September 29, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Gay judicial nominee to face Senate hearing Tuesday

A gay judicial nominee who has been tapped to serve on the federal bench will face his confirmation hearing before the Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set next week to consider the nomination of Michael Walker Fitzgerald, whom President Obama nominated in July for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The hearing will take place Tuesday at 3 pm in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226. Fitzgerald is scheduled to be among five judicial nominees who are set to testify.

Fitzgerald is Obama’s fourth openly gay federal judicial nominee and would become the first openly gay judge confirmed to serve in California.

Prior to joining Corbin, Fitzgerald & Athey LLP in 1998, Fitzgerald worked at the Law Offices of Robert L. Corbin PC and at the law firm of Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe. Fitzgerald also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, where he handled criminal cases, such as a drug and money laundering case involving what at that time was the second-largest cocaine seizure in California.

Another out judicial nominee, Alison Nathan, is set to face a full Senate confirmation vote in the coming weeks. President Obama nominated her in March to become a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York.

Erica Chabot, a Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson, said Senate leaders reached an agreement before recessing earlier this week to vote on 10 nominees, including Nathan.

“There will be votes on six nominees on Monday, October 3, and then at a time to be determined by the two leaders, but not before October 11, a vote will be held on four other nominees – Alison Nathan is in that group of four,” Chabot said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out Nathan’s nomination to the Senate floor in July by a vote of 14-4.

Nathan previously served as a special assistant to President Obama and an associate White House counsel. Before joining government service, she taught law first as a visiting assistant professor at Fordham University Law School, and later as a Fritz Alexander fellow at New York University School of Law.

Chabot said she has “no updates” on Edward DuMont, who was nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Obama renominated DuMont for the position in January after the 111th Congress took no action on his appointment. DuMont’s nomination has yet to be considered by the Senate.

The Senate has already confirmed another gay judicial appointed nominated by Obama. In July, the Senate confirmed J. Paul Oetken to the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, making him the first openly gay man to sit on the federal bench.

The first openly LGBT person confirmed to the federal bench is U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts, an out lesbian who currently sits on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She was appointed during the Clinton Administration.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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