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Senate confirms new US deputy attorney general in deal over stalled nominations

[JURIST] The US Senate Monday unanimously confirmed Illinois US District Judge Mark Filip [official profile] as US deputy attorney general as part of an apparent compromise between the White House and Senate Democrats on a series of stalled nominations. Filip replaces Paul McNulty who, along with several other top Justice Department officials, resigned [JURIST report] in 2007 amid controversy surrounding the firing of federal prosecutors [JURIST news archive]. McNulty denied playing a key role [JURIST report] in the firings. The current Acting Deputy Attorney General is Craig Morford, a former federal prosecutor.

Filip was nominated [JURIST report] by President George W. Bush in November. Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) [official website], who had earlier voted against confirming then US Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey when Mukasey refused to comment on the legality of waterboarding [JURIST news archive], had briefly put a hold on Filip's confirmation. On Monday, Durbin relented [press release] on Filip's confirmation, saying:

The selection of Judge Mark Filip to be Deputy Attorney General is a good choice. Mark Filip has earned a solid reputation as a district court judge in the Northern District of Illinois and I believe he will make a good Deputy Attorney General.

Judge Filip and I may not agree on every issue - in fact we disagree on several - but his temperament, independence, and legal ability are not in question. Those qualities will serve him well in this new position.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said [press release] for his part that criticism from the Bush administration regarding the slow confirmation process was unwarranted:
The President did not nominate Judge Filip until last December. I announced that the Judiciary Committee would hold a hearing less than two weeks later, before Congress adjourned for the year, immediately upon receiving the necessary background materials from the White House. The Committee moved as expeditiously as possible and we reported out Judge Filip’s nomination at our first executive business meeting of the 2008 session.

What is being ignored by the President and Senate Republicans as they play to a vocal segment of their Republican base is that we have worked hard to make progress and restore the leadership of the Department of Justice. In the last few months, we have confirmed a new Attorney General, and held hearings for the number two and number three positions at the Department of Justice, as well as for several other high-ranking Justice Department spots.

It is vital that we ensure that we have a functioning, independent Justice Department. A month ago, the Judiciary Committee held our first oversight hearing of the new session and the first with new Attorney General Michael Mukasey. We will hold another oversight hearing this week with FBI Director Mueller. These are more steps forward in our efforts to lift the veil of White House secrecy, restore checks and balances to our government, and begin to repair the damage this administration inflicted on the Department, our Constitution, and fundamental American values.
AP has more.

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