One of Mr. Fishman’s highest-profile cases in recent years was that of Carla Katz, the former girlfriend of Mr. Corzine, in a civil lawsuit involving her former role as an official of a union for state workers.
Both of New Jersey’s U.S. senators have pushed for Mr. Fishman’s nomination. In a letter to the White House, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg wrote that Mr. Fishman “has the knowledge, expertise and judgment to protect the people of New Jersey in the years ahead.”
If confirmed, Mr. Fishman would replace Christopher J. Christie, a Republican appointee who is running for governor and has forged a reputation as a corruption-busting prosecutor. One New Jersey political analyst said public opinion on Mr. Fishman’s nomination has been split, not surprisingly, along Democratic and Republican party lines.
“I think the viewpoint among New Jerseyans of this office is that it has been shaped by Chris Christie, and his reputation as someone who was combating public corruption really shaped the view of what the U.S. attorney’s job is,” said Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
“I think that because of Mr. Fishman’s representation of clients who are perhaps on the other side of the room in those investigations, it has opened him up to some criticism that he will not be as aggressive.
“I think Democrats will say he’s qualified and that he will be aggressive, particularly when it comes to some of the white-collar crime,” she said. “But Republicans are critical of the nomination because they view the U.S. Attorney’s Office as one of the few entities in the state that can combat corruption.”
Supporters point out Mr. Fishman’s extensive courtroom experience as a federal prosecutor. A 1982 Harvard Law School graduate, he served a chief for the Criminal Division and chief of narcotics in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, including years in which it was headed by Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. From 1994 to 1997, Mr. Fishman worked as a senior adviser to Attorney General Janet Reno.
Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush, said that he’s known Mr. Fishman for more than 20 years and that he served as a deputy when Mr. Chertoff was U.S. attorney in New Jersey.
“I think he has outstanding credentials and experience for the post,” Mr. Chertoff wrote in an e-mail message to The Washington Times.
Asked whether Mr. Fishman would be as aggressive on public corruption as Mr. Christie, Mr. Chertoff said, “Absolutely, yes. He was very focused on these cases when he was my first assistant.”
Mr. Fishman also was an adviser to Mr. Obama’s presidential transition team that reviewed Justice Department operations.
As for Mr. Fishman’s confidential clients, Monroe H. Freedman, the former dean of Hofstra University’s law school, said that if confirmed, Mr. Fishman should call for an outside lawyer to handle cases involving his former clients.
Private lawyer Richard E. Flamm, who has written a book on lawyer conflicts of interest, said that although he’s not familiar with Mr. Fishman’s situation, law firms often face instances in which a conflict arises that a lawyer cannot ethically disclose.
“Some firms decline to undertake the representation in this instance; others probably undertake the representation and cross their fingers that the conflict goes undetected,” he said.
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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