8 former federal prosecutors in Chicago are considered for next U.S. attorney

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 9:46 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — Eight former federal prosecutors in Chicago — six men and two women — have been chosen for interviews as a selection committee narrows its search on who should succeed former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, according to sources.

Six partners in major Chicago law firms are among the finalists, as well as a federal judge and the state's inspector general, the sources said.

Fitzgerald stepped down in June after a record stint of nearly 11 years as Chicago's chief federal prosecutor.

With the presidential election hovering over the selection, Illinois' two U.S. senators, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk, have vowed to make a bipartisan pick.

The Tribune previously reported that U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall was in the running for the U.S. attorney post after court officials last month transferred her criminal caseload to other judges to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. She has been on the federal bench since 2006.

Two of the finalists are minorities — Lori Lightfoot, a partner at the law firm of Mayer Brown, and Ricardo Meza, the executive inspector general in Gov. Pat Quinn's administration.

The best-known candidate could be Patrick Collins, who garnered much attention as the lead prosecutor in the Operation Safe Roads probe that culminated in the 2006 conviction of former Gov. George Ryan and numerous of his former top aides. He is a partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie.

Zachary Fardon, another key member of the prosecution team at Ryan's six-month trial, is a partner in Chicago at the law firm of Latham Watkins. Fardon, who grew up in Tennessee, held the No. 2 post at the U.S. attorney's office in Nashville before going into private practice.

Three finalists have ties to a co-chair of the selection committee, Mark Filip, who resigned from the federal bench to take the No. 2 post in the Justice Department in the final year of President George W. Bush's administration. Jonathan Bunge and John Lausch are partners at the same law firm — Kirkland & Ellis — as Filip. And Gil Soffer joined Filip at the Justice Department in a high-ranking post. Soffer is now a partner at the law firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman.

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