Sidney A. Fitzwater

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Sidney A. Fitzwater
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
In office
Preceded by A. Joe Fish
Succeeded by Jorge Antonio Solis
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
Assumed office
March 19, 1986
Appointed by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Robert Madden Hill
Personal details
Born Sidney Allen Fitzwater
(1953-09-22) September 22, 1953 (age 64)
Olney, Maryland
Education Baylor University (B.A.)
Baylor Law School (J.D.)

Sidney Allen Fitzwater (born September 22, 1953) is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas, Texas.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Olney, Maryland, Fitzwater earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Baylor University, and his Juris Doctor from Baylor Law School in 1976, where he was Associate Editor of the Baylor Law Review. Fitzwater worked in private legal practice in Houston, Texas from 1976 until 1978 and in private legal practice in Dallas, Texas from 1978 until 1982. He later served as a state district judge on the 298th Judicial District in Dallas from 1982 to 1986.[1]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On January 29, 1986, Fitzwater was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas vacated by Judge Robert Madden Hill.[1] Fitzwater's nomination sparked controversy in part because of allegations raised at his confirmation hearing about alleged voter intimidation in African-American neighborhoods in south Dallas during the unsuccessful 1982 re-election campaign of Texas Governor Bill Clements.[2]

He addressed the allegations at his confirmation hearing by apologizing and by asserting that he was not aware that he was asked to place signs—reading "You Can Be Imprisoned" and giving vague descriptions of campaign violations—only in black neighborhoods in south Dallas. Fitzwater testified that he thought he was participating in an anti-vote-fraud effort, and he noted that he later was dropped from a federal lawsuit by minority groups. Fitzwater also noted that the lawsuit later was dismissed. At his second hearing in February 1986, Fitzwater told the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary that he would not participate in such signposting again. "I had no personal intent, nor was I attempting to intimidate minority voters", Fitzwater told Senator Biden (D-DE).[2]

Despite this controversy, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10–5 on February 27, 1986, to refer Fitzwater's nomination to the full Senate.[3] The United States Senate confirmed Fitzwater in a 52–42 vote on March 18, 1986. He received his commission on March 19, 1986. Aged 32, he was one of the youngest lawyers ever appointed to the federal bench. He served as Chief Judge from 2007 to 2014.[1]

Nomination to the Fifth Circuit[edit]

On January 24, 1992, President George H. W. Bush nominated Fitzwater to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. However, with the Senate Judiciary Committee controlled by Democrats, Fitzwater's nomination languished, and he never received a hearing before Bush's presidency ended. President Bill Clinton chose not to renominate Fitzwater to the Fifth Circuit, nominating Fortunato Benavides instead. In 2006, there was speculation that President George W. Bush would nominate Fitzwater to the Fifth Circuit, but the President instead nominated Jennifer Walker Elrod.

Judicial reputation[edit]

Fitzwater received the Dallas Bar Association’s highest overall poll evaluation for federal judges in 2009 and 2011. In each year, at least 80% of respondents rated his overall performance as "excellent", and 96% rated his performance as "excellent" or "acceptable". [source?]


Fitzwater presided over the SEC's civil suit against Mark Cuban for insider trading. Fitzwater granted Cuban's motion to dismiss[4] but the ruling was reversed by the Fifth Circuit.

George Prescott Bush once served as Fitzwater's law clerk.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Fitzwater, Sidney Allen - Federal Judicial Center". 
  2. ^ a b Baker, Kathryn (February 5, 1986). "Panel Grills Judge Nominee About Sign-Posting in Minority Areas". Associated Press. 
  3. ^ Baker, Kathryn (February 28, 1986). "Fitzwater Approved by Senate Panel". Associated Press. 
  4. ^ "Mark Cuban Wins a Big Round Against SEC Insider Trading Rap -". 
  5. ^ "Little talk of dynasty as a Bush weds - The Boston Globe". 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert Madden Hill
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
Preceded by
A. Joe Fish
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
Succeeded by
Jorge Antonio Solis