Candidates for Justice considered Search continues to focus on women

February 11, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton and his aides are still focusing their search for an attorney general on a woman, officials involved in the process said yesterday.

These officials said background checks were under way on three possible candidates: Janet Reno, a veteran state prosecutor in Miami; Rya W. Zobel, a federal district judge in Massachusetts; and Diana E. Murphy, a federal district judge in Minnesota.

Other lawyers said the White House was also taking a preliminary look at Linda A. Fairstein, an assistant Manhattan district attorney, who as chief of the sex crimes unit has handled a number of celebrated cases.

Judge Kimba M. Wood of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan withdrew from consideration last week, becoming the second woman to run into difficulties over the issue of using an undocumented alien to help care for her child. Mr. Clinton's first choice, Zoe E. Baird, withdrew last month.

After Judge Wood's withdrawal, White House aides said the search for someone to run the Justice Department would begin anew and would include men. But the officials involved in the search said Mr. Clinton was still hoping to find a suitable woman.

Ms. Reno is, in the words of one lawyer involved in the process, a slight front-runner. The 54-year-old prosecutor has no children, the lawyer said, and as such does not have the baby-sitting problem that sank Ms. Baird and Judge Wood. She has handled numerous narcotics and public corruption cases.

Judge Zobel, 61, was named to the bench in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.

Judge Murphy, 59, also named to the bench by Mr. Carter, is the chief district judge in Minnesota.

Ms. Fairstein has prosecuted more than 10,000 cases in nearly 20 years with the Manhattan district attorney's office. Considered a pioneer in the field of prosecuting sex crimes, she is best known for her handling of the case of Robert Chambers, who was convicted of killing Jennifer Levin during a sexual encounter in Central Park.

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