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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Patrick Fitzgerald - Honorary Degree

Presented by Lane V. Sunderland ? Chancie Ferris Booth Professor of Political Science

June 06, 2009

Mr. President. I am honored to present to you Patrick J. Fitzgerald as a candidate for the degree, Doctor of Laws.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald has become a national icon. When he came to Chicago in 2001, he was known in legal circles as the nation's pre-eminent terror prosecutor. Mr. Fitzgerald was designated The National Law Journal's "Lawyer of the Year" and has received awards from the Attorney General of the United States and the New York City Bar Association. His office battles organized crime, prosecutes public corruption, and fights terrorism and violent crime. He leads efforts to dismantle the pillars of crime, efforts on which the office's reputation was built." He has been referred to as Eliot Ness with a Harvard degree and a sense of humor.

Mr. Fitzgerald, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., graduated from Amherst College, Phi Beta Kappa, and from Harvard Law School. After three years in private practice, he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan and served as Chief of the Organized Crime-Terrorism Unit and began his zealous pursuit of justice. He was involved in the prosecution of defendants charged with conspiracy to murder United States nationals overseas and the August 1998 bombings of United States embassies. He participated in the trial of defendants charged in a conspiracy that involved the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and a plot to bomb the United Nations, the FBI building in New York, and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, as well as a conspiracy to assassinate President Mubarak of Egypt. He supervised the 1996 prosecution of three defendants who conspired in the Philippines to detonate bombs simultaneously on 12 American airliners. He participated in the trial that convicted members of the Gambino crime family for various offenses including murder and jury tampering. He also served on the United States Attorney General's Advisory Committee and chaired its sub-committee on terrorism.

Mr. Fitzgerald is devoted to truth. He was appointed Special Counsel to investigate the Valerie Plame affair, which involved Vice-President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. In the context of this case, critics suggested that an indictment should not be based on a "perjury technicality." Mr. Fitzgerald responded: "The truth is the engine of our judicial system. If you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost." Mr. Fitzgerald's other high-profile cases include the prosecution of Illinois Governor George Ryan and the prosecution of several aides to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley involved in the Hired Truck Program. He is currently prosecuting former governor Rod Blagojevich for involvement in an alleged conspiracy to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Mr. Fitzgerald takes seriously the task of remolding Illinois's culture of corruption. He responds to criticisms of his prosecution of political figures: "One day I read I was a Republican hack. One day I read I was a Democratic hack. The only thing I did between those two nights was sleep." Richard Phelan, Chicago lawyer and former Knox Trustee, observed that if Mr. Fitzgerald "were not a prosecutor, he'd be a priest. He's totally and completely dedicated."

Mr. Fitzgerald recognizes that law is not merely the art of the possible, but the art of the BEST possible. Mr. President, in recognition of his extraordinary achievements and his steadfast devotion to truth, justice and law, it is a privilege to present Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the degree, Doctor of Laws.

Lane Sunderland
Lane Sunderland

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Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2018