Subscribe to Florida Trend


June 25, 2018
Lawyer goes full circle: From defense to prosecution and back again

Photo: Mark Wemple

Brian Albritton

Of Counsel - Florida Law

Lawyer goes full circle: From defense to prosecution and back again

Attorney Brian Albritton is back to defending corporate clients.

Art Levy | 3/12/2013

In 2008, when he became the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Brian Albritton set aside his 18-year specialty of white-collar criminal defense and embraced the prosecutor’s role.

Brian Albritton
Partner, Phelps Dunbar, Tampa

Life Before Law: Albritton earned a master’s in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1982. Before deciding that he wanted to be a lawyer, he worked in a shelter for runaway children in Boston.

Extracurricular: He completed a 970-mile bicycle trip across Britain last year to raise $5,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay.

He oversaw the district’s push against white-collar crime, particularly mortgage and health care fraud. In 2009, the office brought charges against more than 100 defendants charged with more than $400 million in lending fraud. The same year, WellCare Health Plans agreed to pay $80 million to resolve health care fraud allegations.

“I really wanted to put the emphasis on white-collar prosecution,” he says, “because if the U.S. Attorney’s office doesn’t do it, it often won’t get done. It’s not that the states don’t prosecute those cases. They do. But the U.S. Attorney’s office is uniquely suited to investigate and prosecute white-collar crime.”

As much as he enjoyed being U.S. Attorney, the 54-year-old Tampa native is now back where he started, defending corporate clients against the same assistant U.S. attorneys he used to lead.

Albritton became a partner at Phelps Dunbar shortly after leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office in October 2010. He only recently got beyond a moratorium that prevented him from handling certain cases, including any case he had even minimal involvement with when he supervised the district’s 117 assistant U.S. attorneys in 35 Florida counties. He says the hard part about his transition has been getting used to standing on the other side of the courtroom from former colleagues.

“I very much liked and respected the people I served with,” he says. “I have a personal relationship with many of them. Litigation invariably involves some kind of conflict, but I don’t want to be involved in personalities. I’m a law guy. I ask, ‘What does the law require?’ Then, I act accordingly. I expect the same of my opponents no matter what side I’m on.”

Albritton picked up his “stick-to-the-law” philosophy from William Terrell Hodges, a judge who served in the Middle District of Florida from 1971 to 1989. After graduating from Boston College Law School in 1988, Albritton went to work as a clerk for Hodges, who always stressed to his clerks: “Fidelity to the law. Fidelity to the rules.”

Albritton’s fidelity these days focuses on defending companies against False Claims Act accusations. The law, designed to protect federal programs against fraudsters, includes a provision that allows whisleblowers to collect a portion of recovered damages. The federal government recovered $4.9 billion in False Claims Act damages last year, which Albritton says will likely motivate more whistleblowers — some with legitimate cases and some not — to step forward.

“We’re also going to see more of it with Obamacare, the expansion of the federal government’s role in health care as a payor,” he says. “You’re going to have fraudsters. You’re also going to have businesses that make mistakes. In some instances, the government will go too far and go after legitimate businesses.”

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

Digital Access

Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single digital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.


Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Lincoln Road keeps growing — and its small businesses keep closing
Lincoln Road keeps growing — and its small businesses keep closing

Over the last five years, a wave of out-of-town investors have paid record-high prices for Lincoln Road properties looking to capitalize on the Beach's international cachet. Increasingly, small businesses unable to keep pace with the skyrocketing rents in the historic Miami Beach shopping district are being forced to decide between relocating or closing.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Should Florida collect sales tax from all online retailers?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure, need to understand issue better

See Results

Ballot Box