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Lawyers to replace Fitzgerald all were federal prosecutors

United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald stepped down last month. His replacement may not be named until after Nov. 6 election.

United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald stepped down last month. His replacement may not be named until after the Nov. 6 election. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 17, 2012 6:25AM

All eight candidates who have been interviewed for the daunting job of replacing former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald have experience of working in the office he once led, a list obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times shows.

The list of six men and two women — all of whom once worked as federal prosecutors in Chicago — is being considered by a panel advising U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, according to two sources close to the selection process.

It includes a sitting federal judge, a state inspector general appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn and six lawyers currently in private practice in Chicago — but no true outsiders such as Fitzgerald, who was brought in from New York to lessen potential conflicts of interest.

The list Durbin is expected to select from includes:

◆ Patrick Collins, who led the successful high-profile prosecution of former Gov. George Ryan and now works with law firm Perkins Coie.

◆ Zach Fardon, who also prosecuted Ryan and is now in private practice with Latham and Watkins.

◆ Judge Virginia Kendall, appointed to the federal bench in 2006 by President George W. Bush. Kendall has had her criminal cases reassigned while she competes for the top prosecutor’s job.

◆ Lori Lightfoot, one of the city’s leading African-American attorneys, once the chief administrator at the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards, now works with law firm Mayer Brown.

◆ John Bunge, a former deputy chief of the U.S. attorney’s general crimes section in Chicago, who now works with the Kirkland & Ellis law firm.

◆ John Lausch, who led the prosecution of several corrupt cops cases and now also works with Kirkland & Ellis, specializing in white-collar criminal defense and securities enforcement.

◆ Ricardo Meza, the former head of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, appointed Executive Inspector General for Illinois by Quinn in 2010.

◆ Gil Soffer, who worked in Washington, D.C., under former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, has served as a commissioner on the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission and now works with law firm Katten.

Though all of those on the list have worked as federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Illinois, several assistant U.S. attorneys who applied — including one supervisor — were not called for interview, a source said.

The nomination is Durbin’s to make, but Sen. Mark Kirk has a veto right before the nominee is forwarded to the president for approval and ultimately put before a Senate committee for confirmation.

No appointment is expected before whoever wins the presidential election is sworn in next year.

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