March 6, 2014

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Samuel Alba

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Samuel Alba

Creating Change and Solving Problems

By Heather Stewart

March 6, 2014

Samuel Alba’s legal career has always revolved around the courtroom. In fact, he chose his first job after law school based on how soon he would be able to appear in court.

“I had an offer from one of the large law firms in Phoenix at the time, and I asked the question, ‘How long would it be before I can appear in court with clients?’ and they told me that it would be five or six years. I went and spoke with the federal public defender, and he said two or three months. And that, really, is what I wanted to do. I wanted to get into trials, in court, and I felt the public defender’s office afforded me a better opportunity to do that,” says Alba.

Alba worked for the Federal Public Defenders office in Arizona for five years, and he says, “What I learned as a public defender still serves me daily.” Later, he spent seven years at the United States Attorney’s Office in Utah, where he prosecuted an array of criminal cases. After that, he joined Prince, Yeates & Geldzahler and worked on civil cases, as well as white-collar criminal defense.

For Alba, the allure of the legal profession was always about creating change and solving problems. He explains that law school “taught a different way of thinking and a different way of addressing problems. And I saw that as a good way to try and resolve problems for individuals and for corporations.”

In 1992, he took on a new role in the courtroom—he became a United States Magistrate Judge. This position drew on his wealth of experience in private practice, as a public defender and as a prosecutor.

“There were a lot of matters that came before me that were not totally foreign. And by that I mean, I had been exposed to them on both sides because of the experience that I had,” says Alba. “The one thing about being a judge, though, is there is always something new. No matter what you do as a lawyer, you kind of focus in particular areas of practice. But as a judge, the breadth of the law is available to you. So there were always new issues that were coming up.”

In fact, Alba oversaw a wide range of high-profile cases, including pretrial matters in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case, sentencing for individuals who were charged with stealing ancient artifacts from federal lands, and the Phillips Electrical v. BC Technical copyright and trademark infringement case.

Alba served on the bench for 20 years, retiring in 2012. But he was not yet ready to hang up his hat. That year, he joined Snow, Christensen & Martineau, where his practice now focuses on mediation and arbitration, commercial litigation, trial services and white-collar criminal defense.

“What I had missed in being a judge,” says Alba, “is dealing with the individual problems that clients have. Dealing with people on a regular basis has invigorated me, and I’m having a wonderful time.”

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