By Jason Meisner
4:19 PM CDT, October 23, 2013
Zachary Fardon was sworn in Wednesday as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, five months after he was nominated by President Barack Obama.
Fardon, 47, began work in his Dirksen U.S. Courthouse office after U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo administered the oath of office in a private ceremony. A public swearing-in will be held later.
The move comes a week after the U.S. Senate approved Fardon to succeed Patrick Fitzgerald, who stepped down nearly 16 months ago after a record nearly 11 years of service.
Best known for his role in the prosecution of former Gov. George Ryan, Fardon said in a statement Wednesday that he was honored to be in charge of one the most powerful prosecutorial offices in the country.
"I spent my formative years as a prosecutor in this office, so I feel like I am back home," Fardon said. "This is a great office, full of smart and passionate people. I look forward to continuing the office's strong traditions of fairness and excellence in the pursuit of justice on behalf of the (district's) 9 million residents."
Fardon, the 40th man to hold the post since the 1850s, takes over an office that has made its mark nationally by putting crooked government officials behind bars but faces increasing pressure to do more to help in the fight against Chicago's violent street gangs.
After Fitzgerald left in June 2012 to go into private practice, more than 20 lawyers sought the post with its 170 assistant U.S. attorneys and nearly $35 million budget.
Fardon grew up in Tennessee and graduated from Vanderbilt Law School. After a stint as a public defender in Nashville, he moved in 1997 to Chicago to work as an assistant U.S. attorney. In 2002 he became the No. 2 official in the U.S. attorney's office in Nashville — though he returned to Chicago to help win Ryan's conviction on corruption charges during a six-month trial in 2005 and 2006. For past seven years he has been a partner at the Chicago law firm of Latham & Watkins.
Gary Shapiro, the veteran federal prosecutor who served as interim U.S. attorney since Fitzgerald stepped down, will return to his No. 2 post in the office.
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