TAMPA — Prominent Tampa defense lawyer John Fitzgibbons is the new chairman for the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission, which selects finalists for federal judgeships, U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals, Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez announced Thursday.
A former federal prosecutor in Tampa, Fitzgibbons has defended numerous high-profile clients locally in criminal cases.
He helped then-schoolteacher Debra Lafave avoid prison for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old male student; he represented American Idol finalist Jessica Sierra. And the U.S. Attorney's Office abandoned its tax evasion case against another Fitzgibbons client, Hooters founder Lynn "L.D." Stewart, after a jury deadlocked at trial.
As chairman of the statewide Judicial Nominating Commission, Fitzgibbons will head a 56-member panel that includes representatives from the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. One of the commission's first tasks will be to recommend a replacement for retiring U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley in the Southern District.