Fitzgerald addresses honesty, integrity at lecture

By Nina Gougis

The day after filing court papers pinning CIA leaks to President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, Patrick Fitzgerald was tight-lipped on the issue during his presentation Friday at the NIU College of Law.

“And I’ll take your questions other than the CIA leak case,” said Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and prosecutor in the CIA leak case, as he began the question-and-answer session following his presentation.

During Thursday’s trial, Fitzgerald stopped short of accusing Cheney of authorizing his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to leak the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, according to the Associated Press.

Since taking office in 2001, Fitzgerald has led significant investigations, including one that uncovered political bribery and gift-giving under the administration of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. He also refused to comment on that case.

Instead, he held to the spirit of the lecture, which was part of the 13th Annual Francis X. Riley Lecture on Professionalism series, by offering advice to current law students. The topics he addressed included public interest from a prosecutor’s point of view, professionalism and stewardship.

He began by encouraging current law students to consider working as a prosecutor or in the public sector.

“When I went to law school, I had this image of public service being a whole bunch of Mother Teresas out there,” he said. “You’re glad they’re out there, but you let someone else do it.”

He admitted that, although public service work is rewarding, it does take a sacrifice, as rising college costs and student loans prevent many from going into the public sector.

“Public service was something I would do in another life if I had a trust fund,” he said. “People don’t realize how rewarding public service is in a way that’s not taxable.”

Others who decide to work in the private sector also can work for the public interest by volunteering for an organization or doing some pro bono work.

“If they find a cause they believe in, at the end of their career, they can say, that’s something I feel I contributed to,” he said. “So I don’t think we should view public service as an on-and-off switch.”

Fitzgerald also addressed the need for honesty and integrity in the legal profession. Both, he said, are essential to building good relationships with juries and judges and being an effective lawyer.

“Whatever organization people represent, whether it’s the government or a private-interest organization, whatever point of view they represent, they need to realize that, as a lawyer, they need to add to the credibility of that group,” he said. “Reputation is something that needs to be earned and could easily be lost.”

Fitzgerald’s comments on integrity are what made an impression on Robert Jenkins, a second-year law student.

Jenkins said the lecture was helpful for him, since he has considered working in the public sector.

“The more you get into [law], the more you realize people are mistreated,” Jenkins said. “The justice system is biased … when someone’s doing something right, how can you not be drawn to that?”

Another student commented on specific initiatives Fitzgerald discussed during the question-and-answer session.

Tearched Scott, a senior political science major, questioned the effectiveness of Project Safe Neighborhoods, an effort to deter people from bringing guns into Chicago communities.

“It seems like it’s a great policy to have, but some people who have guns feel like it’s the only way they can survive,” Scott said.