Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 21, Ed. 1 Friday, October 7, 2011 Page: 22 of 68
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Judiciary Committee considering
gay nominee to federal court
Republican senator labels Fitzgerald
as an activist over his involvement in
case involving FBI's previous ban on
LISA KEEN I Keen News Service
A fourth openly gay nominee to the federal
district court bench — one who has been fairly
heavily involved in both gay and non-gay legal
and political issues and who spent "hundreds
of hours" doing pro bono work that led to the
elimination of a gay ban on FBI agents — has
gone before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Commit-
The nominee's gay^related history prompted
the only Republican in attendance on his con-
firmation hearing to label the nominee an "ac-
President Obama nominated Michael W.
Fitzgerald in July to sit on the U.S. District
Court for Central California. The office of U.S.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who recom-
mended him for the position, sent out a press
release saying if he is confirmed by the Senate,
"Fitzgerald would make history by becoming
the first openly gay federal judge confirmed to
serve in California."
Fitzgerald, 52, was one of five nominees con-
sidered during the hearing Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Boxer introduced him to the committee, noting
that he had served as a federal prosecutor on
the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement
Task Force with the U.S. Attorney's Office in
Los Angeles, "where he prosecuted interna-
tional drug rings and money-laundering — in-
cluding what was at that time the second
largest cocaine seizure in California history."
The American Bar Association, noted Boxer,
had given Fitzgerald a rating of "well quali-
fied" on a unanimous vote.
Acting Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin,
D-Ill., noted that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-
Calif., had also submitted a "blue slip" in favor
of Fitzgerald's appointment.
Fitzgerald is a partner in Corbin, Fitzgerald
& Athey, which bills itself as a "boutique litiga-
tion firm" specializing in white-collar crime
and civil cases in his native Los Angeles.
The biographical information he Sent to the
committee lists his membership in four gay-re-
lated organizations: the Lesbian and Gay
Lawyers Association of Los Angeles: (no years
of membership are identified), the Harvard-
Radcliffe Gay and Lesbian Caucus (from 2006
to present), the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian
Center Leadership Task Force (from 2007-2008)
and the Stonewall Democratic Club ("late-
Michael w. Fitzgerald
The biographical information also indicates
Fitzgerald participated in the campaign to de-
feat California's same-sex marriage: ban, Propo-
He also notes that he spoke at a press confer-
ence about a settlement in the case of Buttino v.
FBI, in which — in 1993 — the Federal Bureau
of Investigation agreed to stop banning openly
gay people from serving as FBI agents.
Fitzgerald'Sssummary of the Buttino case, in
response to the requisite Senate questionnaire,
noted that Frank Buttino was an agent with the
FBI who was "outed" by an anonymous source
to Buttino's supervisor. The supervisor stripped
Buttino of his security clearance and, therefore;
his ability to serve as an agent.
"At my request," wrote Fitzgerald, one of his
earlier law firms, "Heller Ehrman decided to
represent Mr. Buttino at trial on a pro bono
basis. I obtained class certification and then rep-
resented Mr. Bu ttino and the class [of all gay
and lesbian FBI employees] at trial."
After several days of trial, noted Fitzgerald,
the FBI agreed to settle the case out of court. In
doing so, the FBI, he said, "renounced its prior
policy of viewing homosexuality as a 'negative
factor' in regard to security clearance^' agreed
to hire an openly gay agent, and restored
Durbin asked Fitzgerald about the Buttino
case. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, described Fitzger-
ald as a "activist" but then quickly added that
he does not "subscribe to the view that having
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Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 21, Ed. 1 Friday, October 7, 2011, newspaper, October 7, 2011; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239188/m1/22/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.