Top Fitzgerald Deputy Named Acting Chicago U.S. Attorney

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in Chicago, who is stepping down June 29, will be provisionally succeeded by his top deputy, Gary S. Shapiro.

“Gary Shapiro is a prosecutor’s prosecutor,” Fitzgerald said today in a Justice Department statement. Shapiro has served as first assistant U.S. attorney for 14 years and has worked for the department in Chicago since 1972.

Fitzgerald’s office won convictions of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, an ex-White House aide; former Illinois governors Rod Blagojevich and George H. Ryan; and Hollinger International Inc. Chairman Conrad Black. The prosecutor announced his resignation last month after almost 11 years in the job.

Fitzgerald, 51, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, took office in September 2001 as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, which comprises 18 counties and 9 million people. President Barack Obama hasn’t named a successor, who will need Senate confirmation.

Lawyers who have also been Chicago’s top federal prosecutor include Chairman Dan K. Webb of the law firm Winston & Strawn LLP; former Illinois Governor James R. Thompson, also a Winston & Strawn partner; and Scott R. Lassar, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP. Both law firms are based in Chicago.

Shapiro, 65, has been the office’s top deputy since 1998. He previously was chief of its criminal division, supervising investigations into corruption, corporate fraud, organized crime, international terrorism and terrorism financing, the Justice Department said.

Organized Crime

Shapiro oversaw organized-crime prosecutions in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin from 1984 to 1990, according to the government. The office has a staff of more than 170 prosecutors and about 230 support personnel.

U.S. Senators Richard Durbin, a Democrat, and Republican Mark Kirk agreed on a process to select Fitzgerald’s permanent replacement, Durbin said today in a statement.

That process will start with the creation of a bipartisan six-person screening committee drawn from the state’s legal community, Durbin said. He and Kirk will each select three members of that panel including one co-chairman.

Kirk and Durbin will review the committee’s recommendations, interview finalists and ultimately agree upon a list of nominees to be provided to the president.

Obama must then submit that nomination to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, upon which Durbin serves. Its approval would send the nominee on to the full Senate for a vote. The nominee confirmation process takes two to four months, according to the Durbin-issued statement.

“Our Illinois panelists will conduct a nationwide search to identify the top candidates for U.S. Attorney,” Kirk said in the same statement. “This non-partisan process ensures the nominee will maintain the continuity of fighting corruption that Patrick Fitzgerald has established.”

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