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Attorney Bruce Nickerson has spent decades defending gay men falsely accused of lewd conduct

Bruce Nickerson has been nicknamed “the toilet lawyer” because he has spent more than two decades as a civil rights attorney defending gay and bisexual men in California who have been accused of lewd conduct and indecent exposure during undercover stings. Nickerson and Rory Moroney, left, a former client, rode in the Long Beach Gay Pride Parade earlier this month. Moroney was a grand marshal. Photo: Rory Moroney.

LONG BEACH — Bruce Nickerson has been nicknamed “the toilet lawyer” because he has spent more than two decades as a civil rights attorney defending gay and bisexual men in California who have been falsely accused of lewd conduct and indecent exposure during undercover stings at, among other places, public restrooms, a police tactic activists condemn as antiquated and discriminatory because it targets gay men.

Nickerson’s legal victories for his clients, however, have flushed potential criminal records or listings on the state registry for convicted sex offenders down the drain.

RELATED: Long Beach Police discriminate against gay community with undercover sting operations, judge says

For example, in April, Nickerson, 75, successfully defended Rory Moroney, 51, who was falsely arrested by Long Beach police and accused of lewd conduct. Moroney’s case was dismissed by Long Beach Superior Court Judge Halim Dhanidina, whose ruling sharply criticized the department and its tactics against the gay community.

Nickerson’s extensive career is discussed today in a Los Angeles Times profile. The article also investigates legal problems Nickerson faced early in his practice. His law license was suspended twice, and he served jail time for helping an accused child molester flee the country in 1988.

Nickerson, who identifies as gay, tells the Times that it was a mistake that haunts him to this day.

Earlier this month, Nickerson rode in the Long Beach gay pride parade alongside Moroney, his former client. 

RELATED: Public officials criticize Long Beach Pride Parade grand marshal, but advocate says objections are ‘irrational’

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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