Pat Fitzgerald

Eric Holder

Now that Eric Holder has announced his departure as attorney general, talk has turned to who his successor will be — and should be. Early buzz has centered around Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, but there are other compelling candidates as well, including lots of legal luminaries that Above the Law readers will recognize.

Who will be our nation’s next AG? And who should be the next AG? Let’s discuss….

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We had the good fortune to have Patrick Fitzgerald — the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois who recently joined Skadden — speak to my company’s global compliance conference last month.

Let me prove that I’ve learned a little about this blogging business over the years: Before the jump, I’ll give you my personal thought or two about introducing prominent speakers. I’ll hold the good stuff — what Fitzgerald, the famous guy, said — until after the jump. (Watch this, Lat! They’ll be drawn through the jump like vultures to carrion!)

How do you introduce a prominent speaker? You can do it the usual way: He went to school, got a job, and did some fancy stuff, zzzzzzzz.

Or you can find something offbeat about the person. I chose to introduce Fitzgerald by saying that I was afraid that our speaker had peaked too young. He had been named one of the sexiest men alive by People magazine in 2005; how do you ever surpass that? And, also in 2005, he had received an award from Washingtonian magazine for “best performance without a script.” For most people, it’s all downhill from there.

Fortunately, our speaker managed to surpass his early achievements. And then I trotted through what must be the usual litany in a Fitzgerald introduction: Led the prosecutions of former Illinois Governors George Ryan (sentenced to five years) and Rod Blagojevich (14 years) and a bunch of others.

That was my contribution to the hour. But, you might ask, what did the famous guy have to say?

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Patrick Fitzgerald

When renowned federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stepped down as U.S. Attorney in Chicago, he reacted skeptically to the suggestion that he join the dark side jump over to private practice and become a defense lawyer. When asked about this at a press conference regarding his departure, he quipped, “Can you see me as a defense attorney?”

Well, pooh-poohing something isn’t the same as rejecting it out of hand. Yesterday brought news that Pat Fitzgerald will be entering private practice after all.

So which Biglaw firm just landed this big fish?

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Yesterday brought some big news out of Chicago. Renowned federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald — who successfully prosecuted such figures as Governor George Ryan, Governor Rod Blagojevich, White House adviser Scooter Libby, and media mogul Conrad Black — announced that he will be stepping down as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Fitzgerald’s resignation will take effect on June 30.

I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Fitzgerald in October 2007, when he spoke at our alma mater, Regis High School (which he graduated from before going on to Amherst College and Harvard Law School). During the question-and-answer session for his talk, I alluded to his celebrity status and asked him: “What’s next for Patrick Fitzgerald?” I tossed out several possibilities, such as running for political office or working as a male model (in light of his 2005 designation by People magazine as one of the sexiest men alive).

The straight-laced, self-effacing Fitzgerald — who spent his entire talk discussing cases, saying practically nothing about himself — seemed slightly uncomfortable at having the spotlight on him in such a personal way. He diplomatically dodged my question, saying something about how he was just focused on doing the best job possible as U.S. Attorney. This was very proper of him, even if a bit boring.

My question to him, posed back in 2007, was just a hypothetical. But now it has turned actual: What is Pat Fitzgerald going to do next?

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Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich was accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat in Illinois. The U.S. Attorney for Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, seemed to have some great evidence — tape recordings of Blagojevich engaging in apparent wheeling and dealing (and uttering a fair amount of profanity).

Today, on the fourteenth day of jury deliberations, the jury found the former governor guilty on count 24 of the indictment, making false statements to federal agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. The maximum penalty is five years of imprisonment. This makes Blagojevich a convicted felon.

But there was some better news for Blago, too….

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