In an extraordinary move, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is blasting a longtime federal judge for being “hostile,” “bizarre” and “retaliatory,” while the judge, James Holderman, wants the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Fitzgerald’s conduct and indicated another prosecutor may be held in criminal contempt.
The legal war boiled over Friday when a motion by Fitzgerald’s office was made public, asking the appellate court to force Holderman off a case — a case Holderman has refused to leave.
The salvo by Fitzgerald is an eruption of a long-simmering feud between the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago and Holderman, who is next in line to be chief judge and is praised by some attorneys but dubbed by critics as “Holdermaniac” for his temper.Veteran federal court observers could not recall so critical a legal attack launched by the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago against a judge or such a public breakdown between the prosecutor’s office and the judiciary.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” DePaul Law Professor Len Cavise said.
Fitzgerald wants Holderman tossed off a case involving the conduct of a prosecutor on a grand jury matter. Holderman had no comment but has defended himself in an opinion, contending prosecutors are mischaracterizing his statements.
The controversy centers over whether a federal prosecutor, Jacqueline Stern, acted properly in December 2003 when she went to Chief Judge Charles Kocoras for an order authorizing her to disclose grand jury matters. Stern wanted to turn over some material about an individual she had once investigated criminally and who was being sued in a related medical malpractice case.