199 Main Street
Burlington, VT 05402-0190
Big-picture thinker focused on complex litigation, investigation and enforcement matters.
Tris Coffin has spent the last twenty years refining the art of litigation and resolving complex disputes with federal and state enforcement agencies through negotiation and other means. In 2009, he achieved the distinguished honor of being appointed by President Barack Obama, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, as the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont. As Vermont’s chief federal prosecutor, Tris supervised all criminal and civil prosecutions in the district. He also was extensively involved with prosecution policy issues at the national level, co-chairing a key subcommittee for Attorney General Eric Holder. Tris also served as the chief spokesperson for federal law enforcement in Vermont, built and managed coalitions to effect change in criminal justice policy, and, drawing on over a decade of experience as a frontline federal prosecutor, managed an active caseload. These accomplishments demonstrate his ability to think strategically while also executing at the tactical level.
With his arrival at Downs Rachlin Martin in January 2015, Tris intends to focus his practice on representing clients in significant civil and criminal matters both within Vermont and beyond. Tris’ practice opens up a new area of service for DRM, which includes internal investigations, crisis management, white collar defense, and dispute resolution with the U.S. and state governments on a broad spectrum.
As U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont from 2009 to 2014, Tris supervised all criminal and civil investigations in Vermont, served as the top federal law enforcement officer in the state, and was the lead spokesperson for federal law enforcement. In this position,
- Tris was responsible for conducting investigations and approving prosecutions and case resolutions for a variety of federal crimes and civil litigation. He coordinated federal prosecution efforts with federal investigative agencies as well as state and local partners. Cases prosecuted during his tenure involved major financial fraud schemes, narcotics trafficking, firearms trafficking, healthcare fraud, cybercrime, and child exploitation and other serious violent crimes, typically with an interstate or international nexus.
- At the same time, Tris managed an active caseload which included personally investigating and prosecuting the managing officer of a federally-insured credit union for misappropriation of funds; extraditing and convicting the leaders of a large Canadian money laundering and drug smuggling enterprise, and successfully trying to verdict a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme.
- Tris co-chaired the Criminal Practice Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, a key national committee that spearheaded reforms dealing with discovery practices, charging and sentencing policy, Giglio reform and federal taping policy.
- In addition, Tris served as a member of the Attorney General’s Health Care Fraud, Cyber Crime and Environmental Crimes Working Groups, working with other U.S. Attorney’s to advise the Attorney General on policy initiatives in these areas.
Prior to his tenure as U.S. Attorney, Tris was a Director at another prominent Vermont law firm. There, he focused on health care-related litigation along with commercial litigation, and enforcement matters. A sampling of his work includes:
- Representation of the target of a federal grand jury investigation in the SDNY for violation of the Arms Export Control Act. Tris’ pre-charge presentation to the prosecution team resulted in no indictment and no penalty for his client, the principal of a Vermont hi-tech company.
- On behalf of a substantial health care institution, in the course of an investigation of one of its surgeons for sexual assault on patients, Tris sheparded the institution through the criminal investigation while minimizing impacts on the hospital’s operations and exposure to criminal or civil liability.
- In support of a telemarketing firm in a consumer fraud investigation, Tris guided the company through subpoena responses, document production and negotiation, resulting in no case being brought and no penalty recovered.
- Tris also represented numerous physicians and health care entities in actions alleging varied medical malpractice and licensing issues, using skill at all phases of the litigation process and the ability to assimilate complex technical information quickly to achieve outstanding results for his clients.
- As an example of commercial litigation, Tris was retained by the State of Vermont to represent a state economic development agency in litigation against a national financial institution related to their servicing of a multi-million dollar guaranteed loan, resulting in a successful mediated settlement.
From 1994 to 2006, Tris was a line federal prosecutor. Using his broad experience as both a civil and criminal Assistant United States Attorney, Tris has successfully led investigations and prosecutions of almost every type of case from case initiation, to grand jury, to trial, to appeal. Examples of his work as an AUSA include:
- Tris led a team of Air Force, Defense Department and NCIS investigators in a qui tam investigation of a large manufacturer of military jet engine parts for alleged violations of the False Claims Act and contract damages stemming from faulty inspection of jet engine fan blades. The case began with an F-16 on the bottom of the Adriatic Sea and ended in a substantial recovery for the United States.
- Prosecution and trial on mail, wire and tax fraud charges of an international distributor of maple sugar for shipping tons of fake maple products throughout the U.S. and internationally. This was a landmark case in an industry vital to Vermont.
- Led the investigation of the Johnny Blaze ecstasy smuggling ring, working up the chain to investigate, extradite and prosecute an international ecstasy and money laundering ring based in the Netherlands and shipping ecstasy to large cities in the United States and Canada. Tris received a national award from the Department of Justice for superior work on this case and in addition was recognized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for his efforts.
- Represented the United States in qui tam litigation presenting novel issues about the immunity of state agencies from suit under the False Claims Act. Tris prevailed in the district court, whose ruling was affirmed by the Second Circuit, only to be overturned in a groundbreaking decision in the case by the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Tris also successfully investigated a health care products telemarketing company for violations of the False Claims Act related to the fraudulent coding of back braces and other items, among other health care fraud cases.
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Counsel, 1991-1994
- Tris also served as a counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Technology and the Law. In this capacity, Tris was responsible for advising Senator Patrick J. Leahy on policy issues coming before the Judiciary Committee, drafting legislation and speeches, negotiating policy and representing the Senator on issues relating to Vermont constituencies. From this experience, Tris developed substantial experience with the federal legislative and political process.
- Tris’ Judiciary Committee work focused on high-tech antitrust issues and cybercrime, courts, crime and civil rights legislation, and judicial and Justice Department nominations. In particular, he staffed Senator Leahy on the nominations of Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to be Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, among other notable issues.
Columbia University School of Law, Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar J.D., 1989 Editor, Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems
Wesleyan, B.A., with honors, 1985
United States District Court for the District of Vermont, 1994
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 1996
Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Albert W. Coffrin, United States District Court Judge, District of Vermont.
- Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant United States Attorney
- Awarded three Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force commendations:
- Vermont Police Chief’s Association Award (for anti-heroin prosecution efforts) (2014)
- Antonio Pomerleau Award (for anti-heroin prosecution and prevention efforts (2014)
- United Way Advocates Award (for anti-heroin prevention campaign) (2013)
199 Main Street
Burlington, VT 05402-0190ph: 802-863-2375