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Vanessa Avery celebrates appointment a US attorney for CT

NEW HAVEN — Vanessa Avery, a city native, graduated from Hill Regional Career High School.

On Tuesday, three decades later, she came back to celebrate her appointment as 54th US Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Avery said, joined by family, friends, sorority sisters, pastors and state and federal leaders. “Today’s celebration is for all of us.”

Avery was sworn in April after President Joe Biden nominated her in January, becoming the first Black female US attorney in Connecticut’s history. She was born and raised in the Newhallville neighborhood of the city and holds degrees from Yale University and the Georgetown University Law Center.

Deirdre Daly, former state US District attorney, said Avery’s appointment was fortunate for the community during a time she said trust in government is at stake.

“There is no question that the US attorney’s office and the community they serve will benefit from the diversity of Vanessa’s life experience,” Daly said. “Her leadership and community engagement will bridge divides and generate confidence and respect for law enforcement.”

Avery once worked with Daly as an assistant US attorney in the Civil Division — and Daly said Avery “carried herself like a queen” with an impressive resume. Another quality Daly highlighted about Avery was that she listened to all sides before coming up with a well-reasoned stance.

Avery took on challenging tasks such as civil rights cases and civil fraud investigations, Daly said, and was able to calmly navigate everything without breaking a sweat.

“Queens don’t sweat,” she said.

NAACP Greater New Haven President Dori Dumas, Avery’s sorority sister from Yale, said Avery always has been “extremely intelligent, focused and driven,” even as a young adult.

“As civil rights is very important to her, and equality and making a difference, she has a commitment to really help make a change and to advance the work of civil rights,” Dumas said, noting Avery went out her way to build a bridge between the NAACP community in the city and the law enforcement.

That was after George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Dumas said it was the first time the NAACP and US Attorney’s Office worked closely together toward a change and more trust, a sentiment Daly echoed.

More recently, Avery was Associate Attorney General for Enforcement, Litigation and Investigations at the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office.

Margaret Chapple, deputy attorney general, said she didn’t know Avery at hiring but she thought it was a player trade because some staffers from the Attorney General’s Office took jobs in the US Attorney’s Office, but she later found out Avery was much more than that.

Chapple said Avery gained respect from colleagues quickly as she listened to people, asked for help when needed and didn’t pretend to know all the answers.

“Vanessa, as I discovered through the years that we worked together, she is one of the most thoughtful and kindest people that you will ever meet,” Chapple said. “She is very considerate, always thinking of other people.”

Avery also served as a trial attorney for the Department of Justice Civil Division in Washington, DC, which was a free service for children, adults and nonprofits. She previously was a president and is a current member on the advisory board of the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association.

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