President Barack Obama submitted his first seven nominations for U.S. Attorneys on June 4. The U.S. Senate confirmed five of the seven on August 7, but New Jersey’s Paul Fishman was not one of them. The five who were confirmed came from New York (Southern District), Alabama, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Until the Senate confirms Fishman, which is unlikely to be any earlier than next month, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra will remain in the post he’s held since Christopher Christie resigned on December 1, 2008 to seek the Republican nomination for Governor. The Associated Press, citing two unnamed sources, reported earlier this week that the Department of Justice is investigating whether Marra made inappropriate public comments during a high profile announcement of public corruption cases that might have boosted the Christie campaign.
Representatives of New Jersey’s two U.S. Senators, Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) and Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken), continue to predict a smooth confirmation for Fishman, who jointly recommended his appointment to Obama in February. But Lautenberg and Menendez have not been able to get the Democratic-controlled Senate to move forward on Fishman. They have not said why.
The U.S. Attorney’s office has become a political target in the gubernatorial campaign. Christie is under fire for not disclosing a personal loan he made to Michele Brown, who was the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney and, since Christie’s departure, the First Assistant. Earlier today, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) alleged that Christie has promised state jobs to current Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
Lautenberg pushed hard for Fishman to get the U.S. Attorney post when Faith Hochberg was nominated to a federal judgeship in 1999. But Fishman got in the middle of a rather extraordinary public feud between Lautenberg and U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli. The Clinton administration sided with Torricelli, and when Hochberg resigned to take her seat on the bench (after a lengthy delay in the confirmation process), Attorney General Janet Reno elevated Torricelli’s preferred choice, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cleary, as New Jersey’s interim federal prosecutor.
The 52-year-old Fishman, a Princeton University graduate and editor of the Harvard Law Review, worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office as Chief of the Criminal Division and as First Assistant before going to Washington as a senior advisor to Reno and as a Deputy U.S. Attorney General. Fishman is a partner at Friedman, Kaplan, Seiler and Adelman, where he specializes in white collar criminal matters. Fishman has represented several public officials prosecuted by Christie, and is currently an attorney for former CWA Local 1034 President Carla Katz, who is seeking to keep her e-mail correspondence with Governor Jon Corzine private.
In total, Obama has nominated twenty U.S. Attorneys since taking office. The first seven nominations were followed by additional waves in July and August.