What’s the deal with Joseph Russoniello? The FBI’s background check on the former San Francisco U.S. Attorney has been complete for more than a month now, and no one seems to oppose his candidacy for a second stint as top prosecutor here. So why hasn’t he been nominated yet?
The answer is unclear. But over the last couple of weeks, rumors blowing through the San Francisco federal building say that by the end of this month, Russoniello will be nominated to replace Interim U.S. Attorney Scott Schools. It’s a logical time: On June 14, the president signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that allows an interim U.S. Attorney to serve only 120 days; at that point, the Department of Justice must name a formal nominee. If it doesn’t, judges on the local district court are in charge of naming an interim.
Schools has been a popular interim, both among the bench and his assistants, and the smart money says the judges would probably be willing to let him stay in the office. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t — our reading of the law (which may be entirely untrustworthy) indicates that the judges could appoint anyone. So with the risk of, say, Terence Hallinan becoming U.S. attorney, we find it hard to believe that the Bush administration would continue to delay. But whether that means they make Schools permanent or nominate Russoniello remains to be seen.
For the record, Schools declined to comment, and Russoniello didn’t return a call by late afternoon.
— Justin Scheck