BILLINGS - Helena attorney Michael Cotter said Monday he was eager to start into his work as Montana's next U.S. attorney but does not yet know when he will be sworn in.
The Senate confirmed Cotter as the replacement for Bill Mercer on Dec. 24.
He was among three choices that Democratic U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester submitted to President Obama. The process led to political embarrassment for Baucus, when it was revealed that his girlfriend was among the candidates. Melodee Hanes later withdrew and took a job at the Justice Department.
Cotter, 60, was raised in Miles City and received his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. For more than three decades, he has been a private attorney in Helena and Great Falls, specializing in personal injury lawsuits and representing white collar criminal defendants.
His wife and former law partner, Patricia Cotter, left the firm in 2000 when she was elected as a justice on the Montana Supreme Court.
The U.S. attorney is the supervising prosecutor for all federal crimes committed in Montana, including the state's seven Indian reservations. The post oversees a staff of 23 assistant U.S. attorneys. In fiscal year 2009, about 400 adults were sentenced in felony cases brought by the office, Mercer said.
"I am pleased the president, Sen. Baucus and Sen. Tester have placed their confidence in me," Cotter said Monday. "I look very much forward to working with the career federal lawyers, the prosecutors and the civil attorneys."
Cotter has been a frequent financial contributor for more than a decade to Democratic candidates for Congress and the presidency and the Democratic party, according to a Federal Election Commission database.
He will keep his house in Helena but expects to travel frequently between federal courthouses in Billings, Butte, Helena, Great Falls and Missoula. "I'll be where I have to be to get the job done," he said.
Cotter has a 23-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter, both at the University of Montana.
Mercer has served in the U.S. Attorney's Office for 15 years, including more than eight in the top spot. He will remain in the post until Cotter's swearing in.