Hill Climbers: One Writer’s Beginnings

Posted January 13, 2009 at 3:37pm

Most people remember the first O.J. Simpson arrest and trial well, if for no other reason than the high drama — the glove, the White Bronco chase. But Seth Bloom might also remember it as the event that led to him becoming a writer.

[IMGCAP(1)]Bloom was already a practicing lawyer when he read Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark’s account of the trial in her book, “Without a Doubt.” Taking issue with Clark’s refusal to take blame for what went wrong in the trial, and to admit that her own abusive relationships inspired the zeal with which she pursued Simpson, Bloom submitted a somewhat scathing review to the Legal Times newspaper. They published it, and a writer was born.

Although Bloom has continued to write reviews of books, movies and restaurants — he and a pal even had their own column for a time — he hasn’t left his day job. In fact, after nearly 10 years with the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was recently promoted to general counsel for the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

And what a decade it’s been. Bloom was on Capitol Hill for 9/11 and the anthrax scare.

“It’s something to live through,” Bloom said of the anthrax incident.

“Initially, people said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it,’ and the next day they said, ‘You should get tested,’” he recalled. “It’s shocking that this could be found in a Senate office building. It’s a miracle that everybody survived.”

[IMGCAP(2)]Bloom wasn’t scared away from the job, however, and it’s no wonder. Long

before he went to law school at the University of Pennsylvania, he knew he wanted to work on the Hill.

“I remember, as a kid, watching Senate hearings and seeing the people behind the Senators, and thinking it would be a really neat job,” he said.

After law school Bloom worked for a private firm, but he never gave up on working in public policy. He made the move to the Department of Justice, and he first landed a position with the Judiciary Committee as a DOJ detailee in 1999. He was hired by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) to the committee in 2002 and has worked there ever since.

The position suits Bloom, he said, because he prefers making policy to watching it. “Being in the Senate gives you a unique view of history in the making.”

One might think that working for the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee wouldn’t leave much time for dabbling in other careers, but Bloom seems to have managed to keep up with his other interests. Not only does he write reviews, he’s also something of a thespian.

Bloom was an extra in several big-time movies, including “Pelican Brief,” “Air Force One” and “The People Vs. Larry Flynt.” He even appeared in “Forrest Gump” as an activist outside the Washington Monument, and he says he appears in a shot with Tom Hanks. “See,” he said, “I’m sort of a Renaissance man.”

Bloom’s colleague Caroline Holland also maintains her extracurricular interests. A former member of her college’s rowing team, she is certified as a rowing referee and worked at the 2004 Olympic and World championship trials.

“It’s a way for me to give something back to the sport,” she said. But there is also much the sport can give to her.

Not only did her essay on the subject help her get into Georgetown law school, but refereeing “plays to the lawyerly mind, making judgment calls and applying the rules,” she said.

Those skills will come in handy as Holland tackles her new position as chief counsel and staff director of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. She was recently promoted to the position, though she had been working as counsel to the subcommittee, and previously was a legislative aide to Kohl.

In addition to more managerial duties, Holland will “work on moving the big picture of the legislation, which is different than what I used to do,” she said.

Like Bloom, Holland knew from a young age that she was going to work in Washington.

“I just thought this was the coolest place,” she said of a high school trip to the Capitol. “I was star-struck” by seeing political figures such as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), she said.

Holland took courses in constitutional law while at Trinity College in Connecticut, and those classes solidified her decision to work in policy. She earned her law degree from Georgetown and worked as an associate at Patton Boggs and as a paralegal at the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division before coming to the Judiciary Committee.

Though she no longer competes as a rower herself, Holland says there are connections between thinking as a referee and as chief counsel to the subcommittee. “It is relevant,” she said. “We have to make tough calls, make decisions, and we’re making them very much in the moment,” in both instances.

No surprise then that Holland says she knows many lawyers who double as referees. Holland recalled a time when the comparison was particularly clear. As she and others were in deep discussion about the rules of a match, she looked around at the group and said, “We’re such lawyers.”

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