Preet Bharara, former U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, came to SVSU as part of the Dow Visiting Scholar Beutler Forum on Thursday, Nov. 1.
Finkbeiner Endowed Professor of Ethics Peter Brian Rose-Barry moderated the forum. The content of the lecture covered Bharara’s termination under the Trump administration, the Constitution and bipartisanship and the nature of justice.
“Bringing Preet to SVSU was a really easy decision,” Rose-Barry said. “I follow Preet’s podcast. Given his experience as a prosecutor and the complicated way he left that position, I thought this was an excellent way to talk about the intersection of ethics and practice. Questions about telling truth to power, questions about what justice actually looks like in its administration.”
Bharara was terminated from his position as District Attorney when he refused to take an informal phone call from President Donald Trump.
The next day, Bharara and all other attorneys appointed under the Obama administration were asked to resign.
“Injustice is done by good people who deviate from professionalism and good faith just a little bit,” said Bharara, discussing the reasons for his resignation.
He also discussed his experiences as a prosecutor and the empathy and understanding of human nature he views as being necessary to be a good lawyer.
Bharara served as District Attorney from 2009 to 2017, during which he prosecuted a case against Stephen A. Cohen capital advisors that ended with a billion-dollar fine, making history as the highest fine ever paid for an insider trading case. He also filed many Americans with Disabilities Act cases and earned a reputation as an outspoken and influential prosecutor.
“One thing I gained from this lecture is understanding that prosecutors are people too,” said Nick Berkobien, an SVSU alumnus. “We need to recognize the humanity in people who uphold the law and that they empathize with the people who are on trial.”
Other students appreciated Bharara’ s take on ethics in politics and law.
“I think it was interesting to see someone approach law from a perspective of looking at the consequences of that law, put in place in society and how that affects people,” said Joshua Cianek, a history and political science junior. “Instead of this idea as looking at law as an objective thing put in place, considering how people are affected on a practical level.”