The search for a new United States Attorney in Chicago, one of the most highly coveted federal prosecutor jobs in the country, has been narrowed to eight candidates, according to sources close to the process.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the selection committee will submit its final recommendations to Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin, the Democratic majority whip, and Mark Kirk, a Republican. Patrick Fitzgerald stepped down from the position in June after more than a decade in the post. His longtime deputy, Gary Shapiro, is the acting U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.
The eight finalists consist of six private practice lawyers, a Chicago District Judge and the inspector general for the state of Illinois.
Jonathan Bunge, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
Bunge is a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois, where he served as the deputy chief of the General Crimes Section from 1990 to 1999. While there, he worked on a number of local and state public corruption cases. He joined the Justice Department in 1988 through the honors program in the Solicitor General’s Office shortly after graduating from the University of Chicago Law School. At Kirkland & Ellis, he has focused on general and business litigation and white collar criminal defense.
Patrick Collins, partner at Perkins Coie LLP.
Collins was the lead prosecutor in the public corruption case against former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. As the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office’s Deputy Chief of the Public Corruption Section, Collins won a conviction in 2006 against the longtime politician, who was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. Collins served as the deputy chief of the section from 2004 to 2007. Before that, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the office. He joined the Justice Department in 1995, after a stint as an associate with Sachnoff & Weaver. He joined Perkins Coie in 2007 and has worked on counseling companies in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act matters and advising colleges and universities on the False Claims Act.
Zach Fardon, partner at Latham Watkins LLP.
Fardon also served on the Ryan prosecution team, in addition to the corruption prosecution of Scott Falwell, a Ryan aide, and Ryan’s campaign organization. He served as an assistant U.S. attorney with the Chicago office from 1997 to 2003. He later went on to serve as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. At Latham Watkins, Fardon serves as the chairman of the firm’s Chicago litigation department. He focuses on internal and government investigations, white collar defense and business litigation.
Virginia Kendall, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois
Kendall was appointed to the bench in 2006 by President George W. Bush. Before that, she worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois from 1995 to 2005, ultimately serving as the deputy chief of the Criminal Division. She is considered an expert on issues of human trafficking and child exploitation. She is an adjunct professor at Loyola University School of Law.
John Lausch, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
Lausch served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois for more than a decade, ultimately working as a Deputy Chief and the Violent Crime Coordinator. Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s office, Lausch worked as an associate at Kirkland in Chicago. He rejoined Kirkland in 2010, and his practice is focused on white collar criminal defense and securities enforcement. He is also a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.
Lori Lightfoot, partner at Mayer Brown LLP.
Lightfoot served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division of the Chicago office from 1996 to 2002. Following that, she worked as the city’s Interim First Deputy Procurement Officer, as the Office of Emergency Management and Communications General Counsel and Chief of Staff and as the Chief Administrator in the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. In her post with the police department, Lightfoot oversaw 100 investigators who investigaged possible police misconduct. She joined Mayer Brown in 2005 and focuses on a number of litigation matters, including employment discrimination, breach of contract claims and franchise disputes.
Ricardo Meza, Inspector General for the state of Illinois.
Meza was appointed in 2010 by Gov. Pat Quinn as executive inspector general, a post in which he oversees the agencies under the Illinois governor. Before being confirmed as IG, Meza worked as the Midwest regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. He also served as an assistant U.S. attorney for a decade before joining the defense fund. He is a graduate of the John Marshall Law School.
Soffer served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Chicago office from 1994 to 2000. In 2008, Soffer became counsel to the Deputy Attorney General in Washington. Later that year, he was appointed Associate Deputy Attorney General, supervising a range of cases including those involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the False Claims Act. Soffer played an important role in the Justice Department memo that outlines guidance on corporate monitors. He also worked on the department’s corporate-charging principles. At Katten, Soffer is the national co-head of the firm’s White Collar Defense, Internal Investigations and Compliance Practice.