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Durbin, Kirk Select 4 Former Federal Prosecutors As Finalists To Replace Fitzgerald

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald discusses his decision to resign from his position by the end of June 2012, after more than 10 years in his job. (Credit: CBS)

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald discusses his decision to resign from his position by the end of June 2012, after more than 10 years in his job. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have sent the White House a list of four finalists to replace former U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald, who stepped down in June, after nearly 11 years as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor.

All four candidates for the job are former federal prosecutors: Jonathan Bunge, Zach Fardon, Lori Lightfoot, and Gil Soffer.

“I’m pleased to recommend four exceptional candidates to be the next U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois,” Durbin said. “Each brings a range of legal and professional experience to the table as prosecutors, lawyers in private practice and managers of large organizations.”

Kirk and Durbin agreed that the four finalists were the best candidates to replace Fitzgerald on a permanent basis.

“Illinois deserves only the best candidates for this position, and the four chosen are a testament to the success of this bipartisan approach,” Kirk said.

Since Fitzgerald stepped down, his former top assistant, Gary Shapiro, has been serving as acting U.S. Attorney in Chicago.

All four finalists for the job are former federal prosecutors, and three worked under Fitzgerald during their careers.

Lightfoot, a partner at Mayer Brown LLP, would be the first African-American and the first woman to hold the top prosecutor’s post in Chicago. She was a federal prosecutor from 1996 to 2002.

From 2002 through 2004, Lightfoot managed the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards, which investigated police misconduct.

Fardon, an attorney at Latham & Watkins, was a federal prosecutor from 1997 to 2006, and was a member of the trial team that won the conviction of former Gov. George Ryan in 2006. He also served as the No. 2 federal prosecutor in Nashville.

Bunge, a partner at Kirkland Ellis, was a federal prosecutor in Chicago from 1990 to 1999, and successfully prosecuted a number of Ford Heights police officers –including ex-chief Jack Davis – for taking bribes from drug dealers and allowing the drug trade to flourish.

Soffer, a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman, was a federal prosecutor from 1994 to 2000.

All four finalists were recommended by a non-partisan screening committee established by Durbin and Kirk. The committee sent the list of four finalists to the senators in October, and they have spent the past several weeks interviewing each finalist.

The White House will now conduct additional interviews and research before picking a nominee to send to the Senate for a vote.

Fitzgerald resigned after serving nearly 11 years as Chicago’s top prosecutor, the longest tenure of any U.S. Attorney in the city. He has since joined the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meacher & Flom LLP.