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Alumni Spotlight: Robert Booth Goodwin

When R. Booth Goodwin II was a teenager, he knew he wanted to be a lawyer. And to say that desire was genetic is a bit of an understatement.

Booth Goodwin

After all, his father, now Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph Robert Goodwin, was a lawyer. His grandfather, the late Robert Booth Goodwin, and great uncle, the late Bert Goodwin, founded the family law firm in Ripley, West Virginia, which later became headquartered in Charleston. Family lawyers also included his two uncles, Thomas R. Goodwin and the late Stephen P. Goodwin, as well as two cousins, Carrie Goodwin Fenwick and Carte P. Goodwin. Genetics, they say.

Therefore, it came as no surprise not long after Goodwin (WVU, Cum Laude, Bachelor of Science in Economics, 1993 and Student Government Attorney General) took a position as Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2001 that he knew exactly what his goal would be if the opportunity presented itself. That opportunity came knocking earlier this year when U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller and the late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd recommended to President Barack Obama that Goodwin be appointed U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia. The U. S. Senate confirmed the appointment in late May and, on June 25, Goodwin was publicly sworn into his new position.

“I really felt like I satisfied two big components of my life in this office — being a lawyer and being able to do public service, which is really a combination of both my parents,” said Goodwin, whose mother, Kay, is West Virginia Cabinet Secretary for Education and the Arts. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is a place where we get to prosecute the bad guys and make sure justice is served, and I like that.”

“West Virginians deserve aggressive criminal prosecutions from their federal government,” he said, pointing to priorities such as battles against corruption and drug-related gun violence. “I pledge to root out and prosecute corrupt individuals whether they are found in corporate board rooms or the halls of government, to fight against those who would prey on our children and seniors, and to step up the attack on those who peddle drugs and bring violence to this district.”

The new U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District said that WVU’s College of Business and Economics sees many graduates go on to law school. Not surprising, he said, because of the excellent critical and analytical thinking and training at WVU.

“I believe that my education in the WVU College of Business and Economics was undoubtedly a great springboard for my next step to law school,” Goodwin said. “When you have quality faculty teaching students critical and analytical thinking and how to successfully apply those processes, I believe that’s a great foundation for a law profession.” He is a 1996 graduate of the Washington & Lee Law School, where he was president of the Student Bar Association.

Booth Goodwin

Goodwin was publicly sworn into his new position on June 25.  

During his stint as Assistant U.S. Attorney, Goodwin helped prosecute computer and intellectual property crimes, and prosecuted numerous cases involving child pornography and felons in possession of firearms, drug distribution, tax evasion and bank robberies. From 2003-05, Goodwin led a long-term undercover investigation and prosecution of public corruption in Logan County, West Virginia, an investigation that resulted in litigation that is still going on today. In 2007, he became Chief of the Economic Crimes Section, responsibilities that ultimately trained him for the next wave of crime to hit his district.

The focus of much activity in many — if not all — of the 94 U.S. Attorney offices across the country is that of mortgage fraud. The numbers of people and companies involved in this fraud is astonishing, leading U.S. Department of Justice officials and authorities to make the issue a top priority.

“The mortgage crisis and the financial crisis have, unfortunately, led to a wave of crimes such as mortgage fraud, identity theft and financial fraud,” he explained. “I have a particular interest in seeing the prosecution of fraud occur, and this has been identified as a key initiative of President Obama.”

For example, “Operation Stolen Dreams” is designed to root out and prosecute individuals and companies involved in mortgage fraud. The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force heads the operation, a nationwide effort that recently resulted in the broadest mortgage fraud sweep in history. The task force was established to “lead an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes." From March 1 through mid-June, Operation Stolen Dreams has involved 1,215 criminal defendants nationwide, including 485 arrests. These defendants are allegedly responsible for more than $2.3 billion in losses.

“This is a key initiative, and aligns with some of the initiatives I was able to contribute to as Economic Crimes Chief,” said Goodwin.

Both of West Virginia’s U.S. Senators said they were proud to have recommended Goodwin for the Southern District’s U.S. Attorney.

“I have known Booth Goodwin for many years and cannot think of a better person to fill this important position — a position responsible for investigations of tremendous significance to Southern West Virginia including the tragic Upper Big Branch mine disaster,” Sen. Rockefeller said. “His years of service show that he is fighting for the people of West Virginia.”

“His confirmation and appointment is not a day too early,” said the late Sen. Byrd. “There are a variety of investigations taking place which require immediate attention — including the recent mine disaster in Montcoal, which took the lives of 29 West Virginia coal miners. He has some very important work to do, and the Southern District is entitled to the resources they need to see their interests protected.”

On the personal side, Goodwin met his wife, Amy, at West Virginia University, and they live in Charleston with their two sons.

“WVU holds a special place in my heart,” he said. “I didn’t even consider doing my undergrad anywhere else, and I’m glad I didn’t.”