Being a lawyer is nearly in Alison Gregoire’s DNA, but she broke with family tradition and went into criminal law instead of civil law. Even that is different from her original plan, which was to practice public/international law.
Now Gregoire is the criminal chief of the Eastern District of Washington U.S. Attorney’s Office, the first woman to hold that position. In recognition of her achievement, she has been selected for the YWCA Women of Achievement award for government and public service. Gregoire and the other award winners will be recognized during a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. March 24 at the Davenport Grand.
Gregoire was born in Spokane and grew up in Great Falls, where her father practiced law. After high school she attended Gonzaga University, where her father had studied law, to earn a degree in political science and communication. She earned her law degree from Notre Dame.
The career choice seemed like a natural one to Gregoire
With an eye toward practicing public/international law, she joined the Army. She was stationed in Germany and was assigned criminal cases.
“I prosecuted cases, lots of cases,” she said. “All I did in the Army was criminal work.”
She found that she liked prosecuting cases and representing the victims in court.
“I like engaging with people,” she said. “I like being an advocate.”
She left the Army after seven years, but remained in the Army Reserves, where she is currently a major. After leaving active duty, she went to work in the Yakima office of the Eastern District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. During her four years there, she often worked on cases on the Yakama Nation Reservation.
“It’s huge,” she said. “It’s over 1 million acres and we have exclusive jurisdiction over felony crimes that occur on their land.”
She came to Spokane seven years ago and has been the Project Safe Childhood coordinator for the Eastern District, prosecuting crimes against children. She has also served as the tribal liaison to the Kalispel, Spokane and Colville tribes.
“Within the tribes I did a lot of assault and domestic violence,” she said.
Because of her work representing victims on tribal lands, Gregoire received the Department of Justice Director’s Award for Superior Performance in Indian Country in 2018.
Gregoire said she loves her job and has no plans to work anywhere else, despite some who have encouraged her to do so.
“I always wanted to be a federal prosecutor forever, at least since I became a lawyer,” she said. “I do think I’ll go back to where I don’t supervise anyone anymore, just to give someone else a chance.”
She said she learned only recently that she is the first woman to be criminal chief in the Eastern Washington district. The district has always had good criminal chiefs and Gregoire said she’s proud to be one of them
Gregoire said she was surprised to receive the award but also pleased that her work is being recognized.
“We can’t talk about ongoing cases, so people don’t know what we do,” she said. “It is rare for people to really know what we do, which is frustrating sometimes.”
She said she also sees the award as a way to show new prosecuting attorneys that their work in the community is valued and seen as an achievement.