Dan Warhola, ’09

Making a federal case out of it, happily

March 3, 2023


By Kim Catley

After nearly a decade of legal practice, Dan Warhola, ’09, is still invigorated by the chance to articulate an argument and think on his feet.

After graduating from the University of Denver’s law school in 2013, he began making his case in courtrooms as a state prosecutor in Colorado. But he always kept his sights set on a federal role.

Warhola got that chance in August 2022 when he landed a position as an assistant United States attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado. He works in the Transnational Organized Crime and Money Laundering section, where he focuses on prosecuting narcotics offenses. In particular, he targets the trafficking of fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and other controlled substances.

“It’s a lot more working hands-on with investigations and agents who are leading bigger, longer, and more complex investigations,” he said. “That’s one thing that really piqued my interest.”

Every day is different. He might be learning the processes and procedures of working for the U.S. Department of Justice, writing legal briefs in preparation for court appearances, reviewing pre-sentencing investigation reports, or litigating a case.

Warhola appeared at his first solo federal hearing in October. While state prosecutors are inundated with hundreds of cases at a time, he said, assistant U.S. attorneys typically carry lower case numbers. However, the cases are more sophisticated, and attorneys are expected to be prepared with comprehensive research and finely tuned arguments.

In the end, however, he said it was satisfying to argue his position and have the court agree.

“As prosecutors, we’re known to wear what’s called the white hat, and I love that,” he said. “We’re held to a higher standard. We have to understand our cases and what’s appropriate. That combination of being persuasive and executing justice — that’s rewarding.”