Members of the state’s legal community who know Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Torresen are looking forward to the day when she may become the next federal judge in Maine.

Defense lawyers and former prosecutors alike describe Torresen as a hard-working jurist who’s tough but also fair and compassionate.

Torresen, who’s based in Bangor, is President Obama’s pick for the U.S. District Court in Maine. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the nomination last week, clearing the way for a confirmation vote by the full Senate.

“She is appreciative of the broad spectrum of our society and the needs and interests of people all across that spectrum,” said Bernard Kubetz, a Bangor lawyer who has known Torresen for two decades. “I think her compassion, her thoughtfulness, her intelligence all would serve her very well. I think she would be a great judge.”

Torresen would fill the seat held by Judge D. Brock Hornby, who went on senior status last year but is still handling a full caseload. If confirmed, Torresen would be the first female federal judge in Maine.

Torresen has been an assistant U.S. attorney since 1990. She has been part of the criminal division since 2001 and focused on civil matters from 1990 to 1994. Between those periods she was assigned to the Maine Attorney General’s Office because her husband, Jay McCloskey, was serving as U.S. attorney and could not be her supervisor.

After earning her law degree from the University of Michigan in 1987, Torresen clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Conrad Cyr in Bangor and worked for a couple of years as an associate at a firm in Washington, D.C.

Wayne Foote, a Bangor defense lawyer, saw evidence of Torresen’s compassion in a recent disability fraud case. Foote said it became clear that his client was borderline competent, and he showed Torresen the mental health records. Torresen decided against prosecuting criminally, deciding that the government was better served pursuing the money civilly.

“In this country, we imprison a higher proportion of our citizens that any other country in the world — very often for nonviolent crimes. There are other avenues and other solutions to these problems than putting them in jail,” Foote said. “I’m not suggesting she’s soft on crime. She’s a prosecutor, for crying out loud.”

Bruce Merrill, a Portland lawyer, knows Torresen from the case of Benjamin J. Guiliani Sr., a migrant worker advocate who was charged with transporting and harboring illegal aliens, failure to file a corporate tax return, student assistance fraud, Social Security fraud and tax evasion.

In an unusual case that stretched on for several years, Guiliani ended up pleading guilty last year to the charges.

Although she didn’t always agree, Torresen was always willing to listen when issues about the case arose, Merrill said. She would agree to explore options and sometimes joined him in the motions, he said.

“I can say without reservation that it was a pleasure dealing with Nancy the entire time. She had a job to do, I had a job to do,” said Merrill, a former prosecutor. “I’ve been doing this a long time. There are some prosecutors that would have made it a nightmare.”

The case of Robert Ferguson, a Greyhound bus driver accused of robbing banks around the Northeast, involved multiple jurisdictions.

Torresen did the extra work to consolidate most of them in Maine to the benefit of most sides, said Jon Haddow, Ferguson’s attorney.

She worked with the individual states and the various U.S. Attorney offices to save the government time and money and allow Ferguson to have much of his case decided in one forum, Haddow said.

“I think it was the right thing from everyone’s perspective,” he said.

Ferguson, popularly known as the “Burly Bandit,” pleaded guilty to 11 bank robberies.

Former Maine Attorney General Andrew Ketterer said he welcomed the arrival of Torresen — a bright, energetic assistant U.S. attorney with much prosecution experience.

Ketterer had her handle homicide appeals, and her work in that period included arguing nine murder cases and two manslaughter cases before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

“It was so great. It was like manna from heaven for me,” said Ketterer, who is now in private practice in Norridgewock.

Paula Silsby, former U.S. attorney in Maine, said it’s obvious that Torresen is extremely capable. Silsby said Torresen also has a tremendous sense of humor, is a great cook and is very balanced.

“I think that is a quality that’s sort of assumed in terms of judicial temperament: balance and the ability to hear people out, look at the issues and reach a measured decision,” Silsby said.

Terence Harrigan, a Bangor-based lawyer, said matters can get very personal in the criminal defense area. But, he said, Torresen always treats everybody with dignity and respect.

“It’s not about winning for her,” he said. “It’s about doing what’s fair and right.”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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