Orwig stepping down as U.S. Attorney, says move not related to national issue

By Marilyn Tennissen | Apr 7, 2007

Matthew Orwig, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, is leaving his post at the end of May to join a law firm opening a branch in Dallas.

Orwig will join the Dallas branch of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal a Chicago-based firm, as the managing partner. He will also be the chair of the firm's government litigation and investigations group, which will deal with clients who have issues with governmental regulatory agencies.

The Lubbock native has two years remaining on his U.S. Attorney post, and said he began looking for a job with a private firm prior to the controversy involving the Department of Justice and eight U.S. Attorneys who claim they were removed for political reasons. Orwig told local media he is leaving on good terms with his superiors in Washington, D.C.

He says the move to a private firm is the best decision for his family.

Orwig told Texas Lawyer that Matt Yarbrough, a former partner in the Dallas office of Fish & Richardson, contacted him about the job. Yarbrough joined Sonnenschein in February as a partner and began setting up the firm's Dallas office, which officially opens on June 1.

Yarbrough, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Texas who is old friends with Orwig, is in charge of Sonnenschein's litigation section in Dallas.

Yarbrough and Orwig plan to use the Dallas office to take advantage of the exploding property and patent litigation docket in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Texas Lawyer said "the Eastern District is a favorite among some litigators because the courts hear few criminal cases and the judges have a reputation for moving complex civil suits quickly, especially patent litigation."

"Texas is now the second busiest judicial district in the country in patent litigation," Orwig said. "And from a client standpoint, being sued in East Texas can be a tricky proposition and we'll be able to handle that real easy. It's a briar patch, but the comfort is it's my briar patch."

The DOJ has not yet named Orwig's interim replacement as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District. Orwig believes the department will choose an attorney from within the district.

In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Orwig as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. Republican Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Phil Gramm chose Orwig for the position. He was confirmed by the full Senate, and his official appointment as U.S. Attorney was signed by the president in April of 2002.

As U.S. Attorney, Orwig directed thousands of federal prosecutions and civil cases in a 43 county area stretching from the Red River on Texas' northern border to the Gulf of Mexico. He oversaw a budget of more than $8 million and actively manages a staff of more than 100, including over 50 lawyers, in six fully staffed offices.

During his tenure as U.S. Attorney, Orwig directed some of the most high-profile and successful prosecutions in the country. Orwig's successes include cases targeting public corruption, money laundering, securities fraud, insider trading, health care fraud, international drug trafficking, capital murder and domestic terrorism.

In the past year, Orwig helped secure federal funds to further assist law enforcement officers in fighting violent crime and gangs in Southeast Texas, with a particular focus on the problems in Port Arthur.

"We looked at all 43 counties in the Eastern District, which reaches from the Oklahoma border down through East Texas to the Gulf Coast of Southeast Texas, and became convinced that the most need is right here in Port Arthur," Orwig said in a June 2006 article in the Port Arthur News.
With an initial allocation of half a million dollars, Orwig told Southeast Texas agencies the goal was to secure $1 million over the next three years.

Orwig also spearheaded a media campaign in Southeast Texas aimed to crack down on gun violations by convicted felons. He appeared in the "Drop the Gun" series of public service announcements, in English as well as Spanish, that asked felons "what do you miss the most about prison?" The announcements were set against scenes of barbed wire, cell bunks and prison cafeteria food.

Orwig served on numerous subcommittees of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee including Terrorism and National Security, White Collar Fraud, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Office of Management and Budget and the Health Care Fraud Working Group.

With more than 20 years with the Department of Justice, Orwig acquired expertise in civil, criminal, and appellate law. Orwig is an AV rated attorney and has litigated complex cases including white-collar fraud and medical malpractice. He has served on the faculty of the Attorney General's Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. and the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina. Orwig was also an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas and Texas Wesleyan Law School in Fort Worth. He was a principal author of the Dallas Ethics Code which was adopted by the Dallas City Council.

Orwig grew up in Lubbock, Texas, and graduated from Texas Tech University in 1981 and the Texas Tech School of Law in 1984. He was a judicial clerk for federal judge Halbert O. Woodward, Chief Judge for the Northern District of Texas.

Following his clerkship, Orwig entered private practice and became a partner in a civil law firm. In 1989, he was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. In 1997, Orwig served as legal counsel in the Executive Office for United States Attorneys in Washington D.C. In that position, Orwig provided legal advice to U.S. Attorneys throughout the United States.

Orwig and his wife, Melissa, have been married for 26 years and have three children.

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