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Lautenberg’s win: Obama taps Fishman for U.S. Attorney

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

This time, Frank Lautenberg got his pick.

A few candidates landed on the short list to replace Chris Christie as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, but, in the end, Senator Lautenberg’s longtime favorite, Paul Fishman, got President Obama’s nomination to become the state’s top federal law enforcement official.

Paul Fishman

“I am grateful to the president for giving me this opportunity to serve the people of New Jersey,” Fishman said in a statement. “I also want to thank Senators Lautenberg and [Bob] Menendez for their strong and continued support.”

Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) pushed Fishman, a former federal prosecutor and top aide to Attorney General Janet Reno, for the job in 1999, but the Clinton Administration sided with the state’s other senator at the time, Bob Torricelli.

“Paul Fishman is the right choice for New Jersey,” Lautenberg said. “We need a U.S. attorney who has the integrity, knowledge, expertise and judgment to protect our residents and their rights.”

Fishman certainly has the bona fides: During a decade in Newark, he was the 2nd-highest ranking federal official in New Jersey under then-U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff, the current Homeland Security chief. Before that, he ran the office’s criminal division from 1989 to 1991.

He built a reputation as a brilliant lawyer — albeit cutting at times — who worked as hard as his staff.

Ironically, Fishman wasn’t the first choice of Gov. Jon Corzine, who will likely be defending his seat against Christie this fall. Corzine preferred another lawyer, Joe Hayden.

The governor also touted his attorney general,  Attorney General Anne Milgram, but signaled no opposition to Fishman, a popular criminal defense lawyer who once served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Two other law enforcement chiefs wound up in the mix, Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow and Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis Valentin. But, like Milgram, they were overshadowed by Fishman.

Hayden, meanwhile, brought unwanted attention with him: He’s represented recently convicted former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio, who’s headed to federal prison. He’s also the attorney for federally-indicted former Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero.

There’s an added twist: Fishman, a Bergen County native who now lives in Montclair, is representing Corzine’s ex-girlfriend, labor leader Carla Katz, in a dispute over emails between her and the governor.

Fishman, 52, a Princeton and Harvard Law School graduate,  specializes in white-collar crime with partners Friedman, Kaplan, Seiler and Adelman in New York. He was Chief of the Criminal Division and First Assistant during 11 years with U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark before going to Washington in 1994 as a senior advisor to Reno.

The Senate must approve the president’s nomination.

Ralph Marra, Jr. has served as Acting U.S. Attorney since Christie resigned on Dec. 1.

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