Anthony Trenga Becomes Federal District Judge in Va.

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Alexandria lawyer is the newest U.S. District judge at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, one of the nation's highest-profile legal assignments.

Anthony J. Trenga, 59, has been hearing cases at the courthouse on the edge of Old Town since he was sworn in Oct. 15. A veteran lawyer who specialized in complex business litigation, Trenga had frequently appeared before Alexandria federal judges and has been active in Alexandria civic affairs.

Although he was nominated by then-President George W. Bush, a Republican, Trenga has contributed money almost exclusively to Democratic candidates over the years, according to federal and state campaign filings. The filings show that Trenga contributed $250 to the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Bush's opponent, and $500 to the successful U.S. Senate campaign of Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) last year.

In Virginia elections, all of the nearly $9,000 Trenga donated between 1996 and 2007 went to Democrats, including $2,350 to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and $1,500 to then-Del. Brian Moran, who is running for governor.

Lawyers who know Trenga said the contributions show he will bring a fair and judicious approach to the bench, where he will hear federal cases from throughout Northern Virginia. His support has extended across party lines: Trenga was unanimously confirmed in September by the U.S. Senate after being strongly recommended by Sens. James Webb (D-Va.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.).

"I always thought he was very balanced in his views," said Marianna Dyson, chairman of Miller & Chevalier, the District law firm where Trenga had worked since 1998. She said Trenga "has this wonderful sort of strategic skill and judgment. He's an all-around really, really hard worker. I suspect he will be the same type of judge. I sort of pity the lawyer who shows up unprepared."

Trenga declined to comment. At a ceremony at the courthouse Jan. 9, he described how he grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania, became interested in the law and admires the Alexandria court because it "has profoundly influenced the country. . . . It has profoundly influenced the profession. It has influenced how we practice law."

He added: "I know a great responsibility has been placed in my hands, and I only hope that I will prove to be an adequate steward of the trust that has been confided in me."

The courthouse where Trenga sits handles everything from major corporate cases to prosecutions of gangs and people accused of defrauding the Pentagon. Some of the nation's biggest espionage cases have been brought there, including those of convicted spies Robert P. Hanssen, a former FBI agent, and Aldrich H. Ames, a former CIA operations officer.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Alexandria became the Bush administration's venue of choice for major terrorism cases. The only person convicted in a U.S. courtroom in connection with those attacks, Zacarias Moussaoui, was prosecuted in Alexandria.

The Obama administration is reviewing the cases of the 241 Guantanamo detainees, and officials have said they are strongly predisposed to trying some of them in the U.S. criminal justice system. Justice Department officials recently specified Alexandria and the federal courthouse in New York as the places most likely to get the cases.

Although Trenga's biography does not indicate he has direct terrorism or national security experience, he "is intellectually capable of handling the most complicated legal or factual cases," said Emmett Lewis, head of the litigation department at Miller & Chevalier. "He is extremely thorough, and he will be fair. He won't be insensitive to national security issues, but he won't be insensitive to civil liberties issues, either."

After graduating from the University of Virginia law school, Trenga joined the law firm of Sachs, Greenebaum & Tayler in the District in 1975 and became a partner in 1982. He was managing partner at Hazel & Thomas in Alexandria from 1987 to 1998. His areas of specialty have included business torts and securities law. Trenga's involvement in civic affairs includes a stint as chairman of the Alexandria Human Rights Commission and service on the board of trustees of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.

Lewis said Trenga's range of experiences makes him well qualified for the Alexandria federal bench, where his cases so far have included a complicated mortgage fraud scheme. "He is a master of all the evidentiary rules," Lewis said. "He just has a complete mastery of the courtroom."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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