U.S. attorney pick would target crime Battaglia, 3 others tapped by Clinton

August 08, 1993|By Nelson Schwartz | Nelson Schwartz,Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON -- Lynne Ann Battaglia, whose nomination as U.S. attorney for Maryland was announced by President Clinton yesterday, said she plans to make crime in Baltimore her No. 1 priority if she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

"I'm very concerned about the level of crime in Baltimore City, because I think it deters people from living there," said Ms. Battaglia, of Columbia, who is chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland.

"I've experienced the impact of crime," said Ms. Battaglia, who was stabbed in the back during a 1975 robbery attempt while living in Bolton Hill.

"It was very difficult emotionally to feel safe. Even now, when I walk alone, I am much more aware of how vulnerable I am."

Ms. Battaglia's nomination was sent to the Senate by President Clinton late Friday along with those of three candidates for federal district judgeships in Baltimore. Little opposition is expected, and the four should be confirmed by midfall.

Ms. Battaglia, 47, a former chief of the Maryland attorney general's Criminal Investigations Division, would be the first woman in Maryland to hold the U.S. attorney's job on a permanent basis.

Making history, too, is Baltimore federal Magistrate Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, 45, who would be only the second woman to sit on the state's federal bench, if confirmed. Also nominated Friday were Prince George's County State's Attorney Alexander Williams Jr. and Montgomery County Circuit Judge Peter J. Messitte. The four were recommended to President Clinton by Maryland's senior U.S. senator, Paul S. Sarbanes, in April and May.

"I want to work with the mayor and city housing officials to look at the state of crime in public housing so that people can feel safer at home," Ms. Battaglia said yesterday. In addition to violence in the city, Ms. Battaglia said, civil rights, white-collar crime and environmental law will be priorities for the U.S. attorney's 60-member office in Baltimore.

"I'm aware of the fact that there are racial tensions that we need to address, including reports of racial problems on the Eastern Shore," she added. "I want to ask what's going on there as well as throughout the state."

She said the U.S. Attorney's Office should work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal government to make sure laws against pollution are being enforced. Ms. Battaglia said white-collar crimes involving public health will be a particular concern.

"That's an area where we will be doing more investigations," she said, referring to current probes of generic drug manufacturers and the Dow Corning Corp., a maker of silicone-gel breast implants.

For Ms. Battaglia, her new job would be something of a homecoming.

She was an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore from 1978-1982, working alongside Richard D. Bennett, who stepped down in April along with the nation's 92 other Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys.

Ms. Battaglia's nomination had been expected for months but a White House official familiar with the process said it was held up by extensive background checks.

Mr. Williams said his experience as a defense lawyer and prosecutor should be a valuable asset as a judge. "It will be a different challenge," said Mr. Williams, 45.

"I've been on both sides. I like the idea of sitting in judgment and handing out justice.

"I am simply excited and pleased that the president and Senator Sarbanes would have the confidence to nominate me," Mr. Williams said. "I am looking forward to the confirmation hearings and ultimate confirmation."

Mr. Messitte, 52, has sat on the Montgomery County bench since 1985. He said, "The idea of being a judge is something every lawyer has in the back of his mind, but the stars have to be in the right place. There is a lot of luck involved, and you have to be in the right place at the right time."

Ms. Chasanow, who is the wife of Maryland Appeals Court Judge Howard S. Chasanow, said she, too, is grateful for the appointment, adding, "I hope my experience as a federal magistrate judge will serve me well in my new postion, assuming I am confirmed."

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