Thomas E. Holliday, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Downtown L.A. Age:

53

Specialty:

White-collar criminal defense and commercial fraud litigation

Background:

Graduated from USC Law Center, 1974 Joined Gibson Dunn out of law school Deputy general counsel for Christopher Commission, 1991-92 Represented former Congressman Jay Kim on violations of federal campaign election laws Represented Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss on money laundering, tax fraud and bank fraud charges Has represented several defense contractors... Hobbies are collecting Kachina dolls and power lifting... Married Two grown children.

Vincent J. Marella, Bird Marella Boxer & Wolpert, Century City Age:

55

Speciality:

White-collar criminal defense

Background:

Graduated from Temple University School of Law, 1972 Assistant U.S. Attorney 1972-77, serving as assistant chief of the criminal division, 1976-77 Co-founded law firm Bird & Marella, 1977 Deputy general counsel to L.A. Police Commission on Rampart investigation, 2000 Has represented several large defense contractors, including Rockwell International, in government contract fraud cases Has top secret clearance with Department of Justice Married.

The long-delayed process to nominate the next U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles has reached the White House, with two prominent local attorneys appearing on the short list, according to L.A. legal sources.

White House officials declined to name the candidates under review, but sources close to the process identified them as Thomas E. Holliday of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Vincent J. Marella of Bird Marella Boxer & Wolpert.

The names were submitted by Gerald Parsky, a West L.A. financier who, after serving as President Bush's California campaign chairman, has the sole power to recommend candidates for U.S. Attorney posts and federal judgeships statewide.

Parsky did not return phone calls last week.

As the top federal law enforcement official in the sprawling seven-county area, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles wields enormous power. He has discretion over which cases referred by any federal agency including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs Service get investigated and prosecuted. "I don't think most people comprehend how independent these U.S. attorneys are," said David Burnham, co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse in Syracuse, N.Y., which provides data on federal law enforcement agencies.

"They're much more powerful than federal judges. They can do anything they want, and the only person who can fire them is the President," Burnham said.

The new U.S. Attorney for the nation's second largest city will play an especially important role in the ongoing terrorism crisis. Last month, President Bush signed into law anti-terrorism legislation that greatly expands federal policing powers to conduct electronic surveillance and detain immigrants.

The attorney also will inherit a number of major cases in progress, among them the investigation of Credit Lyonnais and others suspected of committing fraud in connection with the 1991 sale of defunct Executive Life Insurance Co.

The selection process, besides being protracted due to the war on terrorism, is considered unusual because it is typically the senior U.S. senator of the president's party who recommends candidates for U.S. Attorney.

But since both of California's U.S. senators are Democrats, Bush delegated that power to Parsky, a wealthy financier who is chairman of Aurora Capital Partners in West Los Angeles.

Under a power-sharing arrangement, Bush and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer agreed to form a six-member Bipartisan Judicial Advisory Committee to recommend U.S. Attorney and federal judge candidates to Parsky, who then makes final recommendations to the White House.

As with any nomination, political and other considerations might result in a last-minute dark-horse candidate. But several sources agreed that officials are focused on Holliday and Marella. Both are undergoing interviews and background checks.

Holliday has powerful ties. Several of his former Gibson Dunn colleagues now hold high posts in the Bush administration. They include Parsky, Theodore Olson, who last June was confirmed as U.S. Solicitor General, and Robert Bonner, former U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles who in September was confirmed as head of the U.S. Customs Service.

Holliday, who did not return phone calls last week, has never been a federal, state or local prosecutor. He does have vast experience in federal court, defending individuals and corporations in major fraud cases. Among his clients have been Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, former Congressman Jay Kim, General Dynamics Corp. and Rockwell International.

Marella, who also declined comment, was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles from 1972 to 1977, and since then has been defending clients in federal courts.

"They're both terrific," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor who was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles from 1981 to 1989. "The only difference might be that Vince has been a federal prosecutor and Tom has not, but Tom has closer political ties."

Two other candidates for U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles Ventura County District Attorney Michael Bradbury and Assemblyman Rod Pacheco, R-Riverside also have been interviewed recently in Washington, sources said, but neither of them is considered a likely pick.

Other U.S. Attorney candidates being reviewed by Parsky, sources said, include Stephen Mansfield of Akin Gump Strauss Hauser & Feld, and Mark Holscher of O'Melveny & Myers.

White House spokeswoman Mercy Viana refused to identify any candidates under review. "With any nomination, the White House looks for candidates with strong credentials, experience and high ethical standards," she said.

Most candidates would face a salary cut if selected as U.S. Attorney, a post that pays about $125,000 a year. But a stint as U.S. Attorney can be a major career stepping stone. Robert Mueller, for example, was the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco before being named FBI director in July.

Currently serving as U.S. Attorney in L.A. is career prosecutor John S. Gordon, who has been serving on an interim basis since Clinton appointee Alejandro Mayorkas stepped down in April.

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