A little more than a year after Anne Milgram ’96 became one of the youngest state attorneys general in history, she reflected on her swiftly ascending public-service career path and encouraged Law School students to work for the greater good in her September 8 speech, “Public Interest as a Career,” for this year’s Attorney General Robert Abrams Public Service Lecture.
Growing up in East Brunswick in a family of teachers and police officers, Milgram learned early about the fulfillment found in helping others. She remembered how she would accompany her grandmother on visits to soup kitchens and orphanages on holidays when she was a child.
Clerking for Chief Judge Anne E. Thompson of the U.S. District Court of New Jersey after graduating from law school, Milgram was convinced that the practice of the law could help her serve the public: “When you step into a courtroom you get to see real wrongs being righted and justice being rendered right before your eyes.” Milgram subsequently worked in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, where, as a member of the domestic violence unit, she handled the first case under a new antistalking statute.
Four years later she joined the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, eventually becoming the lead prosecutor of human trafficking cases. She won some of the first prosecutions under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and secured the convictions of six defendants in the enforced prostitution case U.S. v. Jimenez-Calderon. “They are some of the most horrific crimes that you will ever see committed,” said Milgram.
Following a stint as then-Senator Jon Corzine’s counsel, Milgram followed him to New Jersey to serve as first assistant attorney general when he was elected governor. Less than two years later, she was sworn in as state attorney general. As New Jersey’s chief law enforcement officer, she authored Corzine’s major anticrime initiative to combat gang violence, bolster crime prevention and reduce ex-convict recidivism. She has also grappled with problems as diverse as Internet safety, environmental laws and mortgage fraud.
Milgram thrives on the challenges of her job. “I wake up every morning thinking about how I can improve the lives of people in the state, and that is a tremendous gift,” she said. Urging her audience to act in the public interest, either full-time or through pro bono or volunteer work, Milgram vouched for the personal satisfaction public service had given her: “I wanted a job where I couldn’t believe that someone would actually pay me to do work that I loved that much. And I will tell you the truth, that I’ve generally felt that I’ve had those jobs all along.”