For litigators, putting appearances on the record is a requirement.
But for Karine Moreno-Taxman, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Department of Justice in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, it’s more than just a professional obligation.
“This country gave me a chance and believed in me,” she said. “Every time I say in court, ‘Karine Moreno-Taxman for the United States of America,’ it reminds me that this is my country and that it trusts to represent it. I take this responsibility very seriously.”
Moreno-Taxman, who was born in Egypt, came to the U.S. with her family by way of France when she was in kindergarten – and did not speak a word of English. She became a citizen, then moved to Brazil, where her father had a job. Moreno-Taxman chose to return to the U.S. for college.
“When I was growing up in Brazil, it was ruled by a military dictatorship,” she said. “I believed in justice and fairness and wanted to be in a country that followed and fostered their citizens’ freedoms.”
Moreno Taxman, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1983, has spent her 32-year career giving back to her country. Moreno-Taxman worked for several years as a state prosecutor in Milwaukee County and Westchester County, New York, before landing in her current job, which she has had for about 20 years.
Moreno-Taxman spends half her time in Milwaukee prosecuting cases and the other half working overseas for a special division of the DOJ, helping promote the rule of law to prosecutors, judges and law enforcement in other countries. That side of her job now has her working exclusively in Malaysia, combatting human trafficking involving both sex and labor abuses.
Her work, which has taken her to Brazil, Mexico and Panama, has had her helping Mexico develop its own system for alerting citizens and law-enforcement agencies about missing children.
Moreno-Taxman said she has two goals: make the world a better a place and bring the rule of law to it.
“If I don’t constantly work to improve the rule of law, I feel that I am not using my time wisely,” said Moreno-Taxman. “I have a need to give back to my country and to victims elsewhere in the world.”
Wisconsin Law Journal: What other profession would you want to attempt and why?
Karine Moreno-Taxman: That’s a really hard question. I feel extremely lucky that my work allows me to be creative and try new things. When I went to law school, I had no idea that I now would be working for my government to help bring the rule of law to other countries. What could be better than that?
WLJ: What’s an unusual skill you have?
Moreno-Taxman: I have the ability to bring disparate groups together. I have the ability to get people to work together for a common goal. And, if I’ve done my job, they don’t have to remember me or what I did – they will only know that they were part of making the world better.
WLJ: Who are your favorite writers?
Moreno-Taxman: Recently, I’ve been reading Theodore Roosevelt. I read one of his quotes; it starts with the words “It’s not the critic who counts…” and it called out to me — I think that if you live in fear of stumbling, or making a mistake, you can be paralyzed. I am not afraid to put myself on the line. … That quote really rang true to me. So now, I am reading more of his work.