Hickton looking forward to new role as U.S. attorney

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For David J. Hickton, the newly confirmed U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, what he is most excited about in his new position is performing public service.

"I was raised to believe that's a noble undertaking, and I'm looking forward to working with people who have dedicated their lives to helping people and making their lives better," he said.

Confirmed unanimously by the Senate Thursday evening before its August recess, Mr. Hickton plans to report to the office next week.

"I'm looking forward to working with the dedicated professionals in the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Department of Justice and the law enforcement officials who work so hard to protect the public interests," he said.

Mr. Hickton was not ready to comment on what priorities he might set in office.

He replaces Mary Beth Buchanan, who served as U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh from September 2001 until November.

During that time, she emphasized prosecutions for crimes against children, gun possession, immigration and drugs.

Mr. Hickton takes over an office that includes 51 assistant U.S. attorneys, plus 60 support staff members in offices in Pittsburgh, Erie and Johnstown. The office has an annual budget of $10.4 million.

Last fiscal year, it prosecuted 469 cases against 637 defendants.

Following Ms. Buchanan's departure in November, former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Cessar took over as acting U.S. attorney.

"The staff of the U.S. attorney's office eagerly looks forward to Mr. Hickton's leadership, and I anticipate a smooth transition," Mr. Cessar said.

Bill Crowley, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh FBI, said his organization expects to work well with Mr. Hickton.

"Traditionally, the FBI in Pittsburgh has enjoyed a good working relationship with the U.S. attorney's office, and we look forward to maintaining that relationship with the new U.S. attorney," he said.

Mr. Hickton, who does not have a prosecutorial background, is a founder of the law firm Burns, White & Hickton, created in 1987. The firm specializes in transportation and commercial law, alternative dispute resolution, antitrust and white-collar criminal defense.

While at the firm, Mr. Hickton spent much time working on hearing loss and repetitive strain litigation for several railroad clients, including Conrail, Norfolk Southern and CSX.

He also previously served as a board member for Central Catholic Hockey and teaches as an adjunct law professor at Duquesne University.

He was recently inducted as a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

On Friday, Mr. Hickton called his confirmation a "great honor."

"I'm grateful for the news of the Senate confirmation and the confidence expressed in me by the president and U.S. Senate," he said. "I take these responsibilities very seriously. I'm eager to get to work."

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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