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Andre Birotte Jr. confirmed for L.A. federal judgeship

As a U.S. attorney, Birotte oversaw an obstruction of justice probe into the L.A. County Sheriff's Department
U.S. Senate unanimously confirms Andre Birotte Jr. for a federal district judgeship in L.A.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed the nomination of Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, to serve as a district judge in Los Angeles.

President Barack Obama nominated Birotte, who has served as the region's top federal prosecutor since 2010, to the federal bench in April. Birotte began his career as a deputy public defender in Los Angeles and later served for six years as the Los Angeles Police Department's inspector general, monitoring the department's compliance with a federal consent decree.

Birotte will replace Judge Gary Allen Feess, a Clinton appointee, whose seat has been vacant since March. With his confirmation, all 28 judgeships in the region that spans seven counties from San Luis Obispo to Riverside are now filled.

In a statement, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who recommended Birotte for both the U.S. attorney post and the district judgeship, called his service as U.S. attorney "exemplary."

"Throughout his career, Andre Birotte has shown a profound commitment to fairness and the rule of law, and he has earned the respect of the diverse communities of the Central District," she said. "I'm confident that his tenure as U.S. District Judge will be equally impressive."

Sean Kennedy, the district's federal public defender, said he believed Birotte would oversee cases with empathy.

"Andre will be a great judge because he's occupied so many different roles in the system," he said. "He's really a down to earth guy who understands the human side of legal decision-making."

Birotte could not be reached for comment.

As U.S. attorney, Birotte oversaw a civil-rights and obstruction of justice investigation into the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's operation of county jails that resulted in charges against more than 20 deputies, as well as a public corruption probe of state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon. He also reinstated a public-corruption and civil-rights section in the office that had been disbanded by his predecessor.

The office also secured large settlements from the CVS pharmacy chain for improperly selling pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine producers and from the Las Vegas Sands Corp. for allegedly turning a blind eye to a suspected drug trafficker's suspicious deposits.

At the same time, also under Birotte's watch, the office dropped high-profile prosecutions against cyclist Lance Armstrong and former Countrywide Financial Chairman Angelo R. Mozilo.

Before his appointment as U.S. attorney, Birotte served periodically as a temporary judge in Superior Court in Los Angeles, hearing small claims cases three or four times a year. He also served as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1994 to 1999, prosecuting bank robberies, fraud and other crimes, and was briefly in private practice handling white-collar crimes and civil business litigation. He has tried about 40 cases before a jury throughout his career, according to his Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.

He has taught at the University of Southern California's law school as an adjunct professor, and was a part-time instructor at a West Hollywood gym during his years as inspector general, according to Office of Government Ethics disclosure forms.

Asked during the confirmation process what he believed was the most important quality of a judge, Birotte said it was the "ability to always faithfully and impartially adhere to the rule of law and controlling precedent."

"I believe that a judge should always be calm and even-tempered," he responded. "A judge should also be a good listener who is respectful of all the litigants and lawyers who appear in court and the public who serve as jurors."

Birotte, 47, is a New Jersey native who graduated from Tufts University in 1987 and received his law degree from Pepperdine in 1991.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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