful of colleagues from Lapointe’s former Miami law firm, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, including manager partner Jennifer Altman.
Lapointe was long considered the front-runner for the position in South Florida, with early support from Sen. Marco Rubio, the Miami Republican who wields tremendous influence on U.S. attorney and judicial nominations in the state. U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat, was also an early supporter of Lapointe’s nomination, promoting his unique credentials and background behind the scenes with both Rubio and Biden and penning an op-ed piece about him.
Lapointe graduated from Florida State University in 1993 with a B.S. degree in finance, worked at a Miami bank for a couple of years and then completed law school at FSU in 1999.
After graduation, Lapointe worked as a law clerk for Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Anstead. Following that two-year stint, he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2002 and began to learn the skills of a trial lawyer. He left the federal prosecutor’s office four years later to join Boies, Schiller & Flexner, which has offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and other major cities.
There, he specialized in commercial, federal criminal and high-risk product liability cases. In 2017, he joined Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, as his professional and political profile rose in South Florida. In 2021, he received a major legal award for his professionalism and pro bono work in the community.

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