U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Speaks on the Law and Its Limits
Web Editor - Published: October 25, 2012
“The law is an amazing thing, but it has limits – it has limits and boundaries – but good people do not,” said U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara as he addressed members of the South Asian Bar Association of Delaware, Widener Law’s South Asian Law Students Association, and other guests at SABA-DE’s 5th Anniversary Celebration which took place at the Barrister’s Club on Widener Law’s Delaware campus on the evening of Wednesday, October 24, 2012.

Following welcoming remarks from Dean Linda L. Ammons, SABA-DE President Anne Gwal introduced Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware. Oberly spoke briefly about Bharara’s many accomplishments before inviting the evening’s featured speaker to the podium.

Bharara opened his remarks by noting that he had begun his morning by putting the finishing touches on a suit against Bank of America for fraud related to a fast-tracked mortgage lending practice started by Countrywide Financial that continued after Countrywide was purchased by Bank of America. He briefly touched on the diversity of cases he that he is able to pursue as part of his job and why he loves his job. He stressed, however, that the job is “not just about winning your cases and putting people in jail,” but about pursuing justice.

He told a compelling story about Rais Bhuiyan, an immigrant from Bangladesh who was shot on September 21, 2001 by Mark Anthony Stroman in the Dallas area. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, Stroman went on a spree of violent attacks against people he believed to be of Arab heritage. Stroman killed two men, and in between those two killings, he shot Bhuyian, who survived. Eventually, Stroman was caught and tried for his crimes and sentenced to death. Surprisingly, however, Bhuyian forgave Stroman and set about spearheading efforts to prevent his attacker’s execution.

Bharara used the story to illustrate his point about the limits of the law and the legal process, noting that the case had been properly tried and the law followed. He quoted Judge Learned Hand, who said, “I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it . . .”

At the conclusion of his remarks, Bharara took a few questions from the audience with several focusing on the financial crisis and the lack of prosecutions related to it.

“There is not a prosecutor around who is not trying to make a case if there is a case to be made,” he said, but he also noted that there is a distinct difference between criminal intent and innocent mistakes.

Named one of Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ in 2012, Preet Bharara graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1990 and Columbia Law School in 1993. He previously served as the chief counsel to Senator Chuck Schumer and as an assistant United States Attorney in Manhattan for five years. President Barack Obama nominated Bharara to become U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on May 15, 2009. He was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate and sworn into office on August 13, 2009.

Known for his high-profile prosecutions of insider trading and other financial fraud on Wall Street, Bharara has also successfully prosecuted several international terrorists, including the Times Square Bomber, Faisal Shazad, and modern-day pirate Abduwali Abdukadir Muse. His office also assisted in securing a $7.2 billion settlement to help compensate victims of Bernard Madoff’s fraud.

Sponsors for the event included law firms Ballard Spahr, Skadden Arps, Cole Schotz, Potter Anderson, Fish and Richardson, and Morris Nichols as well as the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) and Widener Law’s South Asian Law Student Association (SALSA).