Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, has asked the Bush administration to appoint prominent Baltimore County Republican leader Richard D. Bennett to the post of U.S. attorney for Maryland by the end of this year.
Mr. Bennett would replace the incumbent, U.S. Attorney Breckinridge L. Willcox, who has continued to serve beyond the end of his term in June.
Though Mr. Willcox said he was unaware of Mrs. Bentley's request to the Justice Department, he said he had informed her that he would resign sometime in 1991. He said he still thinks he and the congresswoman are "on the same wavelength." He said he expects to be out of the office or in the process of leaving by January.
Mrs. Bentley said she was told by a contact in the office of U.S. Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh that Mr. Willcox had asked to remain in his post for a time because he wanted to complete prosecution of a savings and loan case and several other cases.
She said she told the Justice Department she did not object to a "reasonable extension." She defined reasonable as "by the end of the year."
The congresswoman recalled that she and former Representative Marjorie S. Holt had recommended Mr. Bennett for the post five years ago. Their choice was overruled when then-Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. recommended Mr. Willcox, who had once been one of his aides. Mrs. Bentley said her latest recommendation of Mr. Bennett came with the knowledge that Mr. Willcox would be leaving the post soon.
"I thought he [Mr. Bennett] was good then, and I think he is now," she said.
Mr. Willcox said that he had hoped to stay in the office to personally prosecute a case against former Community Savings and Loan officials.
But he said that that case has been delayed several times, most recently until next April.
A number of cases involving generic drug companies are also pending, he said.
Mr. Willcox said his departure plans will also be influenced by changes in so-called revolving door or conflict of interest rules governing former prosecutors in federal cases.
As of Jan. 1, former federal prosecutors could be barred from opposing the U.S. government in legal actions in any district for a period of two years.
Currently, the ban lasts only one year and covers only the district where the prosecutor had served -- Maryland in Mr. Willcox's case.
He said he might leave his post before the new rules go into effect because, having practiced in federal courts most of his career, he would be unwilling to forsake that part of his practice.
"I never contemplated that situation when I took the job," he said. "Those weren't the rules then."
Mr. Willcox said he had heard courthouse rumors saying that he was looking for a job.
"I have yet to make the first effort," he said.
He had planned to begin looking later this fall, but the timetable will probably change now, he said.
Mrs. Bentley said she did not know when the Justice Department might act on her nomination of Mr. Bennett, a lawyer in private practice who is chairman of the Baltimore County Republican State Central Committee and one of the state's more influential Republicans.
The appointment, if made by the president, would require confirmation by the U.S. Senate, usually a routine procedure.