Md.'s U.S. attorney quits to join Baltimore law firm

April 20, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Richard D. Bennett, who was appointed U.S. attorney for Maryland by President Bush in 1991, announced yesterday that he will leave his post on Friday -- a month after the attorney general told all Republican holdovers to resign.

Mr. Bennett, 45, will become a partner in the Baltimore law firm, Miles & Stockbridge, handling criminal and civil litigation. He will join the firm May 1.

On March 23, Attorney General Janet Reno called for the resignations of the remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by Republican presidents.

"This is a political appointment," said Mr. Bennett, who sent letters of resignation to President Clinton and Ms. Reno on Friday. "I'm a Republican, and I'm proud to be a Republican. And I'm proud of the law enforcement accomplishments of President Reagan and President Bush. Now that there's a Democratic president, it's time to step aside."

Until Ms. Reno's announcement, Mr. Bennett had expected to remain in office until August. He said he was not given a specific date to resign as were some other Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys. Washington's Jay Stephens, for instance, was given nine days to quit.

Mr. Bennett is expected to be a Republican candidate for Maryland attorney general in the 1994 election, but he would not comment on that prospect. The federal Hatch Act prohibits most political activity by federal employees.

His new job, however, will continue to give him visibility in several voter-rich regions of the state. He will be based in the firm's downtown Baltimore office, but will have access to offices in Easton, Frederick, Towson and Rockville.

Mr. Bennett suggested that First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary P. Jordan be named interim U.S. attorney.

Meanwhile, there is wide speculation that President Clinton will appoint Lynne A. Battaglia, a chief aide to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., to succeed Mr. Bennett in the $113,500-a-year post. The appointment likely will be made upon the recommendation of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md.

Bruce C. Frame, a Sarbanes spokesman, said he did not know if a successor would be named before Mr. Bennett leaves on Friday. He said there has not been a decision about an interim appointment.

Bill Toohey, a Mikulski spokesman, said neither the office nor Ms. Battaglia would comment.

Mr. Bennett said his departure will not affect any current federal investigations, no matter who succeeds him. His office is investigating the award of Maryland lottery contracts and the safety of Dow Corning Corp. silicone breast implants.

Mr. Bennett said one of his accomplishments was his effort to work more closely with local law enforcement officials. The Maryland State's Attorneys Association selected him as the recipient of its outstanding service award to be given at its convention in June.

"A splendid cooperation developed between local prosecutors and the U.S. attorney during his tenure," said Dario J. Broccolino, executive director of the association.

Craig Chretien, director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Maryland office, said Mr. Bennett also has tried to bring together federal law enforcement agencies.

"Historically, there have been conflicts between agencies over turf," Mr. Chretien said. "That's improved over the years, and he bent over backwards to make sure it stayed that way."

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