Each year, Middlesex honors the life and aspirations of Roger Clayland Bigelow ’44, who was killed in the battle of Iwo Jima in March of 1945. Because Roger had hoped to follow family tradition and pursue a career in the foreign service, his parents established a memorial lecture in his memory to encourage future Middlesex students to consider careers in public service.
As this year’s Bigelow Lecturer, Attorney Marshall Miller ’89 shared his impressive experience in his presentation, “Public Service, Public Safety, and Criminal Justice.” For prior to joining the litigation department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in 2016, Marshall served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief of Staff of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), where he supervised more than 600 federal prosecutors, oversaw the DOJ’s highest profile criminal prosecutions, helped determine and implement DOJ priorities and policies, testified on Capitol Hill, and advised executive branch officials. And prior to that significant position, he worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) for 12 years.
“This is not an easy time to engage in public service,” Marshall acknowledged, noting that political partisanship in the government seems to mirror a similarly divided nation. While some may consider public service outdated or futile, he contended, “It is critical to reject that view, for public service is most important in challenging times.”
During the last two decades, Marshall has felt fortunate to be able to make contributions toward fighting violent crime, preventing terrorism, curbing human trafficking, and combating cybercrime. Though exhausting, he ultimately found the work to be “exciting, important, and incredibly gratifying.”
Recalling that he had no idea what career he might pursue when he was a Middlesex student, Marshall explained that the murder of a close friend during college left him with “a gnawing feeling that I should be doing something about it, about violence and justice,” especially in urban areas like those of his home and university. Later, while at Yale Law School, a summer job at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn turned out to be “the public service opportunity I had been casting about for,” a potential vocation that would serve his community and honor the memory of his late friend.
Marshall eventually joined the DOJ as an assistant district attorney and found the work to be “daunting but exhilarating.” Much of a prosecutor’s time, he explained, is spent on investigative matters – interviewing witnesses, obtaining search warrants and wire taps, and poring over documents – all in the interest of building a strong case. In return, a drop in a neighborhood’s violent crime rate after the prosecution of an entire criminal gang provided clear proof of progress.
Following 9/11, Marshall’s focus shifted to cases involving terrorism and national security, and he found it both deeply meaningful and cathartic to be able to help his city and country in the aftermath of the attacks. Although some thought federal court was not the right place for such prosecutions – suggesting a special court or military tribunal would be more appropriate or effective – Marshall affirmed, “I was proud to be part of a DOJ national security team that won case after case, convicting terrorists within our nation’s criminal justice system.” The gravity of his work was evident from several cases he described, each of which concerned a thwarted, deadly terror plot.
In his last few years with the DOJ, Marshall’s focus changed again to new challenges: white-collar crime, cybercrime, and the FIFA corruption investigation. Looking back on it all, he reflected, “I feel extremely lucky to be given these opportunities to address that gnawing feeling I had after the tragic death of my friend and to honor the sacrifices of people like Roger Bigelow and so many others. From personal experience, I can tell you that a life in public service is a very rewarding one.”