Two former federal judges will hold the two top Justice Department jobs if newly sworn-in Attorney General Michael Mukasey has his way.
Mukasey, a retired judge, tapped U.S. District Judge Mark Filip of Chicago on Thursday to be his deputy attorney general. His nomination was among five the White House announced to begin filling more than a dozen vacant leadership posts across the department.
The slew of nominations comes as the Justice Department's inspector general releases an annual report of the top management and performance challenges the agency faces. As in previous years, national security remains a big concern at the Justice Department, the report noted.
But for the first time, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine ranked a crisis of confidence — spurred by months of scandal over political meddling at the fiercely independent department — among the challenges Justice must overcome.
"The department has faced significant criticism of its actions and endured a great deal of turmoil during the past several months," Fine's report said. "We believe that this situation, coupled with numerous vacancies in senior positions, creates a challenge for the new attorney general to re-establish public confidence in the independence and integrity of the department."
Filip, 41, will replace acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford, an affable career Justice Department prosecutor who temporarily stepped into the job after the department's former No. 2, Paul McNulty, resigned last summer. It could take weeks if not months, however, before the Senate confirms Filip.
Filip was nominated for the federal bench in November 2003, and he is widely viewed as a smart and down-to-earth jurist. He was ranked first among federal judges in terms of integrity and professionalism in a 2006 poll of Chicago-area attorneys.
Earlier, as a partner with the Chicago law firm of Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom, Filip represented managed health care companies that in September 2003 faced a class action lawsuit filed by doctors claiming they were cheated on reimbursements.
Two years later, as a judge, he allowed five of six claims by black car-buyers to go forward in a class action discrimination lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler Services North America LLC.
Filip also served previously as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, where he received a Justice Department award for his successful prosecution of seven corrupt police officers. He attended Oxford as a Marshall Scholar after graduating from the University of Illinois in 1988, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1992.
"He is a man of extreme integrity, intelligence and judgment, energy and commitment," said Wayne Whalen, a partner at Skadden who said he has known Filip for 20 years.
At Mukasey's swearing-in ceremony this week, Bush said he was beginning to fill at least a few of the 12 highest-ranking Justice Department jobs — including the No. 2 and 3 spots and six assistant attorneys general _ that currently are held by officials not yet confirmed by the Senate. Two other senior officials have announced their resignations and are expected to leave shortly.
Besides Filip, the White House nominated:
—Kevin O'Connor as associate attorney general, the department's No. 3 job. O'Connor, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, has been serving since this summer as the attorney general's chief of staff.
—Gregory G. Katsas for the assistant attorney general overseeing civil cases. Katsas has been serving as the associate attorney general for several months.
—Grace Chung Becker, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. Becker has been a deputy in that office since last year.
—Nathan Hochman, a private attorney who previously served as a federal prosecutor, as assistant attorney general for tax issues.