WASHINGTON D.C. (WIFR) – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) today recommended four finalists for the position of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois to President Obama for consideration. The four finalists are, in alphabetical order: Jonathan Bunge; Zachary 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. These finalists know our city and State well and understand the unique challenges that the office of U.S. Attorney faces. Each can fill the big shoes left by Patrick Fitzgerald and lead the office with independence, integrity and distinction.
Jonathan Bunge was born in South Carolina and attended Princeton (BA) and the University of Chicago Law School. Following law school, he clerked for Judge James G. Buckley of the D.C. Circuit Court and Justice Byron White of the U.S. Supreme Court. He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois from 1990-1999, serving as Deputy Chief of the General Crimes Section from 1998-1999. Bunge served as Special Assistant Attorney General in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office from 2005-2009, where he helped initiate and run a public integrity unit dedicated to investigating and prosecuting public corruption offenses. He is currently a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP where his practice focuses on corporate litigation and investigations.
Zachary Fardon was born in Kansas City and attended Vanderbilt for his undergraduate education and for law school. From 1996-1997, he was an Assistant Public Defender with the Nashville Metropolitan Public Defender’s Office. In 1997, he moved to Chicago and served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District until 2003. Fardon then served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee until 2006. He also served in 2005-2006 as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois to participate on the trial team for the prosecution of Governor George Ryan. He is currently a partner at Latham & Watkins LLP where he has chaired the firm’s Chicago Litigation Department since 2009.
Lori Lightfoot was born in Ohio and attended the University of Michigan (BA) and the University of Chicago Law School. Following law school, she clerked for Justice Charles Levin of the Michigan Supreme Court. From 1984-1986 she worked as a legislative assistant in Washington D.C. for Congressman Ralph Regula (R-OH). From 1996 -2002 Lightfoot worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois’ Criminal Division, focusing on violent and white collar crime. From 2002-2004, Lightfoot served as Chief Administrator of the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards, managing a 100-person office tasked with investigating allegations of police misconduct. She then served as the Chief of Staff and General Counsel for the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Lightfoot is currently a partner at Mayer Brown LLP, where her practice focuses on commercial litigation and white collar matters.
Gil Soffer was born in Chicago and attended Brown University (BA) and Harvard Law School. Following law school, he clerked for Judge John A. Nordberg of the Northern District of Illinois. From 1994 – 2000, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois focusing on drug, fraud and white collar prosecutions. Since 2000, Soffer has been a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, where he is the co-chair of the firm’s white collar practice. In 2008, Soffer served as Associate Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2009, he was appointed as a Commissioner on the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission
The four finalists are the same as those recommended by the Senators’ non-partisan screening committee. The non-partisan screening committee was empaneled in July and asked to aid Senators Durbin and Kirk in the search for the next U.S. Attorney for the Northern District. The panel was co-chaired by the Honorable David Coar, former U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, and the Honorable Mark Filip, former Deputy Attorney General in the United States Department of Justice and former U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. The committee included Zaldwaynaka (“Z”) Scott, an attorney and former criminal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois; Christina Egan, also an attorney and former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois; Terence MacCarthy, the former Executive Director of the Federal Defender Program for the Northern District of Illinois; and Lawrence Oliver II, Chief Counsel at the Boeing Company and a former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.
The committee interviewed applicants and formally recommended the finalists to Senators Durbin and Kirk in October. Over the course of October and November, Durbin and Kirk reviewed the committee’s findings, conducted additional background research, and interviewed the candidates. Once those interviews were complete, Senators Durbin and Kirk discussed each candidate and agreed that their search committee’s recommendations represented the four best candidates for the job. A copy of the screening committee’s recommendations to Senators Durbin and Kirk is attached.
In sending four candidates to the White House for consideration, the next phase of the process will begin. The White House will now review the recommendations of the Senators Durbin and Kirk and formally nominate a permanent successor to Patrick Fitzgerald.
Once the President submits a nomination to the U.S. Senate, the nominee will be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Durbin is a member, and will receive a vote in the committee. The approval of both home state Senators is required for the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up and consider any U.S. Attorney nominee. If a nomination is approved by the Judiciary Committee, the nomination will be sent to the full Senate for consideration.
On average, it takes between two and four months to confirm a U.S. Attorney once that nomination is sent to the Senate. Until a nominee is confirmed by the Senate, Gary Shapiro will continue to serve as Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.