David Capp, who stepped down as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana over the weekend, is being remembered as a lawyer’s lawyer who was loyal and had a clear sense of right and wrong.
Capp turned in his resignation March 11 as one of 46 U.S. Attorneys the Trump Administration called upon to resign. Formerly a criminal defense attorney, Capp joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana in 1985 and was appointed to the top job by President Barack Obama in 2009.
“It has been my greatest honor and privilege to serve all these years,” Capp said in a statement released after his resignation. “The work we do in the United States Attorney’s Office has such an important positive impact on the citizens of northern Indiana. I want to thank the men and women of the USAO for their dedication and professionalism, day-in and day-out. They are the people that do the hard work!”
Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, was still in private practice when he encountered Capp in the courtroom. Van Bokkelen described Capp as a mechanic who knew how to work a case and was able to connect with the judge and jury.
On a couple of cases, Van Bokkelen acknowledged, he “got beat pretty good” by Capp. But when Van Bokkelen was tapped to be U.S. Attorney for Northern Indiana in 2001, he began his tenure by hiring Capp as his first assistant.
“I can’t imagine being U.S. Attorney and not having David Capp there,” the judge said.
Capp is a longtime resident of northern Indiana, graduating from Gary Lew Wallace High School in 1968. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1972 and his juris doctorate from Valparaiso University Law School in 1977.
He was in private practice for eight years as a criminal defense attorney before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In that office, Capp served as the first assistant from 1991 to 2007, responsible for the day-to-day operations, and on three different occasions, he served as interim U.S. Attorney.
He built a reputation as having extensive experience investigating and prosecuting public corruption offenses and violent crime. Capp remembered, in particular, a public meeting he held after making arrests and closing down a drug operation in a Gary neighborhood.
“Afterwards, a gentleman came up to me, shook my hand, thanked me for our efforts and told me, ‘now my grandchildren can play in the yard again,’” Capp said.
“That has always stuck with me and kept me focused on what our work is really about. I hope that I have played a part in making more yards in the Northern District of Indiana safe for ‘grandchildren to play in.’”
Capp was confirmed at U.S. Attorney for Northern Indiana in April 2010 and sworn into office later that month. Prior to being asked to resign, he already had plans to step down.
“I had advised my office last summer that is was my plan to retire in 2017,” Capp said. “I had been looking toward a June retirement, so this is just a few months earlier.”
Van Bokkelen said he expected Capp would be able to complete his term since he was going to retire in about three months. Still, Van Bokkelen noted, past presidents have taken similar action in asking U.S. Attorneys to resign and people in these positions know they could be out of a job with each presidential election.
The judge does not anticipate the office will experience any upheaval during the transition because, he said, well-qualified people remain in the office. However, Capp will take a lot of institutional knowledge with him as he leaves which will be hard to replace. Van Bokkelen said Capp was the “go-to person to get something done.”