The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Government Lawyers
Someone you should know: Sam Brooks, Deputy Managing Counsel with the USPS
Sam Brooks serves as a Deputy Managing Counsel with the United States Postal Service (USPS). Prior to assuming his current position, Brooks was an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for more than 15 years, representing the United States and its agencies in affirmative and defensive civil litigation. Before becoming an AUSA, Brooks was in the Honors Program of the Department of Justice (DOJ Honors Program) with the Tax Division for almost four years. However, his service minded attitude and strong work ethic were developed long before earning his J.D., cum laude, from Valparaiso University School of Law.
As a University of Illinois at Chicago undergraduate, Brooks pursued a degree in accounting with a minor in English in order to develop his writing skills. While Brooks studied at Valparaiso University School of Law, he had the opportunity for in-depth interactions with the faculty due to the small and close-knit community he found at Valparaiso. Brooks, impressed by the faculty’s desire to serve a client within the context of helping the greater community, learned about the value of involvement in local and national issues. These principles helped guide him to a career path in government.
Brooks exercised his writing skills at Valparaiso by writing for both law review and the moot court team. Brooks’ law review article, “Native American Indians’ Fruitless Search for First Amendment Protection of Their Sacred Religious Sites,” proposed a new approach for courts to determine whether Native American use of public land for religious purposes can restrict government development of that land. Due to his success on law review, he was elected to a Note Editor position. Shortly thereafter, Brooks was asked to research and write the brief for the Valparaiso Moot Court team, which went on to place second at Midwest Regionals and finish in the Top 16 at Nationals in New York. Brooks also held a summer associate position with Clancy & Krippner, a personal injury firm in St. Charles, Illinois (now Clancy Law), while in law school.
After graduating from Valparaiso, Brooks served as a law clerk for the Honorable Kenneth R. Harkins in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. He then accepted a trial attorney position with the tax division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Civil Trial Section. As a tax division attorney with the prestigious DOJ Honors Program, Brooks developed the skills necessary to litigate in the Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts. He handled all aspects of litigation ranging from initial pleadings through trial to post-judgment collections. He routinely practiced in both Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. In 1995, Brooks returned to Chicago as an Assistant United States Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. During his 15 years as an AUSA, Brooks represented the United States in Civil Litigation including Employment Discrimination, Torts, Bivens, Environment, Fraud, and Government Regulation. Additionally, he argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. It was at the U.S. Attorney’s Office that Brooks learned that even though the cases themselves might not be as provocative as many criminal matters, each case was extremely important to the represented agency and/or the government employees/private citizens involved in the litigation. Therefore, he was always mindful of one goal: “To do my best to ensure that all those involved in the litigation process, whether friend or opponent, felt that the justice system treated them with dignity and respect…I considered it a major personal victory that this occurred in nearly every case I handled.”
Brooks has consistently played an important leadership role within the legal community. He worked with Northwestern University School of Law’s Summer Undergraduate Mock Trial Institute in 1999-2000. Additionally, he served as a faculty member for the Deposition Program of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy in 1999, 2000, 2003-2005, and 2007. Since 2005, he has been an active member of the National Advocacy Center of the U.S. Department of Justice. Brooks appeared on the Justice Television Network as lead presenter on “Core Competencies in Federal Civil Law: Title VII Litigation” and “A Systematic Approach to Employment Discrimination Defense.” He also served as lead faculty in a Motion Practice and Writing Seminar entitled “Title VII Model Case.” In 2008, Brooks shared his knowledge as a panel member with the Federal Executive Board on “Dealing with Disability in the Workplace: Practical Tips & Potential Pitfalls.”
As a civil litigator with more than 20 years of experience, Brooks has handled a multitude of cases representing federal agencies of the United States. However, he has a practical approach to litigation, ever since receiving the following advice from a lawyer who taught him as a UIC undergraduate: “If you want justice, go to the seminary. If you want law, go to law school.” Brooks admits that this advice may sound cynical, but he also believes it has been extremely useful during his tenure in civil litigation. Moreover, while Brooks believes the American justice system to be the best in the world, he understands its flaws. This particular advice has helped him explain the realities of litigation to those clients in civil lawsuits who have felt that the “law” did not produce “justice” in their circumstances. In these cases, Brooks finds this advice helps the client understand that competing interests, evolutions in the law, and factors such as the forum, judge, and litigation costs all affect how a particular case may be resolved.
In his current position as part of the leadership team at the USPS Law Department in Chicago, Brooks enjoys the opportunity to work with an enthusiastic and professional team of attorneys and staff. He deeply appreciates the USPS as an organization largely because of the “employees who give their best efforts in providing excellent service to the public.” The hardworking USPS reminds Brooks of his own self-described “blue collar” background, having grown up working in his father’s print shop beginning in grade school and continuing through his college years.
When asked about his best advice for a young lawyer interested in a career in government services, Brooks says, “Don’t limit yourself. One of the great advantages of a government career is that opportunities for development, growth, and expansion abound.” Brooks admits that he himself never could have imagined his progression from a law clerk to an AUSA and now managing litigation and legal staff with the USPS. He feels very privileged to have had such wonderful opportunities and professional experiences.
A divorced father of three, Brooks enjoys spending time with his two teenage daughters, participating in Boy Scouts of America activities with his son, and volunteering weekly with his church’s youth program and singing group. He also enjoys riding his motorcycle or just spending time with family, friends and neighbors alike. With his continued service to his community as well as multiple federal agencies of the United States, Sam Brooks is an example of ethics, leadership and government service on a daily basis and Someone You Should Know. ■