A few days ago, Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank in the Central District of California took senior status, opening up yet another judicial vacancy in California: its thirteenth. The Central District alone has three current vacancies, with a fourth one set to open possibly within days (as soon as there is a confirmation vote to elevate Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to the Ninth Circuit). Each of the vacancies in this district has been formally recognized as a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
The Central District serves about 18 million people, including the populations of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Their access to justice is blocked every day their courtrooms are made to sit empty. Clearly, it is urgent to fill this seat as quickly as possible
Fortunately, one of this district’s vacancies can be filled today. All the Senate has to do is vote to confirm Michael Fitzgerald, whose nomination to this district has been pending on the floor for more than four months. Unfortunately, that vote is not going to happen today.
No one doubts Fitzgerald’s qualifications. A panel of the ABA concluded unanimously that he is well qualified, its highest rating. Judiciary Committee members recognized his qualifications by approving him in an unopposed voice vote. This was way back on November 3, but Senate Republicans have stubbornly refused to allow the full Senate to hold a vote.
If Michael Fitzgerald and all of the other judicial nominees were not being obstructed, our nation would not have so many courtrooms sitting empty while justice passes millions of Americans by.