BY MICHAEL DOYLE, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Michael W. Fitzgerald as a federal trial judge for a vast region stretching from San Luis Obispo to Orange counties in California, after a political endurance contest that's now standard practice on Capitol Hill.
Nominated last July, Fitzgerald had to wait four months following his unanimous Senate Judiciary Committee approval in November before winning confirmation Thursday afternoon on a 91-6 vote. Democrats finally threatened a series of special votes to break the Republican delay of Fitzgerald and other candidates.
"His confirmation is long overdue," said Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who recommended that Fitzgerald be nominated. "It really shouldn't take this long to confirm such a highly regarded nominee."
The Republican slow-walking had nothing to do with Fitzgerald's politics, his legal qualifications or his status as an openly gay man. The 52-year-old Fitzgerald will become the fourth openly gay judge serving on the federal bench, prompting Boxer to call his confirmation "historic."