Visit by US Attorney General Eric Holder

04 June 2013

The United States Attorney General Eric Holder visited The University of Auckland on Tuesday 7 May at the invitation of the Auckland Law School and delivered a lecture on ‘International Cooperation and the Priorities of the US Department of Justice’ to a capacity audience of Law School students, staff, members of the profession and judiciary. He was introduced by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, and at the end of his lecture took questions moderated by Dean Andrew Stockley.

The Attorney General is a member of President Obama’s Cabinet and is responsible for the Department of Justice. Eric Holder took office as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States in February 2009. He had previously served as a judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, a United States Attorney and Deputy Attorney General.

Attorney-General Holder was in New Zealand for a meeting of the Quintet of Attorney Generals from Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. In his lecture he noted that the Quintet meetings provide an opportunity to exchange ideas to address common domestic and international challenges.

“This week, we’re sharing best practices for protecting some of the most vulnerable members of society – and prosecuting those who commit acts of sexual violence against women and children. Together, we will examine how we can improve domestic investigations and prosecutions of these serious crimes, as well as how we can increase our joint response to transnational sexual violence. . .” he said.

Responding to terrorism has been a core focus for the Quintet since its inception. Successes included the uncovering and prevention of plots by foreign terrorist groups as well as home-grown extremists. Speaking only a few weeks after the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon, he noted:

“One person has been brought into custody and charged in a federal civilian court with using a weapon of mass destruction. And three others have been arrested in connection with this investigation. . . And we will continue to rely on the support, assistance, and critical intelligence and information-sharing capabilities of our Quintet allies as we advance this and other investigations – and strengthen our broader national security and anti-terrorism efforts.”

Attorney General Holder talked about the Department of Justice’s efforts to safeguard and improve voting practices and to promote the highest standards in the enforcement of all civil rights protections.

“We’re combating exploitation, discrimination, intimidation, and bias-motivated violence. And we’re taking significant measures to address repugnant practices like human trafficking – and to prevent the gun-, gang-, and drug-fueled violence that afflicts too many communities across the United States, and too often decimates the lives of our most vulnerable citizens: our children,” he said.

The Attorney General noted his determination “to achieve common-sense changes to reduce gun-related crimes, to keep deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands, and to make America’s neighbourhoods and schools more secure.”

Following his lecture, Attorney General Holder answered a series of questions, including on how terror attacks could be prevented, whether the United States could achieve effective gun control, his and the Department of Justice’s position on same-sex marriage, and his experience of working with President Obama.

View the photo gallery here