The U.S. Senate confirmed Michael Fitzgerald to the U.S. District Court for Central District of California after Republicans held his and over a dozen other nominations for four months.
President Obama nominated Fitzgerald in July, but Republicans threatened to hold up all pending nominations since he used his recess appointment power to install the director of a powerful consumer protection agency.
Fitzgerald was approved by a vote of 91-6. A simple majority was required for confirmation.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee voted against Fitzgerald, along with Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and David Vitter (R-La.). Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch did not vote, as did Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who’s been recovering from a stroke.
Lee questioned Fitzgerald on his role working “personally and professionally as an activist in various political and legal causes” and asked about the “difference between advocacy and jurisprudence.”
Fitzgerald answered, “As a judge, I would respect the rule of law, I would respect the court system as a system which is trying to do justice for the litigants in front of it pursuant to the facts as they were found without any reference to the background of the litigants … and, of course, pursuant to the binding precedent of the Supreme Court and of our circuit court.”
He also said, “I would not bring any personal or political views to bear on any of the cases that I determined as a United States district judge.”
Fitzgerald becomes the first openly gay federal judge outside of New York.
Fitzgerald’s nomination came to the floor only after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened Republicans that the country would “watch for weeks as you hold up the bipartisan JOBS Act. I dare you.”