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Report: Patrick Collins doesn’t make US Attorney cut

Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012

* The Chicago Sun-Times published a list today of four candidates to replace former US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. But one name wasn’t mentioned

former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins, who spearheaded Operation Safe Road, which led to charges against Ryan — one of the most significant investigations in the history of the office.

Collins made big news when he spearheaded a fizzled Statehouse campaign reform effort. He was good at making allegations, but not so good when it came to actually getting something done.

I didn’t much care for the guy during his Springfield days. To me, it seemed like Collins believed it was self-evident that he was doing God’s work and that everybody should just fall in line. Sorry, but nobody should be exempt from making their their case when they push major legislation. Including reformers. But I did consistently write back then that he’d been a solid prosecutor, so I’m just a little bit surprised that he didn’t make the cut.

…Adding… From a commenter…

I’m surprised Mr. Collins didn’t make the final four as well, but if what you say is true about his attitude in Springfield and what I’ve heard from people who dealt with him while in his former government capacity, the US Attorney should not be a crusader with tunnel vision. A prosecutor’s job is not just to go all out, damn the torpedoes against anyone who comes across their radar. In fact, they have an ethical obligation not to pursue charges where they are not warranted and to treat defendants fairly. Perhaps tempering prosecutorial zeal with reasoned wisdom is something they are looking at, which in my opinion is always a good thing.


* Speaking of that 2009 reform push

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is taking no chances.

Despite solid Democratic majorities in both houses of the General Assembly and President Barack Obama back on top of the ticket, campaign accounts that Madigan controls have raised and spent more than $6.5 million on the Nov. 6 election just in the last seven months.

That’s 50 percent more than the $4.3 million Madigan’s accounts collected and shelled out during the same period two years ago, a landslide year for Republicans nationally and one in which Democrats lost six seats in the House.

In all, 14 political funds controlled by or linked to the state’s two parties and its four legislative leaders have rung up $17 million in campaign expenses since the March 20 primary election, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. That’s a 53 percent increase from 2010.

Yeah. That really worked out well.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    Collins should have made the cut. He was a strong and honest prosecutor.

    I agree he was a self-righteous and ineffective reformer, but he has a lot of company in that role.

  2. - Lobo y Olla - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:31 am:

    Wordslinger, I think, posted a link in a previous post about Lori Lightfoot’s “ethics” problems. In a written opinion, she was blasted by the judge for perpetuating a fraud upon the court. How did she advance this far? Why is there no record of the event on the rules & decisions page of the ARDC website? That is a real question to which I have no answer. An opinion like that traditionally ruins a legal career……especially at this level.

  3. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:34 am:

    I’m surprised Mr. Collins didn’t make the final four as well, but if what you say is true about his attitude in Springfield and what I’ve heard from people who dealt with him while in his former government capacity, the US Attorney should not be a crusader with tunnel vision. A prosecutor’s job is not just to go all out, damn the torpedoes against anyone who comes across their radar. In fact, they have an ethical obligation not to pursue charges where they are not warranted and to treat defendants fairly. Perhaps tempering prosecutorial zeal with reasoned wisdom is something they are looking at, which in my opinion is always a good thing.

  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:37 am:

    ===Perhaps tempering prosecutorial zeal with reasoned wisdom is something they are looking at, which in my opinion is always a good thing. ===

    I completely agree with every word. And that could very well be why Collins wasn’t picked.

  5. - Jimbo - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:38 am:

    A good prosecutor is rarely a good gladhander.Unfortunately a serious ego is a worthwhile asset.He should have made the cut.

  6. - Been There - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:41 am:

    ===I didn’t much care for the guy during his Springfield days.====
    Good thing he didnt make the cut. Probably would sic the IRS on you.

  7. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:43 am:

    Meh. I doubt it.

  8. - Fire Anita Alvarez - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:46 am:

    Anita Alvarez didn’t make the cut, so that is a positive.

    Who exactly is on this committee?

  9. - The Captain - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:48 am:

    I really thought Collins would be a shoo-in, shows what I know. He was the biggest name (per name ID, not necessarily resume or within the legal community) on the list and this pick is the kind of thing that the insufferable newspaper types will fawn over, so he seemed like the obvious choice to me.

  10. - amalia - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:56 am:

    so, let’s go with what we’ve got. and based on nothing more than reading their law firm/judicial profiles, my money before this cut was on Zachary Fardon, and he’s made the cut. why did I pick him? he’s a total outsider. don’t know where he is from, but he went to Vanderbilt undergrad and law practiced in Nashville at the USA office before he came to Chicago. bonus, Ryan trial. That total outsider profile is what is needed. no connections, did not work for a government here. No issues. a different kind of justice than what we are used to from here. do the right thing, Sen. Durbin.

  11. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 11:02 am:

    While all four of the finalists could do the job well, Fardon and Soffer are very solid candidates who have had managerial experience in the Justice Department. Both have reputations as having very good temperaments and being very fair — in addition to having been good prosecutors and solid lawyers.

  12. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 11:19 am:

    ===Wordslinger, I think, posted a link in a previous post about Lori Lightfoot’s “ethics” problems===

    No, it wasn’t Wordslinger who posted that drive by comment. Lightfoot was reprimanded by the Court. It’s public record. I’m sure it’s included in her files being reviewed by Durbin and Kirk and they will give it full consideration.

    My reading of the complaint was that it was pretty ticky-tack stuff and that her supervisor at the time was equally at fault but the deciding judge laid it all on Lightfoot’s shoulders. I’ve worked with her in the past and think she is top-notch. As someone who knows her, I don’t have any doubts about her ethics.

  13. - shore - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 11:45 am:

    I can’t say enough about Patrick Fitzgerald, but Collins did not impress me for the reasons you stated. Senator Kirk’s profile in this matter is intriguing to me. The election is almost over, he’s been recovering for awhile and it’s time to see how he’s doing.

  14. - wert - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 12:09 pm:

    The court opinion reprimanding Lightfoot can be found at In Re Lightfoot, 217 F.3d 914 (7th Cir. 2000). While she received a light punishment as a first time offender, the Seventh Circuit clearly held that she had deliberaely misled the court to obtain an advantage. Also, what did she really do as head of OPS? That agency had a long history of failing to punish rogue cops and her tenure was no exception. I would question her willingness to take on political corruption in Chicago if she didn’t rock the boat for the police department.

  15. - Irishpirate - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 12:14 pm:

    Is it too late to throw a wildcard onto the list?

    I’m not sure if there is any formal requirement that a US Attorney actually be an attorney.

    If no such legal requirement I nominate John Kass.

    We can hold a fundraiser at Gene and Georgetti’s to buy him one of those squat white Icelandic horses which are low to the ground. He can ride, Zeus he would name it, up and down the streets being cheered by the Chumbolones and bringing fear into the heart of the combine.

    On a more serious note Collins is a decent guy, but I’m more concerned about “Justice” than convictions. Too many prosecutors at any level only care about winning and headlines. Not every crime needs to be prosecuted. Not every case demands a maximum sentence. We need more prosecutors like Andy Taylor and fewer like Barney Fife.

  16. - The Captain - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 12:31 pm:

    I seriously doubt Mark Kirk wants to get too close to this, he’s still busy running from his illegal hush money scandal.

  17. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 12:41 pm:

    ===Wordslinger, I think, posted a link in a previous post about Lori Lightfoot’s “ethics” problems===

    Wasn’t me.

    In the wake of rampant corruption in the executive branch, Collins came back and blamed the legislature, in particular, the leaders who finally tossed Blago out.

    He had an ax to grind and it showed.

  18. - Lobo y Olla - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 12:57 pm:

    @47th ward
    From the opinion…..”To the extent, unilluminated by the record, that Safford was (as Lightfoot argues) complicit in Lightfoot’s violation of the duty of candor, the fact that Safford is Lightfoot’s superior would not get Lightfoot off the hook. Reliance on a superior’s orders is a defense to a charge of misconduct only when reasonable, In re Howes, 1997 NMSC 24, 940 P.2d 159, 164-65, 123 N.M. 311 (N. Mex. 1997) (per curiam); ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 5.2, comment [2] (1995), and it is not reasonable to believe that one is authorized to mislead a court. People v. Casey, 948 P.2d 1014, 1016-17 (Colo. 1997) (per curiam).”

    Seems a bit more than “tick-tack” stuff. Why no record by the ARDC? Just askin’

  19. - Meanderthal - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 1:07 pm:

    Maybe Collins will run for Attorney General in 2014.

  20. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 1:14 pm:

    Add AA to the “not a fan of Collins” club.
    Met him professionally (but not in the bad way) and remember thinking that this guy is never really convinced of anyone’s innocence, only that the smoking gun hasn’t been unearthed.
    Anyone with doubts should spend a buck and order his book on cleaning up Illinois from Amazon. They have plenty in stock.

  21. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 1:27 pm:

    “he’s still busy running from his illegal hush money scandal”

    According to news articles, he’s supposed to be co-hosting (with Dan Rutherford) a Romney fundraiser at the Gidwitz’s this week. Romney is not attending.

  22. - wert - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 1:40 pm:

    The Seventh Circuit opinion stated that it was not referring her to the ARDC, in part because she trotted out a long list of character witnesses. Question whether a less well-connected lawyer would have received the same treatment. Also, that reprimand opinion is from 2000. It’s not like Lightfoot was just out of law school. Experienced attorneys who try to blame a supervisor just look weak and/or unprincipled.

  23. - Jim - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 1:40 pm:

    Love the anti-collins comments here. They say so much about the pro status quo commenters.

  24. - amalia - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 1:46 pm:

    ok, back to the finalists, thanks to all for the Lori Lightfoot information. that’s the kind of thing that troubles, so I think she should not be considered further.

  25. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 2:11 pm:

    –Love the anti-collins comments here. They say so much about the pro status quo commenters.–

    What’s it say, Jim? And what does “pro status quo” mean, anyway?

  26. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 2:26 pm:

    Amalia, please read the whole brief before writing off Lightfoot. This, for example, might change your mind:

    ===We are disposed instead to regard the episode as an isolated lapse deserving only of a reprimand. We are more troubled by the attitudes and behavior of the Justice Department. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in his brief and in his oral statement at the disciplinary hearing emphasized the importance of hierarchy in the Justice Department.===

    She was following orders, which the court acknowledged. For some here to use this to question her “ethics” is way off the mark.

    Again, Durbin and Kirk are certainly aware of this and still include her in their list of finalists. That tells me they don’t think this is a disqualifying offense. I’m not sure why commenters here think they’re smarter than Durbin or Kirk, but there you go.

  27. - amalia - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 3:32 pm:

    just following orders. hmmmm……

  28. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 3:43 pm:

    Jim: the “anti-collins comments” by me, regarding reform efforts, are driven by my hatred of the status quo, and frustration over big missed opportunities.

    I would support him as a fine US Attorney.

    The two roles require different strengths, personalities, and perspectives for great success. Pat Fitzgerald might have been equally out of water in the reformer role, IMHO.

  29. - langhorne - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 4:14 pm:

    i posted a comment a few days ago about collins’ attitude during his leadership of the reform efforts. he seemed to fail to shift from a combative prosecutorial approach, to the consensus building required in the legislative process. throw in a haughty attitude and you are done for, regardless of the merits of any proposal. becuase of its immense power, the US atty needs to exercise a fine sense of discretion as much as zeal.

  30. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 4:22 pm:

    Jim, you couldn’t have said it any better. This is where I tie my fingers down less I be banned from this board. Seriously, how could anyone who followed the battle to prevent Patrick Fitzgerald’s nomination in the first place be surprised that Collins is being bypassed or think it has anything to do with “prosecutorial zeal.”? Or buy Cullerton’s implication that the failure of the reform commission was not drafting the actual legislation embodying their suggestions (among other things). I guess we all just imagined it when Dick Durbin publicly came out in support of freeing George Ryan something like a week after he was reelected. Or how the state GOP hated Peter Fitzgerald so much that they preferred risking losing a US senate seat to backing a reformer. Durbin and Kirk are looking for an ultra-respectable-on-paper candidate but who will be a shadow of the reformer Patrick Fitzgerald was, and they’ll get it (that’s why I thought Kendall was a non-starter - far too much gravitas).

  31. - wert - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 4:26 pm:

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect someone applying for a job as THE U.S. Attorney to be of the highest caliber and beyond reproach. A formal reprimand by the Seventh Circuit is rare. The Court’s remarks about it being an isolated lapse are in the context of considering mitigation for her punishment, not in the context of whether her behavior was unethical. Believe me, everyone who gets prosecuted by her if she is appointed is going to be howling that she’s a proven liar and a cheat. Whether or not you agree, her prior conduct has created enough of an appearance of impropriety that the Committee should just move on to someone else.

  32. - wert - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 4:31 pm:

    Just read the other recent comments. Maybe the reason Lightfoot hasn’t been bounced is that they want someone who has covered up for the police and the City in the past and can be relied upon not to make waves. OPS was the biggest whitewash racket in town.

  33. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 4:43 pm:

    I find it laughable that apparently in some minds Mr. Collins is the only person qualified to take up Mr. Fitzgerald’s mantle simply because he has made the most noise and sounds most like a reformer in public. I would note that ALL of the final four remaining candidates, heck, all of the final eight candidates are former federal prosecutors, at least some of whom served under Mr. Fitzgerald and/or worked on political corruption cases. Just because some of us find fault with Mr. Collins for the top job for legitimate personality issues doesn’t mean we don’t thank him for his prior efforts or don’t want someone to continue to shake up some perceived “status quo.”

  34. - Anonymous45 - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 5:12 pm:

    I am bummed out that Pat didnt make the cut, but not surprised…

  35. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 6:26 pm:

    Wert, did Lightfoot steal your dog or something? Your slanderous accusations make you sound goofy. Take off the tinfoil hat or back up your charges with evidence.

  36. - amalia - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 7:11 pm:

    Wert may be taking it a tad too far, but the basic premise is correct. Lightfoot is tainted. we don’t need that.

  37. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 7:41 pm:

    Amelia, while I disagree that Lightfoot is in any way “tainted,” you’re incorrect to suggest Fardon is a complete outsider. He was an ASA under Fitzgerald in Chicago. He was on the team that prosecuted Ryan.

    If your key criterion is outsideryness, then Soffer is your guy. Except he’s on the selection committee so picking him would be similar to the process that George W. Bush used to nominate Cheney.

    By your definition, they’re all tainted.

  38. - amalia - Tuesday, Oct 30, 12 @ 10:41 pm:

    by tainted I mean her questionable ethics, even if following orders. by outsider I mean Fardon is not from here and practiced as the second in charge in Nashville. I do agree that the selection committee issue is bizarre and Cheneyesque. I’m also anxious to know more about the guy from Kirkland.

  39. - wert - Wednesday, Oct 31, 12 @ 10:55 am:

    I just don’t like unethical prosecutors and those who are apologists for them. And I suggest that 47th Ward read the Seventh Circuit opinion closely. How can you accuse me of making up that reprimand is beyond me. The sordid history of the failure to OPS to discipline the police department is well known. Go look at the archives on the Reader’s website. I think any candidate who was appointed to a high up position in the Daley administration should be viewed with some skepticism with respect to his or her independence. I am less familiar with the other candidates but would not hesitate to call them out if I was aware of similar problems.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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