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Obama seeks to boost confidence at Justice

Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald
Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Restoring public confidence is key for President-elect Barack Obama when considering positions in the U.S. Justice Department, observers say.

While Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey has gotten high marks for limiting contact between the department and the White House, the politicization of the Justice Department has created skepticism and tarnished its reputation, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

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David Ogden, a chief of the department's civil division in the Clinton years, will head Obama's transition effort, backed by Thomas Perrelli, a counselor to former Attorney General Janet Reno and an Obama classmate at Harvard Law School.

William Yeomans, a former department civil rights division official who now counsels Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said the new team "needs to make it very clear that ideology won't trump merit in hiring. There needs to be a comprehensive review, including what needs to be done to correct the hiring situation we now find."

To demonstrate that merit, not ideology, is used in hiring, one attorney who advised Democrats during the presidential campaign told the Post Obama could retain several of the 93 U.S. attorneys.

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Among those the attorney suggested keeping was Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago, who prosecuted former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a Democratic fundraiser with ties to Obama.

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