New U.S. attorney mulled

Posted March 02, 2009, at 7:59 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree have announced the formation of a five-member committee that will assist and advise them on their recommendation to President Obama on the appointment of the next U.S. attorney in Maine.

Michaud and Pingree are looking for the committee to complete its work by the end of March, according to a joint press release issued Friday.

The members of the advisory committee, all lawyers, are: Leigh Stephens McCarthy of Bangor; Donald Zillman, president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle; Jeff Thaler of Portland; and Virginia Davis and Walter McKee, both of Augusta.

The group has not yet met, according to McCarthy, who wrote a column for the Bangor Daily News for many years.

“We are in the process of determining what the particular standards [in addition to the required qualifications] should be and coming up with some screening questions,” she said.

McCarthy also said she did not know the names of people who had shown an interest in the job.

“It’s probably quite a few,” she said, “but whether that’s 12 or 20, I don’t know.”

Names discussed as possible candidates in the legal community include former U.S. Attorney Jay McCloskey, who held the job during the Clinton years and is now in private practice in Bangor; Evert Fowle, district attorney for Somerset and Kennebec counties; and former state Senate President Mark Lawrence, who is district attorney for York County.

The current U.S. attorney, Paula Silsby of Portland, is one of about 50 out of the 93 federal prosecutors around the nation who has agreed to stay on until her successor takes over. Silsby said last month that she had not yet found a new job.

In the past, the new president has either fired all of the U.S. attorneys, as President Clinton did when he took office, or they all have tendered their resignation on or shortly after Inauguration Day, according to a report aired in January on National Public Radio. Obama asked U.S. attorneys who had not found other jobs to stay on until his appointees were named.

The top federal prosecutor’s job is a political appointment. Typically, the ranking member of Congress who is of the same party as the president makes a recommendation as to whom should be nominated for the position. That nomination is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, just as federal judgeships are.

Because both Maine senators are Republicans, the task fell to 2nd District Rep. Michaud, who decided to include in the process the newly elected Pingree, who represents the 1st Congressional District.

“We are very pleased that these outstanding Maine attorneys have agreed to help us through a screening and interview process,” Michaud and Pingree said in the press release. “They will be recommending to us a number of the best-qualified candidates. We will use their advice when we make our congressional recommendation to the president.”

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