‘I’m just a reg­u­lar guy’ says new U.S. at­tor­ney

Wil­liam McSwain, of West Ch­ester, will serve as U.S. At­tor­ney in Philadel­phia

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA » Be­fore he was U.S. At­tor­ney for the East­ern District of Penn­syl­va­nia, be­fore he was a white col­lar de­fense at­tor­ney in Philadel­phia, be­fore he was an as­sis­tant pros­e­cu­tor in the U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice, be­fore he was a law clerk for U.S. Cir­cuit Judge Midge Ren­dell, be­fore he was a Har­vard Law School grad­u­ate or a hus­band of his high school best friend or a U.S. Ma­rine or a Yale Univer­sity stu­dent, Wil­lam McSwain was a high school kid watch­ing the West Ch­ester Univer­sity Golden Rams foot­ball team play­ing away games with his close friend, Jack Yoder.

Yoder was the youngest child of Dick Yoder, then the WCU ath­letic di­rec­tor and later two-term

mayor of West Ch­ester, and a man who had a tremen­dous im­pact on the young McSwain’s life and ca­reer.

On Mon­day, as he pre­pared to be for­mally sworn in as U.S. At­tor­ney in Philadel­phia, McSwain took the op­por­tu­nity to re­mem­ber the role that Yoder played in his life, and how the con­nec­tion with his child­hood — and adult — home re­mains to this day.

To­day McSwain will ap­pear at an in­vesti­ture cer­e­mony at the U.S. District Court­house in Philadel­phia. At­tend­ing will be the two U.S. Sen­a­tors from Penn­syl­va­nia who sup­ported his nom­i­na­tion to the po­si­tion, Robert Casey and Pat Toomey, as well as Deputy U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein. Do­ing the hon­ors of help­ing swear McSwain in will be Ren­dell, now a se­nior judge on the Third Cir­cuit bench.

Yoder, who passed away sud­denly in 2016, will not be in the au­di­ence, but one imag­ines he will not be far from McSwain’s thoughts.

“He was a per­son of very high moral char­ac­ter, and was a great fa­ther and a great hus­band,” McSwain said in an in­ter­view in the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice over­look­ing In­de­pen­dence Hall. Yoder’s mil­i­tary ser­vice — he was a Ma­rine — in­spired the young McSwain to en­list af­ter col­lege, and the ded­i­ca­tion that Yoder showed to pub­lic ser­vice, ei­ther as an ed­u­ca­tor or

as mayor, re­in­forced that spark within him.

“I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated all that he did for the town and the ex­am­ple he set,” he said. “It was such a shock when Dick died. No­body ex­pected it. That was a ter­ri­ble loss for his fam­ily, but it was also a shock to the com­mu­nity. He was al­ways very vig­or­ous.

“To me West Ch­ester will al­ways be Dick Yoder. He rep­re­sents the best of West Ch­ester. Some­one I was proud to be as­so­ci­ated with, some­one who in­spired me. He def­i­nitely in­flu­enced me.

“At my core, I’m just a reg­u­lar per­son, a reg­u­lar guy, hope­fully with the kind of com­mu­nity val­ues that peo­ple in West Ch­ester and Ch­ester County share and can be proud of. I think that hope­fully peo­ple in the com­mu­nity don’t think of me any dif­fer­ently than they did be­fore,” he said.

“At the same time I’ve al­ways been a pretty se­ri­ous, driven per­son pro­fes­sion­ally. I like to be clear what I be­lieve in, and I want to pro­mote the val­ues that I think are im­por­tant. I think peo­ple prob­a­bly rec­og­nized that, saw that in me, when I was grow­ing up as a kid in Ch­ester County. Maybe it’s not too sur­pris­ing to some folks that I be­came the U.S. At­tor­ney.”

“But I want peo­ple to know that I’m still the same per­son who grew up in West Ch­ester and still lives there to­day.”

McSwain takes over the Philadel­phia of­fice at a time when the De­part­ment of Jus­tice is un­der scru­tiny

and not a lit­tle crit­i­cism in Wash­ing­ton by those who be­lieve that par­ti­san pol­i­tics has in­fected its de­ci­sion-mak­ing. McSwain, who first came to the of­fice in 2003, dis­puted that per­cep­tion and vowed that such con­sid­er­a­tions would not cross his door.

“There is a long, proud tra­di­tion in the De­part­ment of Jus­tice that pol­i­tics should not play any role in the de­ci­sions you make when you are en­forc­ing the law,” he said in the in­ter­view. “You have to re­spect the law, and that is a bedrock prin­ci­ple in the de­part­ment. If I were to de­fine it in lay terms, I would say that the law needs to be fairly and con­sis­tently ap­plied, and ap­plied in a non­par­ti­san man­ner. Now, that doesn’t mean that the de­part­ment just ex­ists in a vac­uum. Cer­tainly there are pri­or­i­ties that each ad­min­is­tra­tion has and the At­tor­ney Gen­eral has.

“Those pri­or­i­ties are com­mu­ni­cated to the field,” he con­tin­ued. “It’s not like it doesn’t mat­ter who the pres­i­dent is, or what party is in power. But within those pri­or­i­ties the un­der­ly­ing value is that the law is still go­ing to be ap­plied in a fair, con­sis­tent man­ner, where po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions are not im­pact­ing day to day con­sid­er­a­tions on cases. That is some­thing that is a very strong deal in the DOJ and the U.S. At­tor­neys of­fices.

“When I was an as­sis­tant in the U.S. At­tor­neys Of­fice, we were sim­ply do­ing our best to keep the com­mu­nity safe and do­ing our best to en­force the law. And to hold our­selves to the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dard. That’s true to­day. There is no other con­sid­er­a­tion, that what is right, not what is politically ex­pe­di­ent.”

McSwain, 49, lives in West Ch­ester with his wife, Stephanie, whom he has known since he was in fourth grade at Mary C. Howse Ele­men­tary School. His chil­dren — sons Con­nor, Brady, and Billy, and daugh­ter Nancy — are ei­ther grad­u­ates of or stu­dents at West Ch­ester Area School District schools, and his par­ents, Hol­land and Lucy, and in-laws, Bill and Nancy Pol­lock, still live in the area.

For that, he con­sid­ers him­self lucky.

“I grew up with mid­dle class val­ues and was ed­u­cated in pub­lic schools. I am nat­u­rally a pa­tri­otic sort of per­son. I feel like my time work­ing for the govern­ment is an ex­ten­sion of what mo­ti­vated me to join the Marines, us­ing my tal­ents and ex­pe­ri­ence in a way to serve my coun­try.

“As soon as a I grad­u­ated from law school I wanted to work for the govern­ment,” he said. “I wanted to rep­re­sent the United States. I al­ways hoped I’d have the op­por­tu­nity to come back. For­tu­nately, things have worked out. I con­sider this my dream job. This is some­thing that I al­ways hoped would oc­cur. I feel very blessed to have this op­por­tu­nity.”

Wil­liam McSwain

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