3 expected to get U.S. judgeships After months of delay, Clinton called ready to tap Battaglia as U.S.attorney

August 04, 1993|By Nelson Schwartz and Norris P. West | Nelson Schwartz and Norris P. West,Staff Writers

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton is soon expected to fill three federal judgeships in Baltimore and, after months of delay, to appoint Lynne Ann Battaglia as U.S. attorney for Maryland, according to White House and congressional sources.

Mr. Clinton is expected to nominate Baltimore federal Magistrate Judge Deborah K. Chasanow to one of three vacant District Court judgeships in Maryland, along with Alexander Williams Jr., chief prosecutor for Prince George's County, and Peter J. Messitte, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge.

All were recommended by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., in May.

Judge Chasanow, 45, has served as a federal magistrate judge in Baltimore since 1987, presiding over civil jury trials and assisting in pretrial hearings in criminal cases. A former assistant attorney general for Maryland, she is the wife of Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Howard S. Chasanow.

Mr. Williams, 45, has been the state's attorney for Prince George's County since 1987. He has also been a professor of law at Howard University and would be the third black to become a federal judge in Maryland.

Judge Messitte, 52, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, was a lawyer in Montgomery County before being appointed to the Circuit Court by Gov. Harry Hughes in 1985.

The announcement on Ms. Battaglia, chief of staff to Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and former director of the Maryland attorney general's criminal investigations division, could come in the next few days, a White House official said. The nominations of the judges may take longer.

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Battaglia, 47, would be the first woman in Maryland to hold the job permanently. U.S. Magistrate Judge Catherine C. Blake held the post on an interim basis in 1985 and 1986.

Ms. Battaglia's appointment had been rumored for months but was delayed by a long background check,not by any problem with Ms. Battaglia's record, said the White House official, who insisted on anonymity.

"It's a sensitive law enforcement position, so they get the most serious background check," he said. "But she is absolutely fine."

The White House is eager to get her nomination and others made before the Senate adjourns at the end of the week. Nominations cannot be made once the Senate has recessed, and legislators will not return from their annual summer break until after Labor Day.

The 60-member U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore has been without a permanent head since April, when Richard D. Bennett resigned following Attorney General Janet Reno's call for all 93 U.S. attorneys to make way for candidates chosen by the Clinton administration. Twenty people have been nominated since.

Mr. Bennett, now a partner with the Baltimore-based firm Miles and Stockbridge, has been a friend of Ms. Battaglia since they shared an officeas fellow assistant U.S. attorneys in Baltimore. Ms. Battaglia was a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office from 1978 to 1982.

"She'd be an excellent choice," he said yesterday. "She has a good cross-section of experience in the Department of Justice, the Maryland attorney general's office and the U.S. attorney office."

Ms. Battaglia would be joining the office at a time when it is pursuing several high-profile cases. Among them are:

* A grand jury investigation into the Schaefer administration's award of a contract to run the state's lottery system. The fraud probe was prompted by a no-bid, $49 million contract to GTECH Corp. of Greenwich, R.I., to operate the state's keno game.

* A probe of whether Dow Corning Corp. concealed test results that would have raised safety concerns about its silicone-gel breast implants.

* A nearly 5-year-old investigation into fraud in the nation's generic drug industry, which already has led to the convictions of a number of drug companies and their top officials.

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