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As befits a man who devotes most of his waking hours to his work, Fitzgerald takes any interference in his cases personally. Last year, in an ironic turn of events, a federal judge in Chicago ordered an investigation into whether a lawyer in Fitzgerald's office violated grand-jury secrecy rules in a case involving health fraud. The lawyer had turned information over to attorneys for the family of a man who died after an operation. After a rancorous back-and-forth in which Fitzgerald tried to get the judge removed from the case, a federal appeals court found that the lawyer had received court permission to do what she did.
"Do I have zeal? Yes. I don't pretend I don't," Fitzgerald told the Washington Post earlier this year. "If you're not zealous, you shouldn't have the job. Now, sometimes zealous becomes a code word for overzealous, and I don't want to be overzealous. I hope I'm not." But it can be a fine distinction. In 2002, the Chicago Tribune lauded the city's new prosecutor in an editorial titled "A Breathtaking 76 Days." The paper declared, "His crusade needs to go on and on and on." This year, following his uncompromising pursuit of reporters' phone records in another case, the Tribune ran another editorial. Its title: "Mr. Fitzgerald, Back Off."
Part of the reason Fitzgerald is credible is that he rarely gets emotional in public. "Wrath does not drive him," says Dean Polales, a Chicago attorney who worked under him for three years. There is one thing, though, that seems to pique Fitzgerald more than anything else. "He does hate being lied to," says Pasquale D'Amuro, former head of the FBI's New York field office. "He thinks that's a very serious crime." As a result of his terrorism prosecutions, Fitzgerald has cultivated a deep appreciation for state secrets and a good working relationship with the CIA. "He fully understands the apparatus of national security," says Josh Berman, a lawyer who worked with him in the Southern District. In essence, to dissemble before a grand jury--in an investigation that Fitzgerald has poured his life into--is to make a mockery of everything he believes in.
"The truth is the engine of our judicial system," he told reporters last week. "And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost." It was as close as we'll get to a slogan for Fitzgerald: If you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost. And if the process is lost, so is Patrick Fitzgerald.