U.S. Attorney Jervis S. Finney, whose tenure has been dominated by the political corruption trial of former Gov. Marvin Mandel, today submitted his resignation as federal prosecutor for Maryland.
The resignation, which takes effect Jan. 31, was not entirely voluntary. Finney, a Republican, has been under pressure to resign since the Democratic Carter administration took control of federal patronage last year.
Unlike several other federal prosecutors who have protested their forced resignations, Finney agreed to go quietly.
"Although I originally asked to stay on. I am ready to leave," he said. One should accept the reality of the selection process. Further, my intense interest in this position has flamed down over the last year. In short, it is now about time for me to go."
Finney, 46, served in the Maryland Senate for two terms before his appointment to the U.S. attorney post in March, 1975. He has been mentioned as a possible candidate for statewide office in 1978 on the Republican ticket."I haven't thought about it," he said of his political ambitions during an interview today. "And, as U.S. attorney, I wouldn't talk about it."
He said his only plans are to rejoin the Baltimore law firm of Ober, Grimes and Shriver.
Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), the conduit for federal appointments in Maryland, has a list of six lawyers who would like to replace Finney as federal prosecutor. "But that list is not all-inclusive," a Sarbanes aide said. "He'll be evaluating some people who have yet to express an interest in the job."
Among those being considered for the post are:
Dwight Pettit, 32, a black lawyer from Baltimore who was co-chairman of Jimmy Carter's election campaign in Maryland, Pettit, a 1970 graduate of Harvard Law School, served as district counsel for the Small Business Administration for three years. He is said to have excellent political contacts within the Carter administration.
John Henry Lwin Jr., 38, a junior member of the influential Baltimore law firm of Venable, Baetjer and Howard, the same firm that produced Sarbanes and Benjamin R. Civiletti, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's criminal division.
Alan I. Baron, 36, a former assistant U.S. attorney for Maryland under Stephen H. Sachs. Baron and Sachs, who is running for Maryland attorney general, are partners in the law firm of Frank, Bernstein, Conaway and Goldman.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Kramer; Albert J. Figinski, who was a member of Mandel's defense team, and State Sen. Victor L. Crawford (D-Montgomery) are also seeking the post.
Two of Finney's better known assistants, Barnet D. Skolnik and Ronald Liebman, the attorneys who prosecuted Mandel, have said they are not interested in the job.
Skolnik said he regretted Finney's departure.
"It's a shame that job can't be given to someone based soley on merit instead of like this," Skolnik said. "But I survived two other changes and I'll survive this one."
Although Carter said during the presidential campaign that he did not believe the 94 U.S. attorney positions should be part of the patronage system, several prosecutors with Republican or independent backgrounds have been replaced by Democrats over the last several months.
Last May, the U.S. attorney in Detroit, Philip Van Dam, refused to resign and forced Carter to fire him. In September, U.S. Attorney Jonathan Goldstein of New Jersey submitted a forced letter of resignation, charging that Carter and Attorney General Griffin Bell" have determined that my record of the accomplishment . . . must give way to the dictates of politics."