Durbin to name successor with Fitzgerald's help

May 25, 2012 4:22:35 PM PDT
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will officially step down at the end of June. Since the sitting president is a Democrat, Dick Durbin, the ranking Democratic senator in Illinois, gets to recommend a permanent successor.

Senator Durbin said there's no time to waste.

"It is approaching an election," he said. "It's not the easiest time to do it. But we're going to get this under way very quickly."

But very quickly in this case, according to Sen. Durbin, will mean a several months long search to find a successor to Fitzgerald. So he and U.S. Attorney Eric Holder have decided that Holder will appoint an interim U.S. Attorney for the Northern Illinois District, recommended by Fitzgerald.

"I can tell you the Attorney General feels as I do," Durbin said. "That there's no one in a better position that Patrick Fitzgerald to suggest who can continue the work of the office without interruption."

"I'm not going to name the name, but let me say that we're not making a move without consulting with Patrick Fitzgerald and his recommendation," he continued.

Democrat Durbin -- of the same party as the sitting president -- will have the lead role in nominating a successor with Republican Mark Kirk having veto power. But given the time frame, that could change.

"If President Obama is re-elected, which I'm hoping for, then I will have the selection process subject to the veto of Senator Kirk. If Governor Romney is elected, exactly the opposite," Durbin.

In 2001, then-U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald - no relation - nominated New Yorker Patrick in the belief the target-rich Northern District of Illinois needed an outsider without ties to a political establishment rife with corruption.

Durbin discounted geography, indicating Illinois-connected candidates will be considered. He said Pat Fitzgerald-style integrity should be the most important consideration.

"It has to be a person who meets his standard of integrity to fill this spot," said Durbin.

Durbin also said that he and Senator Kirk would appoint a bipartisan panel to assist in the search process.

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