By Anna Jaffray
This week, Michael W. Fitzgerald was officially approved as the third openly gay justice in the U.S. District court circuit. Fitzgerald was nominated by President Obama and approved in a 91-6 vote to the U.S. District Court for the Central District California. The other two openly gay justices are Paul Oetken and Alison Nathan.
Fitzgerald’s nomination was initially spearheaded by California Senator Barbara Boxer. Boxer recommended Fitzgerald’s appointment after a thorough investigation into his credentials by a bipartisan advisory committee to the White House. Fitzgerald was then approved as a nominee in 2011 by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Joining a Republican filibuster, the Family Research Council’s action group and Traditional Values Coalition lobbied against the nomination in November of 2011, stating in a letter obtained by Advocate.com that, “Fitzgerald’s record for liberal activism is only matched by his taste for judicial activism, as his arguments in numerous cases and extracurricular activities among homosexual transgender organizations show a militant and aggressive predilection for innovation rather than a strict adherence to the rule of law.”
Due to the filibuster, the appointment was delayed months passed its needed approval. However, a compromise orchestrated by Democratic leader Harry Reid allowed the Senate to move forward with the appointment. The Judiciary Committee can now focus on the remaining 81 judiciary seats left to be filled.
Fitzgerald was born in Los Angeles, California and earned his law degree from the University of California Boalt School of Law. In addition to attending UC Berkeley, the prestigious judge earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, has participated in extensive pro bono work, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He was also an assistant US Attorney for the Central District of California where he handled criminal cases, drug and money laundering cases, and some white collar crimes.
“The federal bench in California will gain an extremely talented new judge as a result of today’s historic vote to confirm Michael Fitzgerald” said Senator Boxer. “His sharp intellect and broad legal experience will make him a tremendous asset to the people of the Central District. While I am pleased by today’s overwhelming vote, it is shameful that he had to wait so long for a vote and I hope that Republicans will stop blocking the confirmation of highly qualified nominees.”