Photo: Charles Quigg '09
Patrick J. Fitzgerald '82
Doctor of Laws
Since graduating from Amherst College 25 years ago, Patrick Fitzgerald ’82 has proved himself one of the nation’s best prosecutors, and one of its most remarkable citizens.
Many people were introduced to the incisive, straight-talking attorney in 2003, when he was named special counsel in the investigation into the leak of the identity of a CIA operative. The investigation led to a trial, United States v. Lewis Libby, which resulted in convictions for obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI.
But Fitzgerald’s distinguished record began long before that case. As an assistant U.S. attorney in New York City, he led the successful prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others charged in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In 1996, as national security coordinator for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, he served on a team of prosecutors investigating Osama bin Laden.
Fitzgerald left New York in 2001, when he was confirmed as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. In this presidentially appointed role, he has successfully prosecuted political bribery and gift-giving within Chicago city government. In 2005, Fitzgerald brought criminal fraud charges against media mogul Lord Conrad Black and three other executives at Hollinger, the company that owns the Sun-Times. The case is ongoing.
Determinedly apolitical, Fitzgerald is legendary for his long hours and his commitment to his job. The prosecutor is known, too, for his tenacity. In the Libby trial, he was criticized by some, including The New York Times, for “overzealousness” and disregard of First Amendment rights; Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail because she refused to reveal her sources to the special counsel. “As a prosecutor, you have two jobs,” Fitzgerald has said. “Show judgment as to what to go after and how to go after it. But also, once you do that to be zealous. If you’re not zealous, you shouldn’t have the job. Now, sometimes ‘zealous’ becomes a code word for overzealous, and I don’t want to be overzealous. I hope I’m not.” David Kelley, former head of the Justice Department’s 9/11 Task Force says, “I wouldn’t call it zeal. I would call it courage.”
Born in Brooklyn, Fitzgerald attended Regis High School on scholarship and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst with degrees in economics and mathematics. He holds a J.D. degree from Harvard.