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Remarks

Investiture of Kenneth Gonzales

To the United States District Court
District of New Mexico

October 18, 2013

John Walsh
United States Attorney
District of Colorado

It's a great honor for me to speak here on behalf of the U.S. Attorney's community and the Department of Justice at the investiture of a great friend, Ken Gonzales.   We have a several U.S. Attorneys here, at their own expense:  Sandy Coates from Oklahoma City, Ken Magidson from Houston, and Steve Yarbro, Acting U.S. Attorney in New Mexico.

Now, standing before all these judges makes me mindful of my duty of candor as an officer of the court.   For that reason, I am duty bound to tell you that for Ken’s fellow U.S. Attorneys, this is one of those bittersweet moments we all face in life. 

First and foremost, we U.S. Attorneys feel great happiness, satisfaction and pride in Ken taking on this new position for which he is so remarkably well suited.  We also are happy for the District of New Mexico.   You are formally inducting today a judge whom I am confident will over time become a towering figure – though a quiet and unassuming one – in the history of this district.  This is a judge destined for great things, and for great service to the people of New Mexico and the nation.

But at the same time, speaking as an officer of the court and as representative of the 93 U.S. Attorneys around the United States, it's hard not feel a certain wistfulness.   None of you will be surprised to hear that Ken has always stood out among U.S. Attorneys nationally, and has enjoyed the particular respect and appreciation his colleagues. 

That's not because he was the loudest.  He was not.  It's not because he was the best connected back East and aiming for the reins of power in DC.   He was not.  It is not because he pushed his way to the limelight in front of every issue.   He did not.   In fact, the affection and profound respect that Ken Gonzales has earned nationally flowed precisely from the fact that he was and did none of those things.  Instead, Ken quietly and effectively answered the call when needed, no matter how difficult the assignment, and without expectation of personal reward.   He brought a firm professionalism, steady judgment and a bottomless well of integrity to the job that together commanded our attention and compelled our admiration.  He was, when all is said and done, a U.S. Attorney's U.S. Attorney -- an example for all of us of how to do the job.

Of course, all of us as U.S. Attorneys know that our time in these positions is comparatively short – unlike, say, the service of U.S. District Judges.  In Ken’s case, we all knew he was bound for bigger things.  I know I speak for all us in celebrating the fact that Ken will now have an opportunity to serve the public in a place of enormous responsibility and authority, where he can bring to bear all the greatness of his mind and spirit to serve the public, without regard to the shifting winds of politics and elections.

On a personal note, Ken has been a constant friend and source of counsel for me over these years as well, and I expect will continue to be.   From the day that Ken showed up at my swearing in as U.S. Attorney three years ago in Denver until a few weeks ago at the 10th Circuit Bench and Bar conference, Ken has been for me one of those crucial friends that we are all lucky to have -- the friend who keeps your feet on the ground, who provides a sense of perspective and context, who makes hard times easier, and who keeps the good times from going to your head.   I know that Ken played that role not just for me, but for many others. 

And what better temperament and frame of mind could there be than that for a United States District Judge?   So, on behalf of the U.S. Attorney's community, let me say to Chief Judge Armijo:   The District of New Mexico is getting a tremendous gift in Ken Gonzales.   I know you will use it well.

By the way, I thought it was only appropriate that Ken will be starting his time as a U.S. District Judge in Las Cruces, where he started his career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and also where border issues are so important.  Ken talked to me constantly about the intense border challenges this district faces.  But I thought it was odd you moved him to the Southern border, as in our conversations he was always talking to me about New Mexico's troublesome northern border!

Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, was unable to make it here today because of all the hubbub y algarabía right now in Washington.  He sends both his deep regrets and a letter that he asked me to read:

[Read letter]

On that note of national recognition and appreciation, let me conclude.

Ken, felicitaciones.   Vamos a echarte de menos, amigo.  Suerte, y nos vemos pronto.