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Biden chooses former Jackson County prosecutor to head U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas

A woman wearing a dark suit and a mask gestures with her left hand while standing at a podium. She is inside a courtroom.
Tammy Ljungblad
Pool The Kansas City Star
Kate Brubacher, then an assistant prosecuting attorney in the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, argues a point on behalf of Kevin Strickland during a hearing Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Kate E. Brubacher was part of a team that fought for the exoneration of Kevin Strickland, who spent 43 years in prison for a triple murder he didn't commit. Strickland was exonerated in late 2021.

President Joe Biden’s pick to be the next U.S. Attorney in Kansas is a former assistant Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor who last year helped free a man wrongly convicted of murder.

Kate E. Brubacher, a native of North Newton, Kansas, comes from a Mennonite farming background. She served in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office from 2016 until August of this year. She has extensive experience in private practice and a graduate degree in religion from Yale Divinity School.

In 2016, she oversaw a program to stem violent crime in Kansas City’s urban core. The program focused on the East Patrol Division, the most violent part of the city.

She was part of a team of Jackson County prosecutors who fought for the exoneration of Kevin Strickland, who spent 43 years in prison for a triple murder he didn't commit. Strickland was exonerated in late 2021.

Reached at her Kansas City area home, Brubacher said she was “honored to be nominated and am looking forward to the confirmation process.” She declined to say more.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Brubacher was one of the most accomplished attorneys in her office, with stellar skills as a legal researcher and writer. She said Brubacher did much of the briefing in the Strickland case and was instrumental in his exoneration.

"I will tell you in all earnestness that she is one of the best lawyers that I've met, to come through this office," Baker said.

Baker said that Brubacher handled a wide variety of cases, ranging from property crimes to murder.

Brubacher received her undergraduate degree in philosophy and religious studies as well as a master’s degree from Stanford University in 2003. She received her law degree from Yale Law School in 2010 and her M.A.R. (Master of Arts in Religion) in ethics from Yale Divinity School in 2007.

Before joining the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, she was a lawyer with Cravath Swain & Moore in New York and Cooley LLP in New York, both prominent corporate law firms.

In law school, she was a founding director of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (now the International Refugee Assistance Project) and an editor on the Yale Journal of International Law.

Before law school, she lived in Ghana and, through the Mennonite Mission Network, co-founded the Liberian Widows Initiative, which provided small business loans to Liberian women in the aftermath of the civil war in that country.

Brubacher is married and has three children. She serves on the board of Bethel College in North Newton. The college is affiliated with the Mennonite Church.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas has been headed by Acting U.S. Attorney Duston J. Slinkard, a career prosecutor, since Stephen McAllister resigned as U.S. Attorney in February 2021. McAllister stepped down along with all 92 other U.S. Attorneys in the country, which is customary when a new president takes office. U.S. Attorneys serve at the president’s discretion and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Kansas has about 50 prosecutors and 50 support staff at offices in Kansas City, Kansas, Topeka and Wichita. U.S. Attorneys are the chief federal law enforcement officers in their districts and also handle civil litigation in which the United States is a party.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Kansas has a rich history. One former U.S. Attorney, Cyrus Schofield, left in the 1870s under a legal cloud after he was accused of taking bribes from railroads.

In 1916, U.S. Attorney Fred Robertson prosecuted Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” for murdering a federal prison guard. Another head of the office, Newell “Punk” George, managed a string of boxers on the side in the 1960s.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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