The rumors have been swirling that Mark Gitenstein is the leading candidate to head up the DOJ’s Office of Policy Development (OPD) which is responsible for judicial selection screening.

Al Kamen’s In the Loop column first cracked the news, with a hint that Gitenstein — who is a fave of VP Biden having headed the Veep’s transition team and a former Biden Senate staffer — topped the list.

There has been a flurry of Beltway rumor mill checking and cross-checking since then.  But no conclusive yay or nay as yet on the nod.

I’ve been asking around, and getting very mixed signals from staffers and the well-connected Beltway denizens who are usually "in the know."

Bottom line:  there is no official nomination, and no one really knows for certain. Interesting in a town where rumors fly faster than cocktail weenies.

The big minus for me? Gittenstein was a lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce.  Not just their counsel on legal matters, but actively lobbied for their policies.  To wit (PDF):

Mark Gitenstein, a D.C. partner at Chicago’s Mayer, Brown, & Platt who advises the Chamber of Commerce and companies like the Hewlett-Packard Co. on tort reform, says the close margins in the 107th Congress may have kept the political climate from improving significantly.

“Despite Republican control of the White House and Congress, I think it will be difficult to pass meaningful legislation,” Gitenstein says.

Why don’t we ask Lily Ledbetter how Chamber of Commerce seal of approval justices Roberts and Alito worked out for her interests after their judicial nominations were confirmed?  For starters.

Gitenstein also lobbied for AT&T.  FISA questions, anyone? 

In 2007, Gitenstein wrote a proposal with Mark Wittes of Brookings on terrorist trial frameworks that awkwardly attempts a Solomonic splitting of the civil liberties issues against national security concerns, watering down both sides and not making me happy.

I don’t know Gitenstein personally. He may be a perfectly awesome fellow — and if readers do know him, do tell in the comments.  Please.

Because what I’ve learned about him thus far does not make me happy.  The thought of his hand guiding the selection process for lifetime appointments to the federal bench makes me very nervous indeed, given the last eight years.

I’m not asking for liberal fealty oaths, but I’d like someone committed to the rule of law rather than their former clients’ agendas. And I’d ask that whatever Senators might get an opportunity to advise and consent get some firm assurances on just what "agenda" Mr. Gitenstein might have.

Up front and out in the open for all of us to see.

The rule of law has had enough to deal with the last eight years — it’s time to put the public’s interest first for a change.